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Evidence supports Nigerian governorship candidate's claim of degree from prestigious US university

IN SHORT: There are claims on social media in Nigeria that Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, who is in the race for governor of the key state of Lagos, does not have a degree. But despite first refuting it, his alma mater has confirmed he attended the institution.

Nigerians go to the polls on 18 March 2023 to elect governors and state assemblies, with Lagos, the country's economic capital, one of the states that will be closely watched.

Governors will also be elected in 27 other states.

(Read our fact-check: #LagosRace2023: Fact-checking claims by candidates seeking to govern Nigeria’s economic capital.) 

As the election campaign continues, social media posts have emerged claiming that one of the candidates for Lagos, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, did not graduate from the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as he has claimed.

Rhodes-Vivour is standing on the ticket of the Labour Party. The party's presidential candidate, Peter Obi, narrowly won the majority of votes cast in the state.

The posts usually contain two screenshots. One appears to be an email request to MIT to find out if Rhodes-Vivour has a master's degree in architecture, “for the benefit of teeming Nigerians”. 

The second screenshot appears to be an email reply from an employee of the MIT registrar’s office, and reads: “We have no record of a person with this name as a former MIT student.” 

The screenshots have also appeared on Facebook here, here and here.

But is it true Rhodes-Vivour lied about his education?


‘Untrue and another failed strategy’

The Independent National Electoral Commission is responsible for vetting candidates for elections in Nigeria. It lists Rhodes-Vivour as a candidate in Lagos state, with a degree. 

In a tweet on 8 March, Rhodes-Vivour shared the screenshots and stamped them “FAKE NEWS”.

He wrote: “This is untrue and another failed strategy the opposition is using to divert your attention from having an issue based campaign.”

A national daily newspaper, the Premium Times, also asked MIT about the claim. The university confirmed Rhodes-Vivour was an alumnus. 

But it also confirmed that the initial response from MIT, shared as a screenshot, was authentic.

“The MIT Registrar’s Office was initially asked to search for a variation of Mr Rhodes-Vivour’s name that did not match the information in their database,” Sarah McDonnell, a spokesperson, said.

“Upon further review, they can confirm that Mr Rhodes-Vivour attended MIT and earned a Master of Architecture degree … ,” she told the Premium Times.

The screenshots circulating on social media are genuine, but MIT corrected themselves and confirmed Rhodes-Vivour did receive a degree from the institution.

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