President Bola Tinubu on Friday said former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will fail in his bid to unseat him using Tuesday’s deposition over a degree he obtained from Chicago State University (CSU).
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES through his lawyer, Oluwole Afolabi, Mr Tinubu described Atiku as being on a wild goose chase.
Atiku had on Thursday addressed a press conference following the deposition made by the Chicago State University over the degree Mr Tinubu obtained from the university in 1979.
In the deposition, the university said President Tinubu did graduate from the university as he claimed. The university was, however, not categorical when asked if the certificate he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was forged.
But at his presser on Thursday, the former VP and PDP presidential candidate in the 2023 election insisted the document was fabricated and that he would not back down from the case until the Supreme Court delivers its final judgement.
However, speaking with PREMIUM TIMES Friday morning, Mr Afolabi said, “There is nothing in the record to back up such an allegation. He who alleges must prove. It behoves on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his lawyers to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the document was forged and they failed in that regard. Suspicion is not the same thing as proof beyond reasonable doubt.
“Alhaji Atiku is on a wild goose chase and he and his lawyers know it. Under the provisions of the Electoral Act, there are no provisions for introduction of fresh evidence on appeal. In a regular civil appeal, you can introduce fresh evidence but before you’re allowed to do so, you must show that the evidence you’re trying to introduce was otherwise not available at the time the lawsuit was instituted.
“The President submitted his diploma to INEC in June 2022; elections were held in February 2023. He filed his petition in March, 2023. He did not approach the US District Court until August 2023.
“Even if it were a regular civil matter, what do you think would have been the attitude of the court?
Below are the full details of our interview with Mr Afolabi:
Premium Times: You attended the deposition (virtually) on Tuesday. What does the outcome mean to your client, President Bola Tinubu?
Oluwole Afolabi: The deposition was a boon to the President. It cleared up a lot of misconceptions and mischaracterisations of events regarding the president’s academic qualifications. Firstly, it offered an opportunity for CSU to state loudly and clearly that the president attended and graduated (with Honors Degree in Accounting) from CSU in 1979.
Secondly, the false narrative that had been put out there by mischief-makers that the president had used the identity of a female to gain admission to CSU was also cleared up. The registrar of CSU was emphatic in maintaining that the transcript of the President from Southwest College was erroneously marked as belonging to a Female. The registrar said such errors are not unusual. The president applied to CSU as a male student and his letter of admission was addressed to ‘Mr. Tinubu’.
Premium Times: There is also the issue of two different dates of birth on his record. What came out of the deposition regarding that?
Oluwole Afolabi: It must be noted that the date and month of birth for the two were the same – 3/29/1952 and 3/29/1954. The explanation was that it was human error. The president uses the 3/29/1952 birthday till this day. He does not use the birthday that could have shaved two years off his age.
Premium Times: I am sure you have followed the reporting trailing the release of the deposition transcript. There are reports that the CSU registrar disowned the degree result Tinubu submitted to INEC in 2022, suggesting the president forged that document.
Oluwole Afolabi: At Page 41 of the condensed deposition transcript, Mr Westberg had this to say: ‘The student in question graduated from the University on June 22, 1979. We were not qualified to verify whether this document is authentic, given that it is not in our possession.’
Universities in the US issue diplomas without qualms – all that you need to do is pay the processing fee. Diplomas bear the year of graduation not minding the year the request was put in.
Mr Westberg testified that CSU does not keep copies of applications for re-issuance of diplomas and it also does not keep copies of Diplomas that had been picked up by students.
The school cannot speak on the authenticity of a document of which it does not have a copy.
Furthermore, if you take a look at Exhibit 11 – Affidavit of Mr Westberg, there’s confirmation that the document was authentic.
One can take it as one likes – ‘we can’t authenticate or it is authenticated.’
What the facts do not support is that the school disowned the validity of the certificate the President gave to INEC. It is nowhere stated that the school said that the document was forged.
Premium Times: But the CSU registrar responded to questions regarding the signatories on the document. When told that those who signed the diploma were not officials of the university at the time the document was issued, he said “that’s correct”. Many people understand his response to have cast doubt on the authenticity of the document. What do you say to that?
Oluwole Afolabi: The registrar could not have known when the diploma was issued as he was not there and the school does not keep copies.
Both diplomas were said to have been issued after 1979 but no one knew for sure when they were issued. They could only speculate as to time-frame.
Premium Times: So, are you saying categorically that the said diploma was not forged?
Oluwole Afolabi: Yes, the diploma was not forged. There is nothing in the record to back up such an allegation. He who alleges must prove. It behoves on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his lawyers to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the document was forged and they failed in that regard. Suspicion is not the same thing as proof beyond reasonable doubt.
Premium Times: But former Vice President Atiku Abubakar addressed the media yesterday citing the deposition as evidence a forgery was committed by the President. If he introduced the deposition and associated exhibits as additional evidence at the Supreme Court, how will your team counter that challenge?
Oluwole Afolabi: Alhaji Atiku is on a wild goose chase and he and his lawyers know it. Under the provisions of the Electoral Act, there are no provisions for introduction of fresh evidence on appeal. In a regular civil appeal, you can introduce fresh evidence but before you’re allowed to do so, you must show that the evidence you’re trying to introduce was otherwise not available at the time the lawsuit was instituted. The President submitted his diploma to INEC in June 2022; elections were held in February 2023. He filed his petition in March, 2023. He did not approach the US District Court until August 2023.
Even if it were a regular civil matter, what do you think would have been the attitude of the court?
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