The Presidency on Wednesday insisted that the academic records released by Chicago State University, United States, had vindicated President Bola Tinubu and confirmed him as an alumnus of the school.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Public Affairs, Temitope Ajayi, also submitted that the CSU never said the certificate presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission before the presidential election by Tinubu was forged in its deposition.
Having obtained Tinubu’s academic records on the order of an Illinois, Chicago court, former Vice President Abubakar Atiku would on Thursday (today) file his application at the Supreme Court.
Atiku, who contested against Tinubu in the February presidential election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, is expected to file the documents he obtained from the CSU in furtherance of his election appeal at the Supreme Court.
The PUNCH reports that the university released the academic records of the President on Monday and the CSU Registrar, Carl Westberg, also carried out a deposition of the documents on Tuesday, in compliance with the ruling of Magistrate Jeffrey Gilbert.
Gilbert had on September 19 granted Atiku’s request for the release of Tinubu’s academic records but the President filed a review of the order.
Tinubu’s lawyers insisted that the documents would not be relevant in Atiku’s appeal against Tinubu at the Supreme Court and asked for a review of the ruling.
However, federal judge Nancy Maldonado overruled Tinubu’s objections and ordered the CSU to release the President’s academic records.
In the CSU documents, the institution responded to Atiku’s four requests and affirmed that Tinubu attended the CSU.
But taking to his account on the X micro-blogging platform on Wednesday, the presidential media aide dismissed reports that the CSU disowned Tinubu in its deposition.
Ajayi wrote, “We should be clear. In the deposition made by the Chicago State University, there was nowhere the university said the certificate presented to INEC by President Tinubu is fake.’’
He added, “The university insisted under oath that President Tinubu graduated with honours and even at that, replacements for lost certificates are done by vendors, not the university.
“The claim that President Tinubu submitted a fake certificate to INEC does not make sense. A man cannot forge the academic records he possesses. You can only forge what you don’t have.”
Addressing the issue for the first time, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, downplayed the controversies surrounding the educational qualification of the President.
He said the Federal Government was not wasting time on Atiku’s case in the US, describing it as frivolous.
The Tinubu administration, he noted, did not have time to waste on the certificate issue, which he described as “a trivial matter” and a distraction.
Tuggar, speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Wednesday, said the President had met with other world leaders despite the controversy and the issue had not been a subject of discussion in all his recent international engagements.
“The foreign leaders that we’ve been engaging and the international organisations clearly are disinterested in wasting time on such. We pay no mind to that,” Tuggar said.
He added that it was not surprising that the issue had been a subject of discussion in the Nigerian space, adding that former President Muhammadu Buhari faced a similar thing.
The minister said, “There is a tendency to always try to distract and detain people on such frivolous issues as opposed to facing the major issues of development. We don’t have time to waste on that.
“Nobody is wasting time about certificate qualification for somebody who has been a governor of a state, served two terms, and has been on the national stage as a politician.’’
“You remember that (former) President Buhari had to go through the same thing, where people were actually questioning whether he went to secondary school or not. Someone who had classmates, was the captain; and was a head boy,” he pointed out.
According to him, Nigerians should rather concentrate on development.
“Considering the economic challenges we are facing, we shouldn’t be wasting time about whether some certificate, whether there is a ‘t’ missing or an ‘i’ hasn’t been dotted. That shouldn’t be our primary focus at the moment,” he cautioned.
Meanwhile, in compliance with the order of the court, the Registrar of the CSU, Westberg, has carried out a deposition on Tinubu’s academic records at the office of Atiku’s lawyer, Angela Liu, at West Wacker Drive in Chicago.
In his deposition, he said the school was bombarded daily with many enquiries about its former student, Tinubu.
Giving an oral deposition in support of Tinubu’s records given to Atiku, Westberg said the school received between five and 30 enquiries daily about the former Lagos State.
However, he said at no time did the school notify Tinubu about the flood of enquiries, ostensibly from Nigeria.
“We believe Bola Tinubu who attended CSU is the same person who is the president of Nigeria today,” Westberg reportedly said during the deposition on Tuesday.
According to PM News, five other lawyers from the firm Dechert LLP joined in the deposition while Tinubu was represented by Victor Henderson and Oluwole Afolabi, who joined the session by Zoom from New York.
Michael Hayes appeared for Chicago State University.
Pressed further by the battery of lawyers representing Atiku on why he believes the person who is the president of Nigeria is the same person who attended CSU, Westberg said Bola Tinubu is an unusual name in the US.
He matched the records in the file against the information provided by the student or on behalf of the student.
On the controversy over whether the student the school admitted in 1977 from South West College was a man or woman, Westberg said Tinubu applied to the university as a male and a letter of admission was issued to a male.
Regarding the certificates tendered in the documents given to Atiku, the registrar restated that the university only has diplomas that students didn’t pick up in its possession.
He noted, “The university does not typically keep diplomas. I have the diploma that was made available to Mr Enahoro-Eboh in our possession because Mr Tinubu did not pick it up. I do not have the diploma that was submitted to INEC in our possession because he had picked it up.
“Why would Mr Tinubu request a diploma and not pick it up or ask that it be sent to him?,” one of Atiku’s lawyers asked.
Westberg replied: “You would have to ask him, that is Bola Tinubu.”
Attempts by one of our correspondents to reach Westberg failed as he was said to be in a meeting.
He had yet to respond to a mail seeking further clarifications on the deposition.
Sources in Atiku’s camp confirmed to The PUNCH on Wednesday that Atiku would meet on Thursday file new evidence against Tinubu before the apex court.
A source, who does not want his name mentioned, stated, ‘’Why won’t Atiku submit new evidence obtained from CSU tomorrow (today)? Atiku didn’t go to the US to get the records or evidence to give them to the Akara seller. He will submit new evidence tomorrow (today).”
The Media Adviser to the former VP, Paul Ibe, could not be reached for comment on the assertion by the presidential aide, but an associate of the PDP standard bearer and a member of the PDP National Executive Council, Timothy Osadolor, accused Ajayi of ‘defending the indefensible.’
Osadolor expressed optimism that the Supreme Court would administer justice in the election petition appeal filed by Atiku.
In response to the statement made by Ajayi that “President Tinubu cannot forge a certificate he possessed”, the PDP Deputy Youth Leader revealed that the CSU vs Atiku case in the US court had empowered the party and its candidate with more evidence.
He stated, “It is quite unfortunate that this is coming from people in positions of authority, who ordinarily should apologize to Nigeria for the emotional and psychological torture, or public ridicule that they are taking the nation through across the globe.