Nigeria’s president, Bola Tinubu currently is in the middle of a certificate controversy with Chicago State University over the certificate submitted by the former Lagos State governor to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) prior to the 2023 presidential election.
The Chicago State University (CSU) has now disavowed any knowledge of this certificate with the revelation provoking an adjournment of the ruling on a subpoena application for Tinubu’s records from the university by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
CSU’s legal representative, Michael Hayes, made this startling declaration during a hearing before Judge Jeffrey Gilbert in Chicago.
Hayes stated that the university was unable to confirm the authenticity of Tinubu’s certificate, leaving it uncertain whether the document was genuine or counterfeit.
This recent statement from the institution contradicts previous assertions made by CSU, which had claimed to have issued a certificate to Bola Tinubu upon his graduation in 1979.
During the hearing, Hayes raised questions about the diploma’s authenticity and origin, asserting,
“Is the diploma authentic or is it a forgery? My client can’t answer yes to either of those questions.”
The judge inquired about the university’s ability to affirm, under oath, that Tinubu had indeed been issued the certificate he had submitted to Nigeria’s electoral office as part of his eligibility documentation in June 2022.
Hayes admitted that CSU records indicated Tinubu’s attendance at the university but acknowledged several discrepancies, including the date on the certificate (June 22, 1977), the identity of the university president at the time of issuance, and typographical errors present on the document.
Notably, Bola Tinubu had submitted a certificate to INEC on June 17, 2022, purportedly issued in 1979 and signed by Elnora Daniel. However, it was revealed that Ms. Daniel arrived at CSU in 1998, long after Tinubu’s alleged graduation in 1979.
She departed from the university in 2008 following a financial mismanagement scandal, which occurred 14 years before CSU issued a new certificate in Tinubu’s name under subpoena from a Nigerian lawyer inquiring about Tinubu’s educational history.
These inconsistencies prompted Atiku Abubakar to file a lawsuit, aiming to compel CSU to produce records related to Tinubu’s educational background and make its top officials available for deposition to verify the authenticity of the records.
Alexandre de Gramont, representing Atiku Abubakar, stated that the documents and depositions were sought for use in the Nigerian Supreme Court, where the final dispute over Tinubu’s election was heading.
De Gramont emphasized the need for CSU’s authentication or explanation of the certificate discrepancies.
However, Tinubu’s legal team, represented by Christopher Carmichael, argued that Atiku was on a “fishing expedition” and claimed that previous statements by CSU confirming Tinubu’s graduation were sufficient.
Carmichael contended that there was no need to produce further evidence or subject CSU officials to oath-sworn testimony.
Judge Gilbert expressed his intention to take additional time for consideration before rendering a final decision.
He instructed all parties to review the court records and make any necessary updates in the interim, with a future ruling or additional hearing date to be communicated to the involved parties.
The case has significant implications for Nigerian politics, as Bola Tinubu’s eligibility for office hinges on the resolution of this certificate controversy.