On Tuesday, Chicago State University (CSU) informed the United States (US) Court that they were unable to verify the legitimacy of the certificate that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had submitted to Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for his candidacy.
During a ruling on a subpoena application for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s records from Chicago State University (CSU) at the Northern District of Illinois, the institution made a significant disclosure. In front of Judge Jeffrey Gilbert, Michael Hayes, the lawyer representing CSU, explicitly stated that the university could not verify the authenticity of Tinubu’s certificate, whether it was genuine or a forgery. This stance contradicted CSU’s previous claims that they had issued a certificate to the Nigerian politician after his graduation in 1979.
Hayes stated during the Chicago hearing, which commenced around 1:30 p.m. local time and lasted several hours, that his client could not affirm the authenticity of Tinubu’s diploma or confirm it as a forgery. He noted that the school’s administrators would be unable to certify Tinubu’s certificate under oath because they simply “don’t know” its origin or how it was obtained.
In response to the judge’s inquiry about the school’s ability to confirm under oath that Tinubu received the certificate he submitted to Nigeria’s electoral office as part of his eligibility paperwork in June 2022, Hayes pointed out that CSU’s records indicated Tinubu’s attendance at the institution. However, he acknowledged multiple contradictions that CSU’s administrators would be unable to clarify under oath. These discrepancies encompassed the date on Tinubu’s certificate, which was June 22, 1977, as well as details regarding the school’s president at the time the certificate was allegedly issued, typographical errors, font variations, and header mistakes on the document.
It’s worth noting that on June 17, 2022, Tinubu submitted a certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) purportedly issued in 1979 and signed by Elnora Daniel.
However, it’s worth noting that Daniel only joined CSU in 1998, coming from Hampton University, which was 19 years after the supposed graduation of Tinubu. Subsequently, Daniel left CSU in 2008 due to a financial mismanagement scandal, which was 14 years prior to June 2022 when CSU issued a new certificate in Tinubu’s name, following a subpoena from a Nigerian lawyer who had inquired about the President’s educational history.
These discrepancies, among other concerns, prompted Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party to initiate a lawsuit to compel CSU to produce records related to Tinubu and make its senior officials available for deposition to verify the authenticity of the provided records.
Representing Atiku in court, Alexandre de Gramont stated that these documents and depositions were being sought for use in the Nigerian Supreme Court, where the final legal battle over Tinubu’s election was heading. Gramont highlighted that the Nigerian Court of Appeal had upheld Mr. Tinubu’s election on September 6, but the panel did not have CSU’s position on the authenticity of the presented certificate. He suggested that the Supreme Court might consider admitting CSU’s stance on the document under a special rule.
“We don’t know whether the Nigerian Supreme Court would be receptive to the new evidence or not, but we just want to be able to present the new evidence to them from CSU,” Gramont remarked.
It’s essential to note that the former Vice President has until September 20 to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision issued on September 6.
In response, Tinubu’s lawyers, represented via telephone conference by Christopher Carmichael, argued that Atiku’s efforts amounted to a fishing expedition. Carmichael contended that CSU’s previous statements affirming Tinubu’s graduation from the institution should suffice, and there was no necessity to provide additional evidence or place the school’s officials under oath to attest to the authenticity of Tinubu’s certificate. He asserted that the Supreme Court wouldn’t accept new evidence even if it were presented.
Judge Gilbert explained that the court had consistently taken a liberal and broad approach in granting similar requests under Section 1782, a statute permitting the release of documents and evidence domiciled in the U.S. for use in foreign proceedings. He noted that he would require more time for reflection before issuing a ruling and urged the attorneys of all parties to review the records submitted to the court and update them if necessary in the interim.
The judge stated that a date for a final ruling or additional hearings would be communicated to the parties involved.
Meanwhile, Durojaiye Ogunsanya, a public affairs analyst, claimed to be a classmate of Tinubu at CSU. During an interview with Television Continental, Ogunsanya asserted that he graduated alongside Tinubu from the department of accounting and business administration in 1979. He addressed the controversy surrounding Tinubu’s academic records, stating that they were in the same department, class, and college at CSU, where they both majored in accounting. Ogunsanya testified that Tinubu did attend CSU and graduated in 1979, refuting claims to the contrary. He expressed disbelief at the doubts about Tinubu’s university attendance, given Tinubu’s extensive career as a governor and Mobil employee, emphasizing that it was improbable that he didn’t attend university.