Chicago State University finds itself at the center of a political dispute involving the newly elected president of Nigeria, Bola Tinubu.
Tinubu’s political rival, Atiku Abubakar, claims that documents showing that Tinubu graduated from Chicago State in 1979 are not authentic, and that is grounds to nullify Tinubu’s election victory earlier this year.
According to the People’s Gazette, Tinubu submitted the diploma to Nigeria’s election commission. It was purportedly issued in 1979 and signed by university President Elnora Daniel. But Daniel didn’t arrive at CSU until 1998 and left about ten years later. Submitting false records to the National Election Commission before the vote should nullify the election, Abubaker claims.
At a hearing in Chicago this week, Abubakar’s lawyers asked a federal judge to compel CSU officials to turn over Tinubu’s academic documents and appear for depositions. Judge Jeffrey Gilbert of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois did not rule on the request.
CSU’s lawyer, Michael Hayes, told Gilbert that the university wouldn’t be able to certify Tinubu’s diploma under oath.
A CSU spokeswoman said the university can confirm the president graduated. However, it cannot authenticate the diploma because it is a ceremonial document that is not part of a student’s official academic file.
Earlier this year, Nigeria’s Presidential Election Petition Court dismissed Abubakar’s claim against Tinubu’s Feb. 25 election.
However, Abubakar continues to fight the results here in Chicago.
Chicago State has issued this statement:
As an educational institution, we are sometimes asked to provide information related to student records. Federal law known as FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) protects the privacy of student records and limits what an institution can release.
In August 2023, a request was made in U.S. federal court for the university to provide information related to educational records concerning Bola Tinubu, the President of Nigeria, and a former CSU student. The university has confirmed Tinubu attended CSU and graduated in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree. Federal law, however, prevents us from providing any further information without consent or unless allowed to do so via court order.
CSU is confident in the veracity and integrity of our records regarding Tinubu’s completion of graduation requirements and degree certificate. The university is not a party to the Nigerian legal proceedings that spurred this request, and a U.S. federal judge will determine whether the university will provide further requested information.
Our response to the request for Tinubu’s academic records has been entirely consistent with our practices, policies and federal law. We would respond in exactly the same manner for any request for any student information by a third party.