President Bola Tinubu says that Atiku Abubakar’s attempt to obtain and use his Chicago State University (CSU) academic records against him at the elections petitions tribunal was only a wild goose chase because the Nigerian court was no longer admitting evidence.
In the presidential election held on February 25, Mr Abubakar finished second with 6.9 million votes, trailing closely behind Mr Tinubu, who had 8.7 million votes and was declared winner.
But the discrepancies in Mr Tinubu’s credentials prompted Mr Abubakar to approach the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to subpoena CSU into releasing the president’s records to aid his argument at the elections tribunal in Nigeria before September 21 when judgment is anticipated.
Mr Abubakar had sought a nullification of Mr Tinubu’s election triumph on the grounds of alleged electoral fraud, narcotics dealing and election irregularities at the tribunal, where he also hope to tender the CSU as evidence to substantiate his claims to provide a strong argument.
But Mr Tinubu, in his defence at the U.S. federal court, said it was unnecessary to release his records to Mr Abubakar at this point, asserting deadlines for admitting any evidence in the elections tribunal elapsed in July.
“Furthermore, the evidentiary portion of the electoral court proceeding closed July 29, 2023, and a judgment is currently in the process of issuing. (Exhibit 7, Report of Pre-Hearing Session.) Therefore, there is no indication that the Nigerian election court would receive any additional evidence,” Mr Tinubu asserted in his response to application for issue of discovery on August 23 through his lawyers, Chicago-based Charles Carmichael and Oluwole Afolabi.
The president implied the case in Nigeria had advanced to the stage where all parties are only awaiting judgment and any submission of evidence by Mr Abubakar would only contradict the court’s order.
“Although, Mr Abubakar’s counsel believes it can attempt to submit additional evidence, that would be contrary to what the election court already ordered,” argued Mr Tinubu’s lawyers. “Based on the nature of the tribunal and the proceedings underway, the electoral court would not allow the material sought by the application to be admitted.”
Mr Tinubu’s lawyers contended that the main piece of information requested by Mr Abubakar was whether the Nigerian leader had received a diploma and graduated from CSU, which the university registrar verified in its affidavit, and that the other pieces of information sought were irrelevant.
“The rest is immaterial,” the lawyers stated.
The president further blamed an unnamed university clerk for entering wrong information on his records released to Nigerian lawyer Mike Enahoro-Ebah in August 2022 in response to a previous subpoena.
CSU registrar, Caleb Westberg, corroborated Mr Tinubu’s argument in a sworn affidavit, saying the institution’s clerk — whose name was not given — had entered wrong details on Mr Tinubu’s records.
But Mr Westberg was cautious with his words asserting the difference “is likely the result of human error.”
That the school registrar did not explicitly state it was an error but instead used evasive and culpability-free phrase such as “is likely” under oath was a dead giveaway that the school was unsure whether it was actually an error and was covering its tracks to avoid legal battles should the court detect malfeasance and file charges against the institution.