The 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has asked the Supreme Court to grant him leave to file fresh evidence to support his allegation that President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress submitted a forged diploma to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Atiku, who lost to Tinubu in the February 2023 election, had challenged the president’s victory at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, but his petition was dismissed in September 2023. He then appealed to the Supreme Court, seeking to nullify Tinubu’s election on the grounds that he presented a fake diploma of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Chicago State University in 1979.
Atiku had obtained Tinubu’s academic records from CSU through a US court order in October 2023, after the tribunal had concluded its hearing. He claimed that the records showed that Tinubu’s diploma was forged and that he lied about his date of birth.
In his reply on the point of law to Tinubu’s objection to his application for leave, Atiku argued that presenting forged documents by any candidate, especially for the highest office in the land, was a grave constitutional issue that must not be encouraged. He urged the court to disregard technicality and do substantial justice in the matter.
He also dismissed Tinubu’s allegation that he was inconsistent with his name, saying that it was immaterial and pedestrian. He added that there was no petition challenging his qualification.
Atiku attached a 20-paragraph affidavit in support of his application, deposed to by one Uyi Giwa-Osagie, a lawyer and an associate of his. He stated that if the Supreme Court granted his application, there would be no need for a trial, as the evidence would be conclusive.
Tinubu, however, had asked the Supreme Court to dismiss Atiku’s application, describing it as a crass abuse of court processes. He maintained that he did not forge his diploma and that he graduated from CSU in 1979. He also accused Atiku of trying to introduce new issues that were not part of his original petition.
But in his response on the point of law, Atiku urged the court to jettison technicality and grant his application.
He argued that the issue of merit ought not to be determined or pronounced upon at the interlocutory stage.
To refuse to grant the leave, as the respondents have argued, will amount to undue technicality.
“The Supreme Court, as the Apex Court and indeed the Policy Court, has intervened time and again to do substantial justice in such matters of great constitutional importance, as it did in the case of AMAECHI vs. INEC (2008) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1080) 227 and OBI vs. INEC (2007) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1046) 565. The Supreme Court applied the principle of ubi jus ibi remedium to ensure substantial justice is done in such novel scenarios.
“The need to rebuff, eschew, and reject technicality and the duty of Court to ensure substantial justice is very germane in this matter, given the gravity of the constitutional issue involved in deciding whether a candidate for the highest office in the land, the office of President of the Country, presented a forged certificate or not.
“In urging the Honourable Court to overrule the objections of the Respondents, we can do no better than to commend to your noble Lordships the insightful words of the Supreme Court in ASSAH & ORS V. KARA & ORS (2014) LPELR-24212(SC), per Rhodes-Vivour, JSC as follows:
“Law is blind. It has no eyes. It cannot see. That explains why a statue of a woman with her eyes covered can be found in front of some High Courts. On the contrary, justice is not blind. It has many eyes, it sees and sees very well.
“The aim of Courts is to do substantial justice between the parties and any technicality that rears its ugly head to defeat the cause of justice will be rebuffed by the Court,” he stated.
Atiku stated that his stance was not if Tinubu attended the Chicago State University or not, adding that Tinubu presented a forged certificate to INEC.
“That the case is not whether the 2nd Respondent attended Chicago State University but whether he presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“That at the trial, a National Youth Service Corps certificate with serial number 173807 presented by the 2nd Respondent to the 1st Respondent was equally tendered by the Appellants/Applicants at the trial as “EXHIBIT PBD 1A” with the name Tinubu Bola Adekunle, which is annexed herewith as EXHIBIT “J”.
Also, Atiku described Tinubu’s allegation that he was not consistent with his name as immaterial and pedestrian.
Atiku held that there was no petition challenging his qualification.
“That it is immaterial that the 1st Respondent had since June 24th, 2022 published the factitious credentials of the 2nd Respondent as presentation of a forged certificate by a candidate for election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a post-election matter under Section 137 (1) (j) of the Constitution”.
In a 20-paragraph affidavit in support of the application, deposed to by one Uyi Giwa-Osagie, he noted that should the Apex Court grant his application, adding that there would be no need for argument.
He said, “There would be no need for any further argument other than the written address in support of same showing that the 2nd Respondent is in violation of the provisions of Section 137 (1) (j) of the Constitution by presenting a certificate disclaimed by the institution from where he purportedly procured same.
“That contrary to paragraphs 16(xi) of the 2nd Respondent’s Counter-Affidavit, there was no ex parte communication with the Honourable Court, but the letter was forwarded to the Registrar of the Court just as was done in the case of Uzodinma vs. Izunaso (2011) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1275) 30, at 56 (paragraph h of the affidavit on page 56) in which Counsel for the 2nd Respondent and Counsel for the Appellants/Applicants were both involved.
He argued that Tinubu’s objection was baseless.
He said, “The presence of the 1st and 3rd Respondents at the discovery and deposition was not necessary.
“That I know that the 2nd Respondent’s appeal was to prevent the discovery and deposition and that the said Appeal failed.
“That I know as a fact that the discovery and deposition were ordered by the District Judge, and was not out-of-court.
“That the Appellants were not indolent in their pursuit of the discoveries and deposition as it was also the letter tendered as EXHIBIT XX2 by the 2nd Respondent in the course of his defense purportedly issued by Caleb Westerberg that clearly gave the Appellants/Applicants further reasons to build on the evidence of PW27 by the discovery proceedings for the documents and Deposition on Oath of the same Caleb Westerberg.
“That the process for the discovery and deposition was commenced by the Appellants/Applicants with several initial preliminary processes by their U.S. Attorneys culminating in their eventually filing a Petition for the issuance of Subpoena, a copy of which is annexed herewith as EXHIBIT “K”.
“That the process was severely stalled by the vehement opposition of the 2nd Respondent, citing irreparable damage to him, amongst other excuses, and I annex herewith as EXHIBIT “L” the motion the 2nd Respondent to quash the subpoena, which application failed.
“That the process was also further delayed by a motion to join or intervene filed by the 2nd Respondent, which was granted, a copy of which application is annexed herewith as EXHIBIT “M”.
“That eventually the subpoena was ordered, and annex herewith a copy of the subpoena along with the documents that accompanied it as EXHIBIT “N”.
He argued that the president made a move to block the release of credentials while he had equally applied through his lawyer for the release of the document.
“That the 2nd Respondent has been in primary possession of all the facts sought in the discovery but took every step to block their release, notwithstanding that the 2nd Respondent had equally applied through his Attorney in the United States, Mr. Wole Afolabi, for the release of the said documents, which were released to him as shown is EXHIBIT “P” presented in the course of the discovery and deposition process,” he added.
The Supreme Court is yet to hear Atiku’s appeal, and the case is still ongoing.