Nigeria’s leading opposition party announced its intention on Thursday to present new evidence in its court challenge aimed at overturning this year’s presidential election results. They claim that the declared winner, President Bola Tinubu, provided falsified academic credentials to authorities.
First runner-up Atiku Abubakar, along with his legal team, alleged that President Tinubu forged a diploma from an American university, which he presented to Nigeria’s election commission prior to the February vote. They cited records obtained during a U.S. court hearing, which were subsequently shared with The Associated Press.
Abubakar had previously argued that Tinubu should not hold the presidency due to the election commission’s failure to follow due process when announcing the winner. He also raised allegations of dual citizenship and a criminal indictment against Tinubu in the United States.
Tinubu has denied these claims and did not directly comment on the new allegation, but his spokesman refuted it, stating that “a man cannot forge the academic records he possesses,” on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The outcome of this legal challenge is closely monitored by many Nigerians, particularly after a divisive election in which Tinubu secured victory with less than 50% of the votes, a historic first for Nigeria.
Abubakar is among three candidates who are currently in court seeking to invalidate Tinubu’s election victory.
Kalu Kalu, Abubakar’s lawyer, stated their intent to present “fresh evidence” in the ongoing case before Nigeria’s Supreme Court, emphasizing that “a party at fault cannot be allowed to enjoy the fruit of his illegality.”
It’s important to note that no presidential election in Nigeria has ever been voided.
In pursuit of his legal challenge, Abubakar secured an order from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, directing Chicago State University, Tinubu’s alma mater, to release his academic records.
In a transcript of a deposition this week provided to the AP by Abubakar’s legal team (not yet made available by the court), Caleb Westberg, the university’s registrar, acknowledged the school’s possession of the original records of Bola Tinubu. However, he couldn’t confirm the authenticity of the diploma presented by the Nigerian leader to the election commission, which indicated his graduation in 1979.
“We’re not qualified to verify whether this document (the diploma) is authentic, given that it is not in our possession,” Westberg stated.
When asked to confirm that the university “has no record of issuing” the diploma in question, Westberg replied, “Correct.”
Alexandre de Gramont, who represented Abubakar in U.S. court, declared that the team obtained “virtually everything we sought” after a challenging legal battle to acquire Tinubu’s educational records, which were strongly opposed by Tinubu’s lawyers at every step.
It’s worth noting that this is not the first time a Nigerian leader has faced allegations of forgery. Tinubu’s predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, faced similar accusations that were never conclusively proven.