Chicago academic record: US judge reviews Tinubu, Atiku’s legal row Monday

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A United States District Judge, Nancy Maldonado, will on Monday review the controversy surrounding the Chicago State University’s academic documents of President Bola Tinubu which was put on hold on Thursday.

The Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, had earlier secured an order for CSU to make the president’s academic records available to his legal team.

A magistrate, Jeffrey Gilbert, had on Tuesday ordered Tinubu’s alma mater to provide all relevant and non-privileged documents to the applicant within two days.

Atiku is currently challenging the victory of the former Lagos State governor at the 2023 presidential poll and his recent affirmation by an election petition court in Nigeria.

The documents sought by the PDP candidate, through his counsel, Angela Liu, include the record of admission and acceptance at the university, dates of attendance including degrees, awards, and honours attained by the former governor of Lagos State at the university, among others.

But as the deadline given by Gilbert drew nearer on Thursday, Tinubu’s lawyers approached Maldonado, arguing that the earlier decision by Gilbert needed to be reviewed by a district judge.

The request for a review and delay of the order till Monday was eventually granted by the US district judge.

In the emergency hearing, Maldonado disclosed that mindful of legal deadlines in Nigeria, she would rule on the matter as quickly as possible.

Ahead of the resumption of the case on Monday, Atiku’s media adviser, Paul Ibe, had taunted the president, saying their legal team would wait for the court process while whatever is being hidden will be unfolded.

In a related development, the new National Publicity Secretary of New Nigeria Peoples Party, Yakubu Shemdam, has also called on Tinubu to assent to the release of his academic credentials to douse the growing tension and suspicion of his critics.

Shemdam stated that if the situation was allowed to get out of hand, it might distract even the President.

The Chief Spokesman of Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, also shared the same sentiment when he claimed the president’s excuse for holding on to the result was unacceptable.

When The PUNCH reached out to Coordinator of Tinubu Presidential Legal Team, Babatunde Ogala, for update on their preparation ahead of Monday, he declined comment.

Ogala, who spoke with our correspondent via phone from his base in the United States insisted that he is on vacation and can no longer speak on the case.

He said, “I am not going to talk about this case. I am on vacation.”

When asked if there was a plan to fly in more lawyers from Nigeria to strengthen the president’s US legal team, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria kicked again.

“I have told you I am not talking about it. How can I be telling you what we want to do or won’t do?” he sighed.

Tinubu’s credentials indicated that he graduated from CSU in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Accounting and Management, but there have been allegations of discrepancies with his academic record.

But justifying his decision to obtain the President’s record, Atiku said unless a clarification was made, it would be difficult for Nigerians to understand the academic journey of the former Lagos State governor.

In response to an order by the court that he should make a formal filing on why his records should not be released, Tinubu claimed a clerical error was responsible for the discrepancies on the certificate issued to him by the university.

According to filings by Tinubu’s lawyers, Oluwole Afolabi and Christopher Carmichael, an unidentified clerk of the university made the error about the date the school stated on his recently-issued certificate, thereby creating “the appearance of differences.”

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