The serial presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar deserves some psychological counselling on how to deal with the pain of repeated electoral defeat because going by his recent adventures, he is still living in an alternate reality. Atiku Abubakar after concluding his election petition case at the presidential election petition tribunal was smart enough to admit to himself that his legal team failed abysmally in proving his case before the tribunal.
2023 is set to witness the easiest presidential election petition judgement in Nigeria’s history because of the watery petition of LP/Mr. Peter Obi and the disjointed petition of PDP/Atiku Abubakar. These two losing candidates failed to muster any reasonable challenge against the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and were instead chasing shadows.
While Peter Obi through his supporters decided to start lashing out at the judiciary in advance of the looming defeat at the Tribunal just to discredit the eventual judgment, Atiku Abubakar decided to embark on a bizzare and an embarrassing voyage across the North Atlantic to the city of Illinois in Chicago.
Atiku Abubakar through his counsels (hellbent on milking Wazirin Adamawa to the fullest) approached a US District Court in Illinois and dragged Chicago State University before the court as a Respondent and praying the court to compel CSU to give him the following:
1. All documents/objects in the university’s possession belonging to their former student President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, from which information may be derived. They listed some of these documents/objects to include President Tinubu’s assignments, periodicals, coursework, photographs, text messages, agreements, correspondence, electronic or other video recordings of any type, which must be produced with all their metadata and the name of the custodians.
2. All documents produced by CSU in response to any request by President Bola Tinubu or any other person for CSU records relating to President Bola Tinubu.
3. The certification they used on all documents and the process of the certification, the drafts of the certification and all communications to, from, or within the CSU on the certifications, and all documents sufficient to reflect the format, contents, and certifications of CSU diplomas issued by CSU for Bachelor of Science degrees from 1979 till date, including documents sufficient to demonstrate any modifications to the format, contents, and certification of CSU diplomas from 1979 to the present.
4. All documents certified by Jamar Orr, the Deputy General Counsel for CSU or by any other person employed by or acting on behalf of CSU, for use by President Bola Tinubu or any other person or entity in relation to the Nigerian proceedings and if Jamar Orr, Esq is still in service of CSU and if not, the reasons for his disengagement.
5. Finally Atiku also wants CSU to send competent officers to answer questions he may ask regarding the documents he requested.
Let me put it this way, Atiku is in Chicago simply to shop for any additional evidence he can lay his hands on, not to present before the PEPT that is currently writing its judgment, but to plead it as a new evidence before the Supreme Court when he appeals the PEPT judgment that will most likely go against him.
Mike Enahoro-Eba, a star of witness of Atiku during the hearing had been led in evidence down the territory of the President’s academic qualifications and records with documents from CSU, South West College, Chicago and NYSC tendered by Atiku’s legal counsel. They were at that point trying to prove Ground 4 of their petition which states that: “as at the time of the election, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election, not having the Constitutional threshold”.
Note that in the Atiku petition proper, he did not provide further particulars to back up this ground neither did he state the exact Constitutional threshold that President Bola Tinubu failed to meet. It was only during the hearing that Atiku’s counsel through one of their star witness, Mike Enahoro-Eba smuggled in the issue of 1993 civil forfeiture, Guinean citizenship and then tendered his academic records. These of course were objected to by the President’s counsel, Wole Olanipekun SAN. The tribunal in their judgment will definitely sustain Olanipekun’s objection and refuse to admit these documents not pleaded in their petition as evidence – a major blow to Atiku’s Chicago expedition.
Now, Atiku is obviously hunting for more possible evidence to tender on President Tinubu’s certificates when he files his appeal at the Supreme Court. If you look at all the items Atiku is requesting the US District Court in Illinois to compel CSU to give him, you will easily understand that Atiku is looking for any inconsistency in the contents and appearance of the certificate President Bola Ahmed Tinubu submitted to INEC and equally tendered before the tribunal.
Atiku desperately wants to make the court (Supreme Court in this case) see the certificate President submitted as forged and there pray the Supreme Court to disqualify President Bola Ahmed Tinubu by relying on Section 137 subsection 1(j) of the Constitution which states:
137. (1) A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if –
(j) he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Now you can see why Atiku is running up and down the streets of Chicago trying to get hold of every personal information/academic documents of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The only thing Atiku did not ask of is the toilet tissue paper President Bola Ahmed Tinubu used while he was studying in CSU!
Well, I would have loved to delve deep into the United States Statute 28 USC §1782 tool that Atiku is relying on to compel CSU to turn over all the information he has requested but it is not very relevant in the grand scheme of things. Moreover, CSU has responded to the Atiku application and the contents tells a clear story of the chances of Atiku getting what he is asking for.
However, I want to state that, an applicant under Section 1782 needs to show three things:
(a) it is an “interested person” in a foreign proceeding,
(b) the proceeding is before a foreign “tribunal”, and
(c) the person from whom evidence is sought is in the district of the court before which the application has been filed.
For intents and purposes, whatever document, Atiku is seeking in respect of his case at the Tribunal is coming at a very late hour since the document can longer be tendered as evidence before the tribunal because the tribunal has RESERVED judgment. Hearing has ended. Atiku will therefore need to wait until it is official that he is going on appeal to the Supreme Court before seeking to apply for the document he is asking CSU to turn over to him.
Also, the US District Court has a discretion whether to grant the discovery requested. One of the factors relevant to the exercise of this discretion is whether the discovery sought is “unduly intrusive or burdensome”. The CSU response to Atiku’s application clearly indicates that his application is not just intrusive into President Tinubu’s privacy but burdensome on the shoulders of CSU. Imagine CSU turning over all its student certifications from 1979 till date to Atiku just because he’s hunting for an evidence that won’t even be admitted in court in Nigeria.
Now let’s assume in the very unlikely scenario that Atiku gets his cache of documents and he establishes differences such as in the gender written in the original certificate and other minor mistakes common in a document manually derived, and that his next port of call, the Supreme Court, admits his new evidence (even though at this appellate stage, you don’t introduce new evidence unless with extraordinary reasons acceptable to the Justices) such discovery is totally irrelevant to prove a case of certificate forgery to start with.
To prove a case of forgery especially of a document that originated from a third party who is not a party to the suit, the litigant/appellant must invite or subpoena the issuing body or authority to appear before the Court to testify and authenticate the said document. In this instant case, Atiku does not want to take that route because CSU has consistently maintained that President Bola Tinubu was a student of the University and graduated in 1979 with Honours.
That is all that matters in Law. Atiku cannot be debating with Chicago State University over the certificate it issued to one of its students, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and insisting it is fake, when CSU itself has repeatedly told anyone who cared to inquire that Bola Ahmed Tinubu graduated from its University. That is an exhibition of lunacy in a chronic form.