In accordance with a court order from the United States, President Bola Tinubu’s academic records were ultimately released to Atiku Abubakar, his political rival, by Chicago State University (CSU).
In order to support his claim that Mr. Tinubu had forged a CSU certificate, Atiku, the presidential candidate for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria’s 25 February poll, had asked for the supporting documentation. One of the claims in the lawsuit Atiku brought to dispute Mr. Tinubu’s election was forgery, and that claim was rejected by Nigeria’s presidential election court.
Atiku persisted with his petition in the US court notwithstanding the court’s decision in an effort to obtain official papers to support his claim and maybe use them in his appeal at the Nigerian Supreme Court. A US court ordered the university to produce the documents within 48 hours.
The university on Monday gave copies of certificates with other people’s names deleted issued around the same time the Nigerian president graduated from the university in 1979, along with a cache of documents related to Mr. Tinubu’s schooling there, to Atiku’s legal team.
Additionally, it included Mr. Tinubu’s admissions paperwork and a letter from 27 June 2022 attesting to his attendance at the university from August 1977 to June 1979 with a major in accounting. The document said that on June 22, 1979, Mr. Tinubu received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Honors.
Obeying a court order
In its ruling, which was handed down on Saturday by the District Court in Northern Illinois, the court gave the university until Monday at noon to transfer the records to Atiku.
After Mr. Tinubu’s protest of the ruling was overruled, the judge, Nancy Maldonado, handed the other.
Mr. Tinubu’s objection to Jeffery Gilbert, a magistrate judge of the court, was rejected by Ms. Maldonando on September 20.
She upheld Mr. Gilbert’s decision and directed the CSU to comply with Atiku’s request for the academic records of Mr. Tinubu. She argued that Atiku was entitled to access the records.
The institution delivered four sets of documents as required by the court order on Monday, copies of which quickly went viral online. The documents were authenticated as coming from the university by Phrank Shuaibu, an Atiku spokesperson.
Three of Atiku’s four demands were granted, the institution said in a deposition outlining how it complied with the court order.
In response to one of the requests it granted, the institution stated that, “after diligent search,” it was able to track down and provide seven distinct certificates for the Bachelor of Science degree it awarded in 1979.
The documents were reportedly requested by Atiku in order to compare and contrast them with those Mr. Tinubu had submitted for the 2023 presidential race.
Documents pertaining to Mr. Tinubu that were verified by a CSU employee, a lawyer named Jamar C. Orr, were also sent to Atiku’s team by the university.
After a “diligent search,” the institution also produced copies of three other diplomas awarded to students other than Mr. Tinubu in 1979.
“true and correct copies of any diplomas issued by CSU (other than to Mr Tinubu) that contain the same font, seal, signatures, and wording (other than the name of the recipient and the specific degree awarded).” In order to compare and contrast them with the one Mr. Tinubu submitted, Atiku requested these documents.
The institution, in response to Atiku’s request, stated that it was unable to find “a copy of the original diploma it prepared for Mr. Tinubu in 1979.”
The institution claimed that it “does not in the ordinary course keep copies of student diplomas, and after diligent search cannot locate a copy of the original diploma it prepared for Mr. Tinubu in 1979, hence has no documents responsive to this request.”
Tinubu and Atiku’s conflict
For probable use in Nigerian courts to bolster his claim that Mr. Tinubu falsified a diploma certificate he allegedly earned from CSU in 1979 and submitted to Nigeria’s electoral agency, INEC, for the 2023 presidential election, Atiku had requested the documents.
Despite the fact that observers claim the revealed documents raise more concerns, the documents’ release by CSU verifies that Mr. Tinubu did, in fact, graduate from CSU in 1979.
According to Atiku, Mr. Tinubu’s eligibility to run in the most recent presidential election is directly related to the validity of the documents he provided.
Although Atiku lost his case against Mr. Tinubu at the Presidential Election Petition Court, which handed down its ruling in early September, he hopes to reintroduce the matter supported by the CSU documents in his appeal, which he is pursuing at the Nigerian Supreme Court, against the election court’s ruling.
Atiku has informed the US district court that the deadline for filing the CSU documents against Mr. Tinubu to the Nigerian Supreme Court was October 5.
The release of the records to Atiku was contested by Mr. Tinubu, who said that “the Nigerian election proceedings and the Nigerian courts” had clearly rejected the documents that Atiku had sought to obtain and submit in his case to challenge the outcome of the 25 February presidential election.
Second, Atiku’s request “is excessively intrusive because it permits Applicant (Atiku) to conduct a fishing expedition into Intervenor’s private, confidential, and protected educational records,” according to Mr. Tinubu.
Mr. Tinubu’s objection, however, was overruled on Saturday by Ms. Maldonado, who claimed that she was just reaffirming Atiku’s right to view the CSU documents and not endorsing the veracity of his accusations against the Nigerian president or his remarks regarding the legitimacy of the country’s presidential election.
“In reaching this conclusion, the Court emphasizes that it is expressing no view on the merits of Mr. Abubakar’s underlying claims regarding President Tinubu or his graduation from CSU, or on the validity of the Nigerian election.
“Nor is the Court taking any position on what any of the documents or testimony from CSU may or may not ultimately show. The Court simply finds, on the narrow question before it, that Mr Abubakar is entitled to the production of documents and testimony that he seeks from CSU,” the judge ruled.