Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has refused to release his academic records, despite himself this year sending his lawyers all the way to the United States to legally force Chicago State University (CSU) to release the academic records of President Bola Tinubu.
PREMIUM TIMES had, through a letter dated 3 October, 2023, requested Atiku to provide copies of the academic certificates he obtained from primary school up to the university, including Master’s degree certificate, as claimed in his filing to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) when he ran in the 2019 and 2023 presidential elections. He ran on both occasions as candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Seven weeks after the letter and without a response from the former vice president, PREMIUM TIMES, on 14 November, 2023, sent him a reminder dated 13 November.
PREMIUM TIMES sent copies of both the original letter and the reminder to Atiku’s residence in the highbrow Asokoro area and to his media office at the Central Business District, both in Abuja, where they were received and acknowledged. Our courier service providers returned proofs of delivery to our headquarters.
PREMIUM TIMES also spoke with Atiku’s spokesperson, Paul Ibe, who promised to ensure a prompt response to the request.
Yet, Atiku did not reply to the letter or make the requested information available to the public through other channels.
Request for Atiku’s academic records
In the letter, PREMIUM TIMES stated: “We respectfully congratulate Your Excellency on your success in obtaining the academic records of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu from the Chicago State University after a valiant legal battle at the United States District Court, Northern Illinois.
“Your stated reason for the pursuit of the documents is to support your challenge of the authenticity of the certificate presented by President Tinubu to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 25 February, 2023 presidential election.
“We also see it as a patriotic endeavour to set high ethical standards for Nigerian public figures, in particular those seeking high public offices, and to promote the noble principles of transparency and honesty in the conduct of public affairs in our country.
“We find it especially commendable that you have chosen to do this through the judicial route, thus again cementing your reputation as a democrat and an adherent to due process.
“It is in the same interest of transparency that we hereby respectfully request your own academic records.
“Making the records available to us will demonstrate that you did not demand from your opponent what you are not willing to give.
“Sir, what we seek from you are your admission records, transcripts and certificates from all the academic institutions that you attended at home and abroad, including for the award of a Master’s degree.
“To raise even higher the bar of transparency and moral exemplariness, Your Excellency may wish to add your employment and business records as well.”
Atiku’s dogged pursuit of Tinubu’s CSU records
Atiku had accused his rival in the 2023 presidential election, Mr Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), of forgery of a certificate from the American university. Atiku had questioned the copy.of the Chicago State University (CSU) certificate Mr Tinubu presented to INEC as evidence of his educational qualification to run for the highest political office in Nigeria.
Arguing that he needed the documents to strengthen his case at the Supreme Court after the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) dismissed his petition against the election of the president, Atiku persuaded the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to order CSU to release to his representatives the academic records of Mr Tinubu, who claimed to have graduated from the university with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
On 19 September, Jeffrey Gilbert, a US magistrate judge, granted the request and ordered CSU to release the records within 24 hours. Although Mr Tinubu filed an appeal against the order, a judge, Nancy Maldonado, dismissed the objection, concurring that Atiku had the right to access the records.
However, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, in its judgement on 26 October in which it entirely dismissed Atiku’s appeal, refused to admit the documents from the US in evidence on the ground that Atiku did not plead the allegation of forgery in his petition to the election tribunal. The court held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain evidence not tendered before the lower court
Atiku decries Supreme Court judgement
Speaking at a press conference four days later, a disappointed Atiku decried the judgement, saying the Supreme Court had legitimised “illegality, including forgery, identity theft, and perjury.”
He said: “If the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, implies by its judgment that crime is good and should be rewarded, then Nigeria has lost and the country is doomed irrespective of who occupies the Presidential seat.”
Atiku also said the judgement implied that the Supreme Court saw nothing wrong in INEC telling the public one thing and doing something else “in order to reach a corruptly predetermined outcome.” He added, “then there is really no hope for the country’s democracy and electoral politics”.
“Obviously, the consequences of those decisions for the country will not end at the expiration of the current government. They will last for decades. I am absolutely sure that history will vindicate me.
“It is not about me; it is about our country, Nigeria. It is about the kind of society we want to leave for the next generation and what kind of example we want to set for our children and their children.
“It is about the reputation of Nigeria and Nigerians in the eyes of the world,” the former vice president also said.
