There was a new twist on Tuesday as Chicago State University (CSU) denied knowledge of certificate Bola Tinubu submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission in the build-up to the 2023 presidential election.
Recall Abubakar Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had dragged Tinubu before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, asking the court to grant enough subpoenas to compel records and depositions from CSU amid controversy on the latter’s admission and graduation.
The school, Parallel Facts gathered, has continued to present contradictory documents that often throw up more questions than previously conceived in recent times.
In its hearing on Tuesday, the US Court adjourned ruling on a subpoena application for Tinubu’s records from the US-based university shortly after CSU lawyer Michael Hayes categorically stated that the school was not in a position to authenticate Mr Tinubu’s certificate as either fake or genuine – a position that contradicts the school’s previous assertions that it issued a certificate to the latter after he graduated in 1979.
“Is the diploma authentic or is it a forgery? My client can’t answer yes to either of those questions,” Mr Hayes said at the hearing in Chicago.
Mr Hayes insisted that the school’s administrators if asked under oath won’t be able to certify Mr Tinubu’s certificate because they “just don’t know” where he obtained it or how.
If found guilty, Tinubu will be ousted for infraction just like other politicians in the past, as it is against the Nigerian Constitution to submit dubious documents to the electoral umpire.
As it stands, all Nigerians are allowed to challenge the credentials of candidates of any political party. This has been reaffirmed by several court judgements.
For instance, in the case of Lawrence v PDP & Ors (2017), the Supreme Court in a judgment read by Justice Walter Onnoghen said, “From the provisions of Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended supra, it is not in doubt that it confers locus standi on ‘any person’ whether a member of a political party or not to invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court in accordance with the said provisions and the court has the requisite vires to hear and determine his case.”
In 2019, the PDP and its governorship candidate in Bayelsa State, Douye Diri; filed a suit against the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, David Lyon; and his running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, seeking their disqualification because of the questionable school certificate of Degi-Eremienyo.
The Supreme Court agreed with the PDP and disqualified the APC despite the fact that the APC had already been declared winner of the election by INEC.