Let us today deal with SuperCop, Abba Kyari and the tale of two jurisdictions conundrum. This is a serious constitutional, legal and political quandary matter.
BACKGROUND TO US’s APPLICATION FOR THE SURRENDER OF ABBA KYARI
The Diplomatic Representative of the U.S. Embassy in Abuja had made a request for the surrender of 46 year old Abba Alhaji Kyari, over the pending charges against Abba Kyari in the US. This request is allegedly based on the relationship of Kyari with Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, a 37 year old self-confessed international fraudster, popularly known as Hushpuppi. Hushpuppi had alleged that he bribed Abba Kyari to arrest and jail Kelly Chibuzor Vincent, one of his rivals in Nigeria, following a dispute over a $1.1 million scam on a Qatari business man. Kyari had denied any wrongdoing.
THEN NDLEA APPEARED ON THE SCENE
While on suspension over his role in the Hushpuppi’s case, Abba Kyari was arrested by the NDLEA in an alleged 17.5kg cocaine deal and allegedly tampering with 25kg worth of cocaine. As investigation into the said NDLEA case was ongoing, Kyari applied for his bail on health grounds. The NDLEA then secured a court order for further detention of Kyari and 6 others for 14 days. Indeed, immediately the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, okayed Kyari’s extradition, NDLEA suddenly slapped an eight count charge on him before the Federal High Court, Abuja. Was this a mere coincidence? Are some top level persons working hard to stall Kyari’s extradition for fear he may be squeezed and made to squeal when he gets to the US? Can the ongoing investigation, subsisting court remand order and fresh charge stall the extradition of Abba Kyari to the United States of America? This is the kernel of our discourse today and next week.
WHAT IS EXTRADITION?
Extradition is a process by which a person accused or convicted of a crime is officially transferred to the State where the person is either wanted for trial or required to serve a sentence after being duly convicted by a court of law.
NIGERIA HAS EXTRADITION TREATY WITH THE USA
Nigeria has an extradition agreement with the USA by virtue of an Extradition Treaty signed between the UK and the US, dated the 22nd December, 1931. The Treaty came into force on 24th June, 1935. By virtue of Article 16 of the Treaty, it was made applicable to all British protectorates of which Nigeria was one. Article 16 of the Treaty provides:
“This Treaty shall apply in the same manner as if they were Possessions of His Britannic Majesty to the following British Protectorates, that is to say, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Gambia Protectorate, Kenya Protectorate, Nigeria Protectorate, Northern Rhodesia, Northern Territories of the Gold Coast, Nyasaland, Sierra Leone Protectorate, Solomon Islands Protectorate, Somaliland Protectorate, Swaziland, Uganda Protectorate and Zanzibar, and to the following territories in respect of which a mandate on behalf of the League of Nations has been accepted by His Britannic Majesty, that is to say, Cameroons under British mandate, Togoland under British mandate, and the Tanganyika Territory.”
By Article 1 of the treaty, the contracting parties agreed to deliver up to each other (under certain circumstances and conditions), persons who, being accused or convicted of any of the crimes or offences enumerated in Article 3, committed within the jurisdiction of the one Party, are found within the territory of the other Party. There are 27 offences enumerated in Article 3. The crimes which touch on the substance of this article are the 18th and the 22nd: Obtaining money by false pretences; receiving any money, valuable security, or other property, knowing the same to have been stolen or unlawfully obtained and the offering, giving or receiving of bribes respectively. Some elements of the offence for which Abba Kyari was declared wanted in the United States of America include obtaining money/assets through fraudulent means.
By Article 4 of the treaty, extradition shall not take place if the subject has already been tried and discharged or punished for the offences over which he or she is wanted.
Article 5 states that extradition shall not take place if, after the commission of the offence or filing of criminal charges or conviction, exemption from prosecution was acquired by lapse of time according to the laws of the two countries involved.
By Article 6 of the Treaty, a fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered for extradition if the offence for which his extradition is sought is of a political nature, or if the subject could prove that the demand for the extradition was made in order to punish him for an offence of a political nature.
