The legal process initiated by the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar asking the Chicago State University (CSU) for the discovery of President Bola Tinubu’s academic records has taken on a new twist with the admission of errors on the documents.
Lawyers to President Tinubu, while filing their response to Atiku’s enquiry, however, blamed the clerk of the 156 year-old school for the errors in his academic documents and certificate.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois had given Tinubu until August 23 to make a formal filing on why his records should not be released to the petitioner, Atiku Abubakar.
In complying with the directive of the court, however, Tinubu’s lawyer said that an unidentified clerk of the university “unfortunately” made the errors as to the dates the school stated on his recently-issued certificate and when he actually graduated, thereby creating “the appearance of differences.”
Tinubu’s new claim was made before the judge hearing the case, Jeffery Gilbert of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.
Atiku had subpoenaed the university to make a discovery of Tinubu’s academic records, believing that such discoveries will shed more light on the controversies surrounding Tinubu’s educational claims.
There have been crises of authenticity about the documents that Tinubu submitted with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and a viral document that the university in the 1970s admitted a female student bearing Bola Tinubu who was born on March 29, 1954.
While President Tinubu claimed that he was born on March 29, 1952, he had also, at different times, listed 1954 as his birth year in the past.
In 1999, during his run for the Lagos State governorship position, he claimed to have attended schools in Nigeria, which included Government College Ibadan, but which he later rescinded.
He had also recently expunged his primary and secondary education from his records after it was discovered that other schools he listed under oath in his 1999 INEC form CF001 did not exist anywhere in Nigeria.
However, the documents being sought by Atiku seek to highlight which early education credentials Tinubu submitted to Chicago University before he was admitted into the institution.
Atiku’s contention is that Tinubu had presented contradictory claims in Nigeria and the university in responding to a previous subpoena.
Tinubu’s response, which was signed by his lawyers, Oluwole Afolabi and Christopher Carmichael, quotes in part, “unfortunately, in responding to the illegal and invalid subpoena, CSU made several errors.
“CSU issued a new diploma for Bola A. Tinubu, but incorrectly wrote the date of graduation as June 27, 1979.
“The correct date was June 22, 1979, but that scrivener’s error – along with a change in the CSU logo, the font on the diploma, and leadership at CSU who signed the diploma, created the appearance of differences between an earlier issued diploma and the one issued in response to the 2022 subpoena.”
Atiku had sued to obtain Tinubu’s school records under a U.S. statute that allows documents available in the U.S. to be subpoenaed for use as evidence in a foreign court.
He argued that Tinubu had presented contradictory claims in Nigeria and the CSU, in responding to a previous subpoena, had issued documents that contradicted what Tinubu had entered under oath in Nigeria.
However, Tinubu’s lawyers, led by Oluwole Afolabi and Christopher Carmichael, argued that the August 2022 subpoena that was issued following a request by a Nigerian lawyer Mike Enahoro-Ebah was “illegal” because he had no valid grounds to seek the documents, especially under education privacy rights.
The lawyers, nonetheless, admitted the documents indeed emanated from the CSU, but an unnamed clerk had mistakenly typed the graduation date.
“Unfortunately, in responding to the illegal and invalid subpoena, CSU made several errors,” Tinubu’s attorneys said.
“CSU issued a new diploma for Bola A. Tinubu, but incorrectly wrote the date of graduation as June 27, 1979.”
The lawyers also said changes in school-authorised signatories and logos, alongside other anomalies like the fonts of the certificate, all combined to generate an appearance of wrongdoing.