U.S. Court Reserves Judgement In Atiku Records Case After Chicago university Confirmed Female Tinubu Transcript
Abefuddled Judge Jeffrey Gilbert of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Tuesday reserved judgement on the subpoena application for Bola Tinubu’s records, after learning that the Nigerian president’s college transcript, which he used to gain admission into Chicago State University (CSU) in 1977, indicated it belonged to a female.
The judge said he was prepared to rule on the matter when he scheduled a hearing for September 12, but he needed additional time to digest his decision after learning that there was a transcript bearing Bola A. Tinubu released by CSU under a separate court subpoena that carried the owner’s gender as female.
Jeffery Gilbert [Photo credit: Civil Jury Project]
The female issue was raised by Mr Tinubu’s lawyer, Christopher Carmichael, who tried to use it to demonstrate the frivolity of the case before the court, dismissing it as a fishing expedition based entirely on a conspiracy theory being peddled in Nigeria by Mr Tinubu’s political detractors.
‘It is like Donald Trump coming up in 2010 to claim that Barack Obama was not born in the United States,” Mr Carmichael said.
But Alexandre de Gramont, lawyer to plaintiff Atiku Abubakar, quickly informed the court that the possibility of Bola Tinubu, who attended CSU in the same 1970s, being a woman was first revealed in records produced by the school itself. The school had, in mid-2022, submitted Mr Tinubu’s records in its possession while complying with a state court subpoena.
The records, handed over to Nigerian civil rights lawyer Mike Enahoro-Ebah, showed that Bola A. Tinubu was admitted into CSU in 1977 based on a transcript from Southwest College Chicago that was marked as belonging to a female.
Judge Gilbert became confused after CSU lawyer Michael Hayes confirmed that the school had indeed turned in records to Mr Enahoro-Ebah in 2022, but insisted that Mr Tinubu, the Nigerian president, was the one who attended and graduated from the school.
Mr Hayes, however, said he could not explain the contradictions, and the school’s administrators would not be able to state under oath that the certificate Mr Tinubu has been parading was genuine or otherwise.
“Is the diploma authentic or is it a forgery? My client can’t answer yes to either of those questions,” Mr Hayes said of Mr Tinubu’s certificate that he submitted to be Nigeria’s president.
Consequently, a confused Judge Gilbert said he would need additional time to process the confusion, especially given Mr Hayes’ confirmation of the records released last year by CSU.
“I will have to take this matter under advisement,” the judge said, adding that his court would communicate a new judgement or hearing date with counsel to all parties. The judge said additional documents or clarification about already submitted documents may be required from the parties.
Mr Gilbert’s docket was updated at night on September 12, hours after the judgement, and also confirmed that the matter is “taken under advisement for the reasons stated on the record.”
Judge Gilbert had earlier in the hearing said the court has always taken a liberal and broad view in granting similar requests under Section 1782, a statute that allows the release of documents and evidence domiciled in the U.S. to be obtained and used in a foreign proceeding, especially with countries that have legal reciprocity arrangements with the U.S. like Nigeria.
Mr Abubakar, the plaintiff and presidential candidate of the February polls, seeks the subpoena to clarify outstanding questions regarding Mr Tinubu’s background, particularly the age, gender and citizenship status under which he was admitted to CSU, records he said he wanted to use to prove his case that Mr Tinubu should not be Nigeria’s president because he submitted a forged certificate to electoral office INEC in violation of Nigeria’s Constitution.
Section 137 (1)(j) of the Nigerian Constitution (amended in 2010) specifically stated that no one would be legitimately elected president of Nigeria if the person “has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
On June 17, 2022, Mr Tinubu submitted a certificate to INEC that he said under oath was issued to him in 1979 and signed by Elnora Daniel, purportedly president of the school at the time. But Ms Daniel only arrived at CSU in 1998 from Hampton University. She resigned from CSU on June 30, 2008, following months of financial mismanagement scandal that engulfed her the last months of her tenure.
Citing insufficient or improperly filed evidence of forgery, the Nigerian Court of Appeal affirmed Mr Tinbubu’s February 2023 election on September 6. Mr Abubakar, who filed the main petition against Mr Tinubu, said he was going to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, believing strongly that Mr Tinubu had committed grievous assault against the Nigerian Constitution and should not be allowed to remain in office as a consequence.
Mr de Gramont pleaded with the court to expedite a ruling on the subpoena application because Mr Abubakar’s window to submit brief to the Supreme Court was running. The Nigerian president now has only six days left of the statutory 14 days to appeal the tribunal decision that affirmed Mr Tinubu’s election victory last Wednesday.