•Wants institution not to release details on gender, transcript, other academic records, but only certificate
•Save APC from disgrace, Eze tells president
By Chinelo Obogo and Tony John, Port Harcourt
President Bola Tinubu has asked the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago to permit Chicago State University to release only his certificate to the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar but block the school from revealing any other information about the person who owns the certificate, especially their gender and any records of where they went to school, among other things.
On August 2, 2023, Atiku filed a suit at the US court, demanding that Chicago State University (CSU) release all of Tinubu’s academic records over irregularities in the certificate he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).This move was prompted by Atiku’s belief that these documents would help clarify what he said are inconsistencies in Tinubu’s background.
The former vice president argued that among other things, a “second Chicago State University diploma dated June 27, 1979, that bears the name “Bola Ahmed Tinubu” has since emerged but also presents with a different font, punctuation, seal, and signatures, than that of the June 22, 1979 diploma, among other alleged discrepancies.”
Atiku told the US that he wanted to authenticate these documents whether a “Chicago State University diploma in the name of Bola Ahmed Tinubu dated June 22, 1979, that was submitted to the INEC before the presidential election in February 2023 is genuine or was forged.”
In response to Atiku’s application, CSU agreed to release Tinubu’s credentials once the court issues the order. In a statement dated August 23, issued by the university and signed by the university’s counsel, the university noted that once they get an order from the court, the academic records of Tinubu will be released. The university also pleaded with the court to be specific with the demands it seeks.
Jeffrey Gilbert, a US magistrate judge, then ordered the university to produce “all relevant and non-privileged documents” to Atiku within two days, but Tinubu filed the emergency motion to halt the university from releasing his academic records to Atiku and delay it till Monday, September 25th. “There is harm in allowing discovery on issues and documents outside the diploma,” Tinubu’s lawyers told the court in their full briefing as they asked U.S. District Judge Nancy Maldonado to review Judge Gilbert’s order.
During an emergency hearing last Thursday, Judge Maldonado agreed to delay the earlier order given by Judge Gilbert and ordered the lawyers on both sides to file additional arguments by next Thursday, September 28. But the president’s legal team, had on Monday morning, September 25, filed an objection at the court, saying that the certificate can be given to Atiku but that the school should be blocked from revealing any other information about the person who owns the certificate, especially their gender and any records of where they went to school, among other things.
Part of Tinubu’s court documents read: “Applicant’s concern about resolving a “public controversy,” that he and his allies created, does not justify the utilisation of section 1782.
The most critical fact has already been clearly and unequivocally established by Chicago State University: Intervenor was awarded the degree as he stated. (Dkt. 21, Exhibit 3, 3; Dkt. 32, pg. 2.)
“This point is irrelevant to Applicant because he is not seeking anything more than opposition research on a political opponent. The Magistrate Judge clearly erred in granting the application for discovery and concluding that Chicago State University must respond to the document and deposition subpoenas. That conclusion should be set aside and the application should be denied because the information sought cannot be used and therefore is not “for use” in the foreign proceedings. Even if a narrow subset of information can be considered “for use” in the foreign proceeding, that is limited to the diploma submitted to INEC. Fishing expeditions into other documents and more document productions must be precluded.”
Meanwhile, one Mr. Olajide Adeniji, submitted a sworn affidavit at the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago on Saturday, September 23, saying he attended CSU from 1977 to 1979 and he was familiar with President Tinubu who he said was a coursemate. He also claimed that he ran a closely contested race against Tinubu for the leadership of the Accounting Society Club of the Department of Business Administration and Accounting.
Reacting to the saga, erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New People’s Democratic Party (nPDP) and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, urged President Tinubu to free himself of an impending global infamy and save members of APC of disgrace and shame by allowing a seamless unveiling of his academic record as ordered by court.
In a statement, Eze said Tinubu had relied on the protective cloak of privacy rights, which extend to academic records, to frustrate any investigation into his alleged claim of having graduated from CSU from where a certificate he submitted on oath to INEC emanated.
“But, the court in its wisdom ruled that the interest of Atiku Abubakar in obtaining Tinubu’s records from CSU outweighs his (Tinubu) privacy rights because by submitting his diploma to INEC, he has put his certificate to issue. That means interested parties can question its authenticity and seek verification from the issuing authority; a step leveraged by Atiku.”
“Atiku is fighting a just cause and by the expose of his doggedness, the lapses in our electoral laws and institutions pertaining to verification of documents put forward by seekers of public offices have been brought to the fore and should be addressed by the framers of laws.”
He claimed that some public office holders were consummate forgers of academic records parading certificates they do not hold.
The APC chieftain said if Tinubu was clean with the CSU academic records he paraded over the years and which he presented on oath to INEC, what, then, was he trying to hide from Nigerians?
“If the certificate from CSU is authentic, why strive so hard and spend so much to frustrate efforts to reveal it to an interested party- Atiku Abubakar, who has a pending appeal challenging his declaration by the electoral umpire as winner of the 2023 presidential poll?”
Eze condemned efforts by the president and his team to deliberately deploy the usual delay tactics common in the Nigerian jurisprudence in depriving justice from deserving parties, noting that regardless of their schemes, justice would be served and Nigerians will win in the long run.”
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