Chicago State University Inquest: Atiku advances to U.S court
Chicago State University Inquest: Atiku advances to U.S court
Former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, has taken his battle against President Bola Tinubu’s presidency to the United States court system. What initially seemed like a routine legal process on July 11, 2023, has transformed into a pivotal moment as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal maintains its reserved judgment.
Atiku, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 presidential election, created significant tension surrounding the election by filing a petition to unveil information regarding Tinubu’s academic records at Chicago State University (CSU). The president had claimed to have attended the university and obtained a certificate, but these assertions have long been the subject of disputes dating back to Tinubu’s tenure as the governor of Lagos State.
Under the representation of his attorney Angela Liu, Atiku requested documents related to Tinubu’s admission, attendance, degrees, awards, and honors during his time at CSU. The aim of this subpoena was to verify the authenticity of Tinubu’s claims and establish the truth amidst ongoing debates surrounding his election and academic history.
Atiku’s application was inspired by a preceding case in Nigeria on November 9, 2022, where Mike Enahoro-Ebah, described as a “Human Rights Defender and Public Interest Litigator” in Abuja, initiated legal proceedings against Tinubu by filing a “Direct Criminal Complaint” in the Chief Magistrate Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In response, President Tinubu’s legal team swiftly filed a counter motion to dismiss the subpoena in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Chicago, USA, through his counsel Victor Henderson. Henderson argued that the petition lacked the necessary court authorization and allowed inadequate time for compliance, in violation of the Illinois Supreme Court Rules.
According to BussinessDay, “Legal experts and commentators have voiced their opinions on Atiku’s pursuit of justice abroad. Mike Ozekhome, a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, viewed Atiku’s actions positively, stating that the international nature of the matter warranted seeking legal assistance outside Nigeria.
“Kennedy Khanoba, a Constitutional lawyer, however, maintained that unless President Tinubu is convicted in the US court, Atiku’s efforts might yield little results. He emphasized that only a conviction would have a significant impact on Tinubu’s presidential position, as convictions result in a prohibition from holding public office for a specified period.
“Jackson Ojo, a political analyst, told Punch Newspaper that the sovereignty of Nigeria as an independent state could limit the influence of foreign court rulings on Nigerian affairs. He expressed skepticism about the direct impact of an American court ruling on the outcome of Nigerian elections and judicial proceedings.
As the legal battle unfolds, Nigerians remain divided on the efficacy of seeking justice abroad. Atiku’s pursuit of evidence through the US court system has ignited debates about the integrity of Nigeria’s legal system and its potential impact on the country’s political landscape. The final verdict and its implications for the Nigerian presidency remain uncertain as legal proceedings continue.
But complicating the defence of Tinubu and his legal, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, admitted that it has jurisdiction in the case instituted by Atiku, to compel CSU to produce critical documents relating to Tinubu.
In his original complaint as described by oblongmedia, Mr. Enahoro-Ebah alleged that Mr. Tinubu submitted an “Affidavit of Personal Particulars” to INEC in June 2022 as part of a required filing to run for President that included a forged CSU diploma dated June 22, 1979 and other information that is inconsistent with the CSU documents.
According to court papers filed by Atiku in the US court dated August 2, 2023, to support the allegations, “Mr. Enahoro-Ebah stated that after Mr. Tinubu made his INEC filing, Mr. Enahoro-Ebah obtained a subpoena from the Circuit Court of Cook County, dated August 11, 2022, and served it on CSU. In response to the subpoena, CSU’s Registrar, Mr. Caleb Westberg, sent a letter dated September 22, 2022, to Mr. Enahoro-Ebah’s Chicago counsel, Mr. Matthew J. Kowals, advising Mr. Kowals that “[t]he enclosed documentation is all the records we have for Bola E. Tinubu.
“According to the complaint, the documents that accompanied Mr. Westberg’s letter included a CSU diploma issued to Mr. Tinubu on June 27, 1979. The June 27 diploma allegedly produced by CSU to Mr. Kowals, and the June 22 diploma allegedly submitted by Mr. Tinubu to INEC, are very different documents. In addition to the different dates, the documents have different seals, fonts, and language. The June 22 diploma has grammatical errors that the June 27 diploma does not have. They are also signed by different persons who are ostensibly officials of CSU. The June 22 diploma has three signatures, one of which purports to be the signature of Dr. Elnora Daniel as President of CSU. The other two signatures on the June 22 diploma are illegible.
“By contrast, the June 27 diploma only has two signatures. They purport to be the signatures of Dr. Daniel, again as the President of CSU, and Dr. Niva Lubin as the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees. Compare
“In his complaint, Mr. Enahoro-Ebah asserts that the June 27 diploma produced by CSU to Mr. Kowals is authentic, and that the June 22 diploma submitted by Mr. Tinubu to INEC is a forgery. However, Applicant’s staff have recently conducted further research into the names of CSU officials with legible signatures on the two diplomas: Dr. Daniel (whose signature appears on both the June 22 and June 27 diplomas) and Dr. Lubin (whose signature appears only on the June 27 diploma). According to public records, Dr. Daniel and Dr. Lubin did not join CSU until the late 1990s—around two decades after CSU supposedly awarded the June 22 diploma and/or the June 27 diploma to Mr. Tinubu.
Applicant’s research therefore calls into question the authenticity of both the June 22 and the June 27 diplomas.
In his complaint, Mr. Enahoro-Ebah alleged the following additional discrepancies between the information provided by Mr. Tinubu to INEC and the documents produced by CSU to Mr. Enahoro-Ebah:
“According to documents produced by CSU, the “Bola Tinubu” who attended CSU was a U.S. citizen, while in the information provided to INEC, Mr. Tinubu states that he has always been solely a Nigerian citizen and has never acquired the citizenship of any other country. According to the documents produced by CSU, the “Bola Tinubu” who attended CSU was born in 1954, while according to the information provided to the INEC, Mr. Tinubu was born in 1952.
“According to the documents produced by CSU, the “Bola Tinubu” who applied to CSU submitted a prior transcript from Southwest College that identified “Bola Tinubu” as “female.” According to the documents produced by CSU, the “Bola Tinubu” who attended CSU claimed that s/he had graduated from Government College, Lagos, in 1970, while in the information provided to INEC, Mr. Tinubu makes no mention of having attended Government College.
Pursuant to the above, Atiku, by and through his counsel, applied to the Court for an order granting him leave to compel CSU to release and verify the authenticity of documents purportedly issued to Tinubu by the university.
The court said Atiku has satisfied all statutory requirements as he is an “interested person”; and the respondent, CSU, is a public university established and existing under the laws of Illinois, with its principal campus and offices in Chicago.
Having met all requirements, the court said it will not hesitate to grant the prayers of Atiku.
Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on March 1, 2023 declared Bola Tinubu winner of the February 25, 2023 presidential election, having polled 8,794,726 to defeat his closest rivals, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of the Labour Party to the second and third positions respectively.
Both Atiku and Obi questioned Tinubu’s eligibility to run for the presidency. Obi’s argument revolved around Tinubu’s alleged forfeiture of $460,000 due to a drug-related case in the United States and his inability to secure 25 percent of votes in the Federal Capital Territory among other irregularities he felt occurred during the electons.
The coming days will prove what will become of the already shaky Tinubu presidency, especially with Atiku going for the kill.