Atiku’s campaign for transparency
Despite the matter deriving from an election petition, PREMIUM TIMES sees Atiku’s demand on Mr Tinubu to make public the details of his claimed academic records to be in accordance with the need for people seeking leadership positions in the country to demonstrate high standards of probity, transparency and accountability.
However, when PREMIUM TIMES asked him to demonstrate his own commitment to the same standards by being open with his own academic records, the two-time PDP presidential candidate demurred.
Although he has been seeking to lead Nigeria for over 30 years, during which he held the second highest political office in the country for eight years, gaps remain in the public knowledge about Atilu’s early life and education.
According to open source records, Atiku, who was born on 25 November 1946, was enrolled in Jada Primary School in now Adamawa State at the age of eight. In 1960, he was admitted into Adamawa Provincial Secondary School, graduating from the school in 1965 with grade three in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination.
Atiku was admitted to the Nigeria Police College in Kaduna but was forced to leave after being unable to present an O-Level Mathematics result. Thereafter, according to his profile on Wikipedia, he “worked briefly as a Tax Officer in the Regional Ministry of Finance, from where he gained admission to the School of Hygiene in Kano in 1966.”
“He graduated with a Diploma in 1967, having served as Interim Student Union President at the school. In 1967, he enrolled for a Law Diploma at the Ahmadu Bello University Institute of Administration, on a scholarship from the regional government. After graduation in 1969, during the Nigerian Civil War, he was employed by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).”
In the heat of his pursuit of the academic records of President Tinubu, Atiku’s own records came under controversy when it was revealed that his WAEC certificate had been awarded to a “Siddiq Abubakar.”
Providing clarifications, his spokesperson, Paul Ibe, said Atiku sat the secondary school certificate examination as “Sadiq” Abubakar, but later swore to an affidavit to state that “Sadiq” and “Atiku” are the same person.
He added that Atiku studied at ABU and worked in the Federal Civil Service Commission and the Customs Service as Atiku Abubakar..
“It is on record that the change of name of the former Vice President reverting to Atiku Abubakar from Siddiq Abubakar is well documented in an affidavit dated 18th of August 1973, spanning over 50 years, is in the public domain,” Mr Ibe said in a press statement.
“For the purpose of clarification, all the names that Atiku Abubakar bears are names that are traceable to his family tree.
“He adopted Atiku Abubakar as his official name while in the employ of the Nigeria Customs Service. Atiku’s life is an open book,” his spokesperson said.
However, by ignoring repeated requests by PREMIUM TIMES for his academic records, Atiku curiously appears to be reluctant to allow the independent media to read certain aspects of the “open book.”
Like Atiku, like Trump
Atiku’s reluctance to release his own academic records for scrutiny, despite fighting doggedly to put those of a political rival in the public domain, is similar to the attitude exhibited by former American President Donald Trump.
Mr Trump was a prominent figure in the “birther movement” – a loose affiliation of people who claimed that his immediate predecessor, President Barack Obama, was born outside the US and was therefore not qualified to run for the office of president.
In October 2012, Mr Trump accused Mr Obama of being “the least transparent president in the history of this country” for refusing to release his birth certificate and passport records.
“We know very little about our president,” Mr Trump said at the time. In a YouTube video, Mr Trump said he would donate $5 million to a charity of Mr Obama’s choosing if the then president released his college records and applications and passport applications and records.
Following the statement, The UK Guardian newspaper asked Mr Trump for his own birth certificate and passport records. But Michael Cohen, the executive vice-president at the Trump Organisation and special counsel for Mr Trump at the time, “accused the newspaper of “trying to be funny” and said the request was “stupid’ given Mr Trump’s then lack of political aspirations.
“What’s your point?” Mr Cohen said. “Mr Trump’s not the president of the United States and he’s not running for the presidency,” The Guardian later recalled
However, when Mr Trump ran for president in 2015 and The Guardian again contacted his campaign to request the records, a spokesperson refused to share the documents.
In the 2015 report, the newspaper stated: “Now that Trump himself is running for president – in his campaign announcement he promised to crack down on Mexico, which he accused of sending “rapists” to the US – the refusal to release these documents could be seen as hypocritical. If Trump were to win the presidency in November 2016, without publishing the documentation, then he would by his own definition join Obama as being “the least transparent president in the history of this country.”
Atiku’s refusal to release his own records, despite demanding that standard from Mr Tinubu, seems hypocritical as well.
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