May 18, 2024

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Release only my certificate to Atiku; block CSU from revealing my gender – Tinubu begs Judge

President Bola Tinubu has reluctantly allowed a federal judge in the United States to give his university certificate to his political opponent Atiku Abubakar.

But the Nigerian leader pleaded with Judge Nancy Maldonado to block all other details, especially the gender and admission records, among others, of the person who owns the certificate from being disclosed.

Mr Tinubu’s prayers on Monday morning came as part of the ongoing legal battle unfolding at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

The case was brought by Mr Abubakar, who has been on a judicial quest to establish that Mr Tinubu was not eligible to be Nigerian president despite his election in February 2023.

He won the election by 36 per cent of the vote after Mr Abubakar and Peter Obi, who was his running mate in the 2019 election, fell out, subsequently dividing their potential votes into at least two parts, paving the way for Mr Tinubu’s victory with the slimmest margin in Nigerian presidential election history.

Mr Tinubu’s acceptance that his certificate could be released came after he narrowly escaped full disclosure on September 21 by pleading severe harm to his life in order to obtain a stay of a magistrate judge’s order on September 19.

“There is harm in allowing discovery on issues and documents outside the diploma,” Mr Tinubu’s lawyers said in their full briefing to the court seeking a review of Judge Jeffrey Gilbert’s order by Ms Maldonado, a district judge.

The identity of who was admitted into Chicago State University in the 1970s has been a hot issue after college transcripts emerged that indicated the school admitted a female Bola Tinubu from Southwest College Chicago in 1977.

Whereas Mr Tinubu’s lawyers, led by Victor Henderson and Christopher Carmichael, insisted that the documents Mr Abubakar sought wouldn’t be admissible at the Supreme Court, they nonetheless appeared to anticipate the potential for an unfavourable ruling and consequently gave the judge an alternative direction of giving only an order for the school to certify strictly the certificate the president tendered to run for election.

Mr Gilbert’s ruling last week required CSU administrators to confirm under oath whether or not the certificate Mr Tinubu tendered in Nigeria was genuine. Additionally, the officials were mandated to show a certificate issued to a CSU graduate in 1979, with the person’s identification redacted, and to also turn over communications relating to a letter the school issued to Mr Tinubu in 2022.

Mr Tinubu feared that allowing the deposition of CSU officials to go forward could inflict severe, irreparable damage to his life, saying Mr Abubakar was only on a fishing expedition to fuel online conspiracy theories.

“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,” the lawyers said.

“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,” they added. “Fishing expeditions into other documents and more document productions must be precluded.”

In today’s filing, a man, who identified himself as Olajide Adeniji, submitted an affidavit saying he attended school with Mr Tinubu from 1977 to 1979.

Details shortly…