•PDP, Atiku’s aide commend US court, say Tinubu’s academic record will be unveiled soon
•No cause for alarm, Atiku’s case an exercise in futility, President has nothing to hide – APC
The All Progressives Congress on Wednesday ridiculed the efforts of the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to obtain the academic records of President Bola Tinubu from the Chicago State University, United States, describing it as ‘’an expedition in futility.’’
The ruling party said it had nothing to fear as the President had always boasted that he had nothing to hide.
This came as Judge Jeffrey Gilbert of the US District Court for Northern District of Illinois, ordered Tinubu’s alma mater to provide all relevant and non-privileged documents to the applicant, Atiku, within two days.
Documents sought by Atiku, through his counsel, Angela Liu, include the record of admission and acceptance at the university, dates of attendance including degrees, awards and honours attained by Tinubu at the university, among others.
In spite of the development, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Duro Meseko, said the ruling party was not bothered by the court order, stressing that the President had nothing to hide.
He said, “The President has always said over and again that he has nothing to hide. His records are there for all to see. Chicago University has also written severally to say that this man is from us. Nothing has changed. There is no cause for alarm. It is an expedition in futility.”
In its reaction, the Presidency submitted that Tinubu’s academic record would be of no value to the PDP presidential candidate, noting that Atiku and his party were simply chasing shadows.
A presidential aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, premised this on the grounds that Atiku who emerged first-runner up in the presidential election cannot present new evidence in court other than those he presented before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which ruled in Tinubu’s favour on September 6.
The official said, “After getting the President’s records, how will that help Atiku’s case? The university has not recanted its often-stated position that President Tinubu graduated in 1979 from the school.
“Atiku and PDP are chasing shadows. The President’s academic records have no probable value to Atiku’s case in court. At Supreme Court, you can’t plead new evidence outside what you frontloaded at the court of first instance which is the Appeal Court that has decided on the Presidential election petition.’’
The Coordinator of Tinubu’s legal team, Babatunde Ogala, SAN, could not be reached for comment on the implication of the US court order for the presidential election petition appeals filed by Atiku and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, at the Supreme Court.
The two candidates had challenged Tinubu’s eligibility to contest the February 25 presidential election following his victory which was affirmed by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in its September 6 judgment.
Atiku had approached the US court for an order compelling the CSU to release Tinubu’s academic records.
He alleged that Tinubu’s academic records were forged.
Tinubu’s credentials indicated that he graduated from CSU in 1979 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Accounting and Management, but there have been allegations bordering on discrepancies with his certificate.
Last week, a public affairs analyst, Durojaiye Ogunsanya, identified the former Lagos State governor as his classmate at the CSU.
Speaking on a TVC programme, Ogunsanya said he and the President graduated from the Department of Accounting and Business Administration in 1979.
“We met in a school in Chicago State; we were in the same department, College of Accounting, Business and Administration, with majors in Accounting, and we were in the same class together and graduated. He did attend the university and graduated in 1979 as I did. So I’m here to testify that he did attend the university, and he was a good student,” he clarified.
In January 2022, CSU confirmed through Beverly Poindexter, who is in charge of official transcript requests, enrolment, and degree verification at the Office of the Registrar, that Tinubu attended the institution.
The CSU said, “Mr Tinubu did attend our university, however, if further information is needed, go to studentclearinghouse.org website to make a formal request.”
In an earlier letter dated August 20, 1999, and signed by then Registrar, Lois Davis, the university stated that Tinubu was its student between 1977 and 1979.
But justifying his decision to obtain the President’s records, Atiku said unless a clarification is made, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the public to understand the academic journey of the former Lagos State governor.
Taking to his verified X handle @atiku on Sunday, August 28, Atiku wrote, “I woke up this morning wondering how we got to this cul de sac. In 1999, @officialABAT (Bola Ahmed Tinubu) claimed he attended St John’s Primary School, Aroloya, Lagos, before proceeding to Children Home School in Ibadan.
“According to him, his next port of call in his educational journey was Government College Ibadan, and Richard Daley College and Chicago State University in the United States. Curiously, in 2023, Tinubu settled with attending only Chicago State University.
