Wole Afolabi, the Chicago-based lawyer of President Bola Tinubu, has refuted the claim by the 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, that the certificate of his principal was forged.
Speaking on Thursday during a press conference in Abuja, Atiku alleged discrepancies in the certificate Tinubu submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to contest the 2023 presidential election.
During an interview on Television Continental (TVC) on Thursday night, Afolabi said all the claims made by Atiku during his press conference were false and should be ignored by the public.
The lawyer also said the former Vice President is on a wild goose chase if the PDP flagbearer took the documents released by the Chicago State University (CSU) to the Supreme Court to help his case.
He said: “The wrong information was planted out there that President Bola Tinubu did not attend Chicago State University, and someone sold that to Waziri Atiku Abubakar, and on that premise, he approached, through his lawyers, the High Court in Chicago asking that its record be released to him that he had it on good authority that he (Tinubu) did not attend university.
“The Chicago State University (CSU), through its Registrar, deposed to an affidavit wherein it was stated that not only did the President attend CSU, but he, in fact, graduated with honours in very rigorous majors, accounting, he was one of their best students. No wonder, he was hired directly out of college.
“So, confronted with this information and being reluctant to beat a retreat, they pivoted and went in the direction that the certificates that he (Tinubu) presented to INEC were forged.
Now, the university came out and said that this is their characteristics (For diplomas) what is important to them and to many universities in America is transcripts.
“It is in the transcript that you see the grades, the courses that he took and everything related to the students, all you need to know about the students basically. But the diploma is merely ceremonial.
“So, the university said the practice is that once you give it out (Diplomas), they don’t retain copies, so haven’t given out the version that the president submitted to INEC they did not have it in their possession.
“Now, at some point, the president requested for a replacement diploma as some students do. It was prepared, but the president did not go back to pick it up it was asked of the registrar why he did not pick it up or ask that it be sent to him, and he correctly answered, ‘Why don’t you ask him?, I’m not in a position to answer to that.’”
Afolabi also explained the use in court of the phrase “irreparable harm” in defence of Tinubu’s opposition to the release of his academic records, saying that there was nothing sinister or unusual about it.
He said: “That was a lawyer’s language, that’s legalese. Any lawyer that you speak to who is a practitioner will tell you that when you approach the court of law to get an interlocutory relief, that is, after someone gets a judgment rule against you and wants to appeal, you can go to the court and say you want a stay of execution, meaning don’t do that thing before this appeal or this review as in this case is done.
“It is actually one of the things you have to satisfy the court is that you have to tell the court that look, your honour, if you go ahead and allow this document to be released now, irreparable harm would have been done. What does that mean in everyday language? It means that once the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put it back.
“Now, we contested based on FERPA laws – Federal Educational Rights Privacy Act – a student is entitled to protection, that a student’s records are entitled to protection, that was what we maintained. I have three kids here, one has graduated college and two are still in college; I don’t have access to their records. I can’t go to their registrar and say hey, I’m paying their tuition, turn these things over to me.
“So, we maintained that under FERPA, the President is entitled to privacy to his records, unless he elects to release them. So, Magistrate Judge Gilbert, having ordered that the documents be released within 48 hours, was just a few hours away from reaching the time frame. So we went to Judge MacDonald and said, ‘Your honour, put a stop to the execution of this order, because if you don’t and these records are released, then there’ll be nothing for you to review anymore.
“That was all that we meant by that. Not irreparable harm by being shot or killed. No. It’s a legal term. If you’re asking for a stay, you have to demonstrate that if this order is not granted, there’ll be nothing for you to review, and the judge listened to us and granted that order. The judge agreed with us.”