By Lere Olayinka
As a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), methinks Vice President Yemi Osinbajo should be mindful of how far he can go with his petition to the police against Jackson Ude of pointblanknews.com.
While I am not holding brief for Jackson Ude or anyone, I am of the opinion that the only option available to the Vice President or anyone who feels defamed by any publication is to sue for libel and defamation of character.
This is purely a civil matter, not criminal.
As a senior lawyer, the Vice President must be conversant with that celebrated case between Arthur Nwankwo and Anambra State, and how it ended.
On Arthur Nwankwo v. The State (1985) 6 NCLR 228:
Arthur Nwankwo (of blessed memory) was charged with sedition under Section 51 of the Criminal Code for publishing a book which had exposed corrupt practices under Governor Jim Nwobodo of former Anambra State.
Arthur Nwankwo was convicted and sentenced to one year imprisonment. He appealed the lower court judgement and the Appeal Court set aside his conviction.
That judgement by Justice Olamide Olatawura has remained a landmark in the history of journalism and freedom of the Press on Nigeria.
Olatawura JCA held that: “We are no longer the illiterates or the mob society our colonial masters had in mind when the law of was promulgated…To retain S. 51 of the Criminal Code, in its present form, that is even if not inconsistent with the freedom of expression guaranteed by our Constitution will be a deadly weapon to be used at will by a corrupt government or a tyrant…Let us not diminish from the freedom gained from our colonial masters by resorting to laws enacted by them to suit their purpose.”
The judge said further: “The decision of the founding fathers of this present constitution which guarantees freedom of speech which must include freedom to criticize should be praised and any attempt to derogate from it except as provided in the Constitution must be resisted. Those in public office should not be intolerant of criticism. Where a writer exceeds the bounds there should be a resort to the law of libel where the plaintiff must of necessity put his character and reputation in issue.”
However, like I have said before, Vice President Osinbajo is again applying what is called Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation – SLAPP to achieve press censorship.
According to Wikipedia, SLAPP is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.
Kevin M. Goldberg, in his article titled “SLAPP Lawsuits Pose Threat by Intimidation” which was published by the National Press Foundation on October 6, 2016, posited that; “Someone faced with a SLAPP action generally ends up agreeing to retract their statements, apologize, or refrain from further comment on the matter in order to stay out of court.”
Therefore, from my understanding of this game of political communication, what is being employed is intimidation to achieve their plot to prevent further publication of negative stuffs against the VP, at least in the mainstream media.
As usual, it will fail.
Lere Olayinka is my name. I am on the topmost part of Oke Agbonna in Okemesi Ekiti attending the Conference of Irunmales, the tyrants can come here if they wish.