The legal teams of President Bola Tinubu and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, will resume a legal battle over the President’s Chicago academic records in a United States court on Monday.
A US District Judge, Nancy Maldonado, had on Thursday agreed to stay an order directing Chicago State University to make Tinubu’s academic document available to Atiku’s legal team.
The hearing came up late Thursday night after the President’s lawyers filed an emergency motion seeking a delay in the implementation of the self-effectuating order directing the CSU to comply with Atiku’s subpoenas till Monday.
Atiku is currently challenging the victory of the former Lagos State governor at the 2023 presidential poll and his recent affirmation by an election petition court in Nigeria.
Earlier, a magistrate, Jeffrey Gilbert, had on Tuesday ordered Tinubu’s alma mater to provide all relevant and non-privileged documents to the applicant, Atiku, within two days.
Documents sought by the PDP candidate, through his counsel, Angela Liu, include the record of admission and acceptance at the university, dates of attendance including degrees, awards, and honours attained by the former governor of Lagos State at the university, among others.
But as the deadline given by Gilbert drew nearer on Thursday, Tinubu’s lawyers approached Maldonado, arguing that the earlier decision by Gilbert needed to be reviewed by a district judge.
The request for a review and delay of the order till Monday was granted by the US district judge.
In the emergency hearing, Maldonado disclosed that mindful of legal deadlines in Nigeria, she would rule on the matter as quickly as possible.
“I will have a busy weekend. The issue is of process and rules. I’m a rule person. That’s why I’m a judge. This case is quite involved. I am aware of the stakes. It’s more important to me to get this right,” she said.
No hiding place
Ahead of the resumption of the case on Monday, however, Atiku’s media adviser, Paul Ibe, told Saturday PUNCH on Friday that the President should not be hiding anything and that the camp would wait for the court process while whatever is being hidden will be unfolded.
Ibe said “What is in that file if it is released that would bring harm that is irreparable to him (Tinubu)? It has become important for Bola Tinubu to let Nigerians know what he is hiding in his academic record at Chicago University.
“We cannot mortgage the destiny of over 200 million people for the interest of one individual. He is bringing embarrassment to Nigeria, it is shameful and it is a tragedy to have something as simple as releasing your records to be subject to public scrutiny.
“Nigerians should begin to take an interest in this matter. Nigerians should be asking questions about what is going on. Why should the President of Nigeria not be a product of due process, transparency and accountability? It has never reached this low and it is unfortunate. We will get him.
“We will await the court process, they can only stall but finally whatever it is that is being hidden will be released.”
Tinubu’s camp ready
When Saturday PUNCH contacted the Coordinator of Tinubu Presidential Legal Team, Babatunde Ogala, on the team’s preparation ahead of Monday, he said the team members were ready for Atiku’s next move.
He said whatever may be the former vice president’s next plan, members of the President’s team were also not sleeping.
Ogala, who is currently in the US as part of the legal team said, “We submitted our application and the order has been suspended. We are starting all over again.
“If they like, let them do a Plan C. We are not sleeping either. We will meet them there.
“Instead of recommending to the judge, the magistrate was ruling which he has no power to do. We told the judge and he agreed. So the whole process of what he has done was set aside.”
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, however, did not speak on whether the President is hiding something from Nigerians and the nature of the “non-privileged” details contained in the academic record in the custody of his alma mater when he was asked.
“There is nothing new to say beyond what you have. We will wait till next week,” he said.
Efforts made to reach the PDP legal team and spokesman for the opposition party, Debo Ologunagba, were unsuccessful as of press time.