Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For a President whose nicknames include "Baba Go Slow" and "YawnAdua", Nigeria's President Yar'Adua has been surprisingly quick in keeping his promise to sue the Leadership journalists accused of "embarrass[ing] the President and destabili[zing] his administration." These same journalists were originally arrested and questioned after publishing an article about Yar'Adua's health in November 2008. Yar'Adua sued in the Chief Magistrate Court on November 27th, 2008, 2 weeks after the article for which the journalists were arrested was published. The journalists later recanted all incorrect statements made in the article, apologized to the President and promised that their intentions were not intended to embarrass the President or the country. The individuals being charged are Sam Nda-Isaiah (Chairman and Editor in Chief), Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, (Executive Editor and Daily Edition Editor), Lara Olugbemi (Weekend Editor) and Simon Imobo-Swam (Associate Editor, Weekend Edition).

Regardless of the retraction and public apology, Yar'Adua's lawyers convinced a Court that the President can sue within his personal capacity like any other citizen. This is despite the fact that the constitution (§ 308) shields the President from criminal or civil suits and prevents any court from compelling him to appear. It is unclear how a President with constitutional immunity can adequately participate in a suit that he presented when the law is biased in his favor. Hopefully, this inconsistency will ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court.

Assuming the case does indeed go forward, it would be curious to see whether the President will show up in person to court. Also, it would be interesting if the President is required to prove that the allegations made in the Leadership article were indeed false. That might require Yar'Adua to prove that he indeed does not have a chronic health problem that required immediate medical attention.  Assuming that there was no medical condition to worry about, Nigerians will be pleased to know that their President is hearty and well. If that is not the case, this law suit, and the impending evidence,could reveal exactly what it is, if anything, that ails Yar'Adua and that will lead to further public debate over his capacity to serve in his position. That is the risk that the President is obviously willing to take.

However, one cannot ignore the irony that within less than 3 months, Yar'Adua has managed to get closer to suing the Leadership journalists but is yet to produce large scale results in power generation as he had promised. Another glaring irony is the time it took for him to announce a replacement for Adenike Grange, the former Minister of Health. Besides, since the beginning of the Yar'Adua administration in May 2007, Nigerians have gone for one full year without a Health Minister, but thankfully one was recently announced.

There also remains the unresolved issue of bloggers Jonathan Elendu and Emeka Emmanuel Asiwe. Both political bloggers remain detained in Nigeria, and are not free to return to their families in the United States. Neither has been charged with any crime and Elendu has been forced to use the legal system as a means to have his travel documents, and thus his freedom, returned to him. It has been over two and a half months and still the President is yet to publicly react to the plight of these individuals, despite the calls for their freedom from bloggers all around the world, the International PEN, the Committee to Protect Bloggers and other human rights organizations, both domestic and international.

Running any country, and particularly Nigeria, is far from easy and must undoubtedly require intense focus to do so with success. One cannot help but wonder if this suit against journalists who made a mistake, is worth the effort and time not to the President, but to the citizens he serves.

Related Articles of Interest:
- Yar'Adua To Sue Nigerian Newspaper
- Yar'Adua Arrests Nigerian Journalists
- Channels TV Shut Down By Yar'Adua
- Yar'Adua And The Continuing Heath Issue
- The Consequences of Ya'Adua's Mysterious Health
- Suppression In A Democratic Regime
- How Long Does It Take To Replace A Health Minister?

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Stuck in my throat said...

LOL at his nicknames...in my house, we call him Not A Doer.
I am waiting for him to do something that is unlike him...

Anonymous said...

I think i love the "BabaGoSlow" moniker most...Its yet another case of foucsing on trivialities to the detriment of the main things....I hope the Supreme Court puts down a market and throws the case out eventually -- if they don't get a "neutral" citizen to bring the case up on the behalf of YawnAdua - like the infamous Million Man March of days gone by..

Saved Girl said...

wow, very interesting. i want to go on a trip to your town...got to make that happen.

Anonymous said...

Wow... we need our own Obama 4 real.

Just a thought. Is there someone in Nigeria right now that one will think as the next possible Obama for us if they decided to venture into politics (which they probably would not because of the love of their life)? I don't know why Fela Durotoye comes to mind.

We need our own hope, change, and dream to come true in Niger.

N.I.M.M.O said...

As I had pointed out when the story first broke and it was on NC, let UMYAwn go to court. He will finally achieve what he was trying to prevent - total embarrassment.

I advise Nda-Isaiah, Bello-Barkindo and co to get a good lawyer who knows how to create a public show when needed. Femi Falana comes to mind but even a fresh law school graduate can handle this.

Just call UMYAwn to the stand to tell the truth (under oath) about his health status and he either appears or the case is thrown out of court because the court would have to examine his body physically for surgical wounds, Pacemaker e.t.c.

Dang! It will be a big embarrassment.

No. I don't think Aondoakaa will advise it.

The Activist said...

hmmmm ( I sighed)

Anonymous said...

But surely he will get doctors to testify he's healthy even if he isn't? It seems like the trial will be in his hands. And if I understnad correctly this guy has time to sue his people but not to help them? Hmmm... Interesting...

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