Article 9 of the treaty states that extradition shall only take place if the evidence is found to be sufficient according to the laws of the contracting party applied to, to justify the committal of the prisoner for trial, in case the crime or offence had been committed in the territory of such High Contracting Party. In the case of ANUEBUNWA v. A.G., it was held that:
“The whole essence of an extradition proceeding … is for the Applicant to establish by credible evidence, that is by producing to the judge in the case of a fugitive criminal accused of an offence claimed to be an extradition offence, a warrant issued outside Nigeria authorizing the arrest of the fugitive.”
Two doctrines come into play when the extradition of a person is sought. There is the first- the doctrine of ‘Specialty’ or ‘Specialty Doctrine’. This doctrine requires that a person whose extradition is sought can only be tried for the crime for which his extradition was requested, and none other. Upon surrender of a fugitive, by a state where he sought refuge, the requesting state must only prosecute and convict such a person simply for the very crime for which his extradition was requested and for none other offence committed before the surrender of such fugitive. In the US case of States V. Raucher (119 U.S. 407, 7S.Ct. 234, 30 L.Ed. 425(1886)), the court held that an accused shall not be arrested or tried for any other offence other than that for which he was charged in the extradition proceedings. In a situation where a state prosecutes a fugitive for an offence other than that which the fugitive was extradited, it will be tantamount to an abuse of the principles of extradition.
The second doctrine is the doctrine of ‘Double Criminality’. It states that before a person can be extradited for an offence, such extradition offence or the offence for which a person’s extradition is sought, must constitute an offence or crime in both jurisdictions. In the case of Collins V. Loisel (259 U.S. 309, 42 S.Ct. 49, 66L.Ed.956 (1922)), the American Supreme Court held that the name by which the crime is described in the two countries need not be the same; nor must the punishment be the same. The requirement of double criminality is simply met if the particular act charged is criminal in both jurisdictions.
RESTRICTIONS ON THE SURRENDER OF FUGITIVES
NIGERIA’S EXTRADITION ACT
The Extradition Act, Cap E. 25, LFN, 2004, is the Act regulating the extradition of fugitive offenders/criminals in Nigeria. A “fugitive criminal” is defined in Section 21 of the Extradition Act as:
a. “Any person accused of an extradition offence committed within the jurisdiction of a country other than Nigeria; or
b. Any person, who, having been convicted of an extradition offence in a country other than Nigeria, is unlawfully at large before the expiration of a sentence imposed on him for that offence, being in either case a person who is, or is suspected of being, in Nigeria.”
Where an extradition request has been received by the Attorney General, he is obliged to decide (on available information), if the surrender is precluded by any of the provisions of section 3(1) to (7) of the Act. If the surrender of a fugitive criminal is not so precluded, he is to inform a magistrate that an extradition request has been received by him and thus require the magistrate to deal with the case in accordance with the provisions of the Act. However, where the extradition of a fugitive criminal is so precluded by Section 3(1) to (7), then he need not inform the magistrate of the receipt of any such request (Section 6 (2)).
In the case of George Udeozor V. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2007) LPELR-CA/L/376/05, the court held:
“Nothing in the Act gives the court the powers to question the discretion of the Hon. Attorney General in those matters, as the Hon. Attorney General exercises his constitutional duty under section 174 of the 1999 constitution.”
