June 13, 2024

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, has confirmed its jurisdiction in the case brought forward by Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria. The case aims to compel Chicago State University (CSU) to produce essential documents linked to Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, currently the President of Nigeria, had contested in the Presidential election held on February 25 as a candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The initiation of Atiku’s legal action was prompted by a preceding case in Nigeria on November 9, 2022, several months prior to the Presidential elections. In this case, a certain Mr. Mike Enahoro-Ebah, described as a “Human Rights Defender and Public Interest Litigator” in Abuja, Nigeria, initiated legal proceedings against Mr. Tinubu by filing a “Direct Criminal Complaint” in the Chief Magistrate Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

In this complaint, Enahoro-Ebah alleged that Tinubu presented a “Affidavit of Personal Particulars” to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in June 2022 as part of his required submission to run for President. This affidavit reportedly included a forged CSU diploma dated June 22, 1979, along with other information inconsistent with CSU records.

Atiku’s court documents, dated August 2, 2023, present supporting evidence for these allegations. According to these documents, after Tinubu’s INEC submission, Enahoro-Ebah obtained a subpoena from the Circuit Court of Cook County on August 11, 2022, which was served on CSU. In response, CSU’s Registrar, Caleb Westberg, sent a letter on September 22, 2022, to Enahoro-Ebah’s Chicago counsel, Matthew J. Kowals. This letter indicated that the enclosed documentation comprised all records available for Bola E. Tinubu.

The complaint explains that the documents accompanying Westberg’s letter included a CSU diploma dated June 27, 1979, issued to Tinubu. This diploma, however, differed significantly from the June 22 diploma that Tinubu reportedly submitted to INEC. These discrepancies encompassed variations in seals, fonts, language, and even grammatical errors. The signatures on the two diplomas were also distinct.

Enahoro-Ebah asserted that the June 27 diploma from CSU is authentic, while the June 22 diploma submitted to INEC by Tinubu is a forgery. Further investigation by Atiku’s team into the names of CSU officials with legible signatures on the diplomas cast doubt on their authenticity. These officials supposedly joined CSU around two decades after the diplomas’ alleged issuance to Tinubu.

The complaint by Enahoro-Ebah also outlined additional disparities between the information provided by Tinubu to INEC and the documents presented by CSU. These discrepancies encompassed citizenship status, birth year, gender designation on a prior transcript, and educational history.

As a result, Atiku sought a court order to compel CSU to release and validate the authenticity of documents supposedly issued to Tinubu by the university. The court confirmed its jurisdiction over the matter, considering Atiku as an “interested person” and CSU as a public university under Illinois law. Meeting these prerequisites, the court expressed its intention to grant Atiku’s requests.

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