“I am scratching my head. How is that possible? Methinks that all well-meaning Nigerians should be as confused as I am with Tinubu’s declaration that he had no primary and secondary education, yet he has a university degree. You may wish to ask Tinubu how he attained this feat so that we can learn from his ingenuity.”
He accompanied the post with a laughing emoji. In support of Atiku’s application at the US court, netizens last month stormed the official X (formerly Twitter) handle of the CSU, @ChicagoState, forcing the college to lock the page which was hitherto public.
The ex-vice president informed the court that the subpoena was to test the truth and veracity of Tinubu’s assertions, noting that he is currently the President of Nigeria and is facing court proceedings concerning his election and the authenticity of documents relating to his attendance at the CSU.
But the university said it did not understand why Tinubu’s academic records “could possibly have any bearing on a 2023 election challenge in a foreign country.”
However, it said once an order is granted by the court, Tinubu’s academic record would be made public.
The university asked the court to direct “only limited and targeted discovery” of the information sought by the PDP candidate.
In the suit filed before the US district court, Atiku prayed that the court should subpoena Tinubu’s files domiciled with the CSU, arguing that the files would settle the controversy surrounding the President’s academic background.
However, Tinubu, through his counsel, filed a counter-application opposing the request for the release of his academic records.
But the US court ruled that it had the jurisdiction to entertain the suit filed by the former vice president.
In response to an order by the court that he should make a formal filing on why his records should not be released, Tinubu claimed a clerical error was responsible for the discrepancies on the certificate issued to him by the university.
According to filings by Tinubu’s lawyers, Oluwole Afolabi and Christopher Carmichael, an unidentified clerk of the university made the error about the date the school stated on his recently-issued certificate, thereby creating “the appearance of differences.”
“Unfortunately, in responding to the illegal and invalid subpoena, CSU made several errors. CSU issued a new diploma for Bola A. Tinubu, but incorrectly wrote the date of graduation as June 27, 1979.
“The correct date was June 22, 1979, but that scrivener’s error – along with a change in the CSU logo, the font on the diploma, and leadership at CSU who signed the diploma created the appearance of differences between an earlier issued diploma and the one issued in response to the 2022 subpoena,’’ the president’s lawyers said.
In its ruling delivered on Tuesday, the court ordered the CSU to provide all relevant and non-privileged documents to Atiku while acknowledging Tinubu’s lawyers’ argument against lifting their client’s privacy privilege.
It clarified that only “non-privileged documents” should be produced.
The judge stated, “This matter is before the court on Atiku Abubakar’s Application pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1782 for an Order Directing Discovery from Chicago State University for Use in a Foreign Proceeding (“Application”) [ECF No. 1]. For the reasons discussed below, the application is granted.”
A member of the Atiku Abubakar legal team, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, declined comment on the expected impact of the order on Atiku’s appeal at the Supreme Court.
‘’I can’t answer the question as the case is subjudice,” he said on Wednesday.
But the PDP and Atiku commended the US court for granting the application, saying it would help their case before the apex court.
The PDP National Youth Leader, Timothy Osadolor, described the order as commendable.
“The United States District Court ruling directing the Chicago State University to release Tinubu’s academic records is highly commendable and it will help our candidate, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, and PDP’s appeal before the apex court,’’ the PDP National Executive Committee member noted.
Atiku, who spoke through his media aide, Paul Ibe, pointed out that the ruling would unveil Tinubu’s alleged secrets.
Ibe explained that Atiku’s quest was to deepen democracy and emphasised that Nigerians deserved to know the truth about the President.
He stated, “Yes, the court has ruled that Chicago University should disclose Tinubu’s record. That is a welcome development. Nigeria has a lesson to lead from it; the lesson is about justice versus judgment.
“It is not only Atiku Abubakar that is interested in unraveling all the secrecy surrounding Tinubu’s certificate. It is not only the former vice president that is desirous about it, all Nigerians are. Everybody wants Tinubu’s veil of secrecy lifted so that we conclusively know that this man is who he claimed he is.
“This is important, otherwise he won’t have legitimacy because there is secrecy, doubts, and suspicions about who he is, the school he went to, his records, and all. This is about his background and every other part of his life.”