However, the Attorney General may, under section 8 (3), if he thinks fit, order the warrant cancelled and the fugitive released, if already arrested. Where a fugitive has been arrested, he shall, under section 8 (5) be brought before a magistrate as soon as is feasible and the magistrate shall either remand him in custody or grant him bail, depending on the receipt of an order from the Attorney-General. This order shall notify the Magistrate that a request for the fugitive’s surrender has been received; or give an order for the cancellation of the warrant and the release of the fugitive.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE NIGERIA-US TREATY AGREEMENT
Nigeria and the US have an existing Extradition Agreement for the surrender of persons wanted for prosecution or punishment. Section 3 of the Extradition Act stipulates instances where a person will not be surrendered for prosecution or punishment, notwithstanding the application for surrender by a foreign country. According to Section 3 of the said Act, a fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered if the Attorney-General or a court dealing with the case is satisfied that the offence in respect of which his surrender is sought is an offence of a political character; or that the request for his surrender, although purporting to be made in respect of an extradition Crime, was in fact made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing him on account of his race; religion, nationality or political opinions or was otherwise not made in good faith or in the interests of justice; or that, if surrendered, he is likely to be prejudiced at his trial, or to be punished, detained or restricted in his personal liberty, by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions.
A fugitive criminal shall also not be surrendered if the Attorney-General or a court dealing with the case is satisfied that the offence is of a trivial nature; or that due to the passage of time since the commission, of the offence, it would, be unjust or oppressive, or be too severe a punishment, to surrender the offender.
A fugitive criminal shall also not be surrendered if the Attorney-General or a court dealing with the case is satisfied that, whether in Nigeria or elsewhere, such fugitive has been convicted of the offence for which his surrender is sought; or has been acquitted thereof, and that, he is not unlawfully at large.
Similarly, a fugitive criminal shall also not be surrendered if criminal proceedings are pending against him in Nigeria for the offence for which his surrender is sought.
In the same vein, by virtue section 3(6) of the Act, a fugitive who has been charged with an offence under the laws of Nigeria or any part thereof, not being the offence for which his surrender is sought, or who is serving a sentence imposed in respect of any such offence by a court in Nigeria, shall not be surrendered until such time as he has been discharged whether by acquittal: or on the expiration of his sentence or otherwise.
The last two scenarios pointed above are apposite in Abba Kyari’s case. He is now standing trial under the NDLEA criminal charge. The extradition request must therefore await the outcome of this trial by the Federal High Court, Abuja.
A fugitive criminal shall also not be Surrendered to any country unless the Attorney-General is satisfied that provision is made by the law of that country, or that special arrangements have been made, such that, so long as the fugitive has not had a reasonable opportunity of returning to Nigeria, he will not be detained or tried in that country for any offence committed before his surrender other than any extradition offence which may be proved by the facts on which his surrender is granted. Has Abubakar Malami ensured this? Let him tell Nigerians if the US may not try Abba Kyari for another offence different from his alleged offence with Hushpuppi.
THE EXTRADITION HEARING
If at the end of thirty days from the day of the arrest, no
order was received from the Attorney General, the fugitive offender must be released. There must be a hearing in order to determine if the fugitive ought to be extradited or otherwise. The magistrate is free to receive evidence that proves that the offence for which the fugitive is wanted is not an extradition offence; or any evidence that proves that his extradition is prohibited either under the act or under any relevant extradition agreement. The Court in Udeozor V. FRN, (supra), in stating the purpose of a hearing in extradition proceedings held thus:
“The purpose of a hearing which is in fact purely at the discretion of the Attorney General is not to ask the fugitive criminal if he desires to be extradited. That will be ridiculous. The purpose is to determine whether the requisition made shows sufficient cause to warrant extradition… to hold otherwise will be ridiculous…… “The purpose of the hearing in a trial court upon the application Hon. Attorney General is not for the trial of the fugitive criminal. Rather, it is to invoke the exercise of the judicial powers of the court over the fugitive accused as the court would over an accused person standing trial before it. In the circumstance, those powers are preliminary to the eventual trial of the fugitive accused, such as the power to remand or to release on bail pending the completion of investigation. It is not a criminal trial but a preliminary to such trial which shall take place where the offences are alleged to have been committed.”
