President Bola Tinubu, on Monday, intensified his legal efforts to block the Chicago State University from releasing his academic records to his rival presidential candidate during the last election, Atiku Abubakar.
After obtaining a reprieve from the District Court of Northern Illinois, Eastern Division, with the court temporarily suspending its 20 September order compelling the university to release the documents to Atiku, Mr Tinubu has now filed a more detailed objection seeking to convince the court to reverse the order outright.
Mr Tinubu’s application, filed by his New York-based lawyer, Oluwole Afolabi, is anchored on two broad reasons.
First is that his academic records in issue are not useful in Nigerian courts as claimed by Atiku because “the Nigerian election proceedings and the Nigerian courts have explicitly been unreceptive to the discovery.”
Mr Tinubu’s second reason is that Atiku’s request “is unduly intrusive because it allows Applicant (Atiku) to conduct a fishing expedition into Intervenor’s private, confidential, and protected educational records.”
He urged the court to set aside the previous order, saying his political opponents had previously used his illegally obtained academic records to attack him.
“The unlawful release of documents previously allowed Intervenor’s opponents to sow confusion and spread conspiracy theories,” Tinubu’s objection read in part.
It added that Atiku’s application was not anything more than “opposition research on a political opponent”.
Atiku had set off the legal battle with an application filed on 2 August requesting the court to order the Chicago State University to release Mr Tinubu’s academic records to him.
The former Nigerian vice president requested the documents in the hope of using them at the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja to challenge the authenticity of the certificate presented by Mr Tinubu to Nigeria’s electoral body, INEC, for the 2023 election.
He argued that among other things, a “second Chicago State University diploma has since emerged (dated June 27, 1979) that bears the name “Bola Ahmed Tinubu” but also presents with a different font, punctuation, seal, and signatures, than the June 22, 1979 diploma, among other alleged discrepancies.”
Atiku told the US court that he wanted to authenticate these documents whether a “Chicago State University diploma in the name of Bola Ahmed Tinubu dated June 22, 1979, that was submitted to the INEC before the Nigerian presidential election in February 2023 is genuine or was forged.”
On 19 September, a magistrate judge of the court, Jeffrey Gilbert, ordered the university to release the requested documents to Atiku within two days.
Mr Tinubu’s legal team swiftly approached a district judge of the court to suspend the order to enable them to file a more elaborate challenge against it.
At an emergency hearing on 21 September, the district judge, Nancy Maldonado, agreed to delay the order compelling the Chicago State University to release the academic documents of President Tinubu.
Following the approval, Mr Tinubu, through his legal team, filed his objection on Monday.