A federal court in the United States is racing to complete Atiku Abubakar’s request to subpoena Chicago State University (CSU) for President Bola Tinubu’s academic records after learning that Mr Abubakar has only 14 days to appeal the judgement of the election petitions tribunal at the Supreme Court of Nigeria using the requested records.
Specifically, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago has moved up the date for in-person arguments of the lawyers of Messrs Abubakar, Tinubu and CSU from September 15 to September 12, citing “exigent circumstances” of the request.
“Upon further reflection, in light of the exigent circumstances presented by the Application  and to account for the possibility of any appeal of the Court’s ruling,” Judge Jeffrey Gilbert said, “this matter is set for hearing in-person on 9/12/23 at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom 1386.”
Mr Gilbert strongly advised lawyers on both sides of the matter to appear in court for the proceeding, with the docket indicating an imminent ruling on the matter during the week.
“If out-of-town counsel want to appear by telephone, they should contact the Court’s courtroom deputy. The Court’s preference, however, is for counsel who will be speaking at the hearing to appear in person.”
To pre-empt any further delay, the Court asked CSU to file any objections (if any) it might have against the scope of the requested records not later than 5:00 p.m. on September 11. The school had been previously given a longer period to file objections to the subpoenas’ broadness.
Hours after a panel of five appellate justices struck out petitions against the incumbent president on Wednesday, an aggrieved Mr Abubakar asked the U.S. Court to expedite the issuance of the CSU subpoena as he intended to use the records sought to file an appeal with Nigeria’s Supreme Court within 21 days. But the plaintiff’s U.S. lawyers, led by Angela Liu, appeared not to have been aware of a recent update to the Supreme Court filing deadline for election-related appeals. The court has only 60 days to hear and deliver a verdict on the matter in line with the amended electoral regulations.
Chris Uche, chief counsel for Mr Abubakar and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, clarified that an appeal of the tribunal’s verdict must be filed within 14 days, not the 21 days that the U.S. attorneys had previously asserted.
Mr Tinubu’s lawyers have argued the records are no longer critical because the deadline for submitting evidence has lapsed. But Mr Abubakar’s lawyers cited a Supreme Court rule that allows the introduction of crucial evidence under special circumstances, which they believe the release would force.
Despite being a major fixture in Nigerian politics since he was first elected senator in the 1990s, Mr Tinubu’s background has remained shrouded in secrecy. His real name, parents, childhood neighbourhood, primary and secondary education, among other pieces, are still undiscovered.
He said he was at first a top accountant at Deloitte and later an executive at Mobil in the 1980s, where he purportedly made his money, but his involvement in Chicago’s dreadful narcotics business that led to the confiscation of his funds in the 1990s has further complicated his supporters’ ability to successfully cast him as a scrupulous, avuncular politician with a longstanding dedication towards a democratic order in Nigeria.