HOW EXTRADITION REQUEST IS MADE
By virtue of Section 6(1) of the Extradition Act of Nigeria, a request for the surrender of a fugitive criminal in Nigeria must be made in writing to the Attorney General of the federation by a diplomatic representative of the requesting state and this should be accompanied by a duly authenticated warrant of arrest in the case of a fugitive criminal accused of an extraditable offence; and where the fugitive has been convicted of an extraditable offence, the written request must be accompanied by certificate of conviction issued in the requesting country. It should be noted that the essence of attaching a warrant of arrest or a certificate of conviction is to prevent frivolous requests that have no basis supporting the request. It is also important as it helps to prove that there exist sufficient facts necessitating the request for extradition. Where an extradition request has been received by the Attorney General, it is required that on the basis of the information available to him, he is obliged to decide if the surrender is precluded by any of the provisions of Section 3(1) to (8) for the refusal of extradition request. The Magistrate, under section 8 has powers to remand the fugitive, or grant him bail; or cancel a warrant and release a fugitive; as if he was trying the fugitive for an offence committed within his jurisdiction.
Consequently, if the surrender of a fugitive criminal is not precluded by the provisions of that section, he is to inform a magistrate that an extradition request has been received by him and thus require the magistrate to deal with the case in accordance with the provisions of the Act. However, where the extradition of a fugitive criminal is precluded by the provisions of section 3(1) to (7), then he need not inform the magistrate of the receipt of any such request.
From the above provisions, it is fundamental to note that the authority conferred on the Attorney General to determine if an application is competent in relation to section 3 cannot be contested. It is only when the request has been transferred to the magistrate that the judicial process of inquiring into the case and the competence of the request can be begin. However, where the Attorney General decides that the request is precluded by section 3, then nothing can be done about it. It must be reiterated that in the process of extradition, the powers of the Attorney General are wide; but limited once he approaches a Magistrate, who thereby become dominus litis.
THE PENDING NDLEA CHARGE AND ABBA KYARI: THE NEXUS
Abba Kyari NDLEA’s pending charge before the Federal High Court has definitely put the whole extradition process on hold if the court decides to remand him pending the determination of the suit against him.
It is also important to emphasis that while the matter is pending in court, Abba Kyari is pressumed innocent until proven guilty as contained in Section 36 (5) provides that:”every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty”.
This is also sanctioned by Article 1(1) of the UDHR, 1948; Article 14 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, 1966; and Article 7(b) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Cap A9, LFN, 2004. Presumption of innocence is the golden thread that runs through our criminal justice system. See the case of The King v. Richardson & Anor (1985) Leach 387; Woolmington v. DPP (1935) AC- 462; Ali v. State (2012) 190 NWLR (Pt 1309) 642;
Even if the Federal High Court were to give its judgment against Abba Kyari, he is still entitled to appeal such a judgment at the Court of Appeal, and even further to the Supreme Court.
Section 3(6) of the Extradition Act makes it clear that a fugitive criminal who has been charged with an offence under the law of Nigeria or any part thereof, not being the offence for which his surrender is sought, shall not be surrendered until such time as he has been discharged whether by acquittal or on the expiration of his sentence or otherwise. As stated above, the NDLEA has filed an eight count charge against Abba Kyari and six others for their alleged involvement in drug trafficking, barely 24 hours after the Attorney-General filed an application for the extradition of Kyari. It is important to note that Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Attorney-General of the Federation, is also the Minister of Justice. By virtue of Section 2(1) (f) of the NDLEA ACT, the Federal Ministry of Justice, headed by Abubakar Malami, SAN, has a representative in the Board/composition of the NDLEA. So, now that he is aware of the NDLEA charge, can the Chief Law Officer of the Federation consent to the prosecution of someone whose application for extradition is pending? What is the legal implication of this?
The case of A.G FED v. JONES (2017) LPELR-43551(CA), is worth considering. Though, the case was decided under Section 3(5) of the Extradition Act, some key observations made by the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal are worth noting. The Appellant (A.G. Fed) had filed an application before the trial court seeking to extradite the Respondent on a diplomatic request from the United States of America on indictment, in Case No.11-CR0299, filed on the 28th day of April, 2011, for the offences of conspiracy to commit wired fraud and conspiracy to commit identity theft all in violation of US Laws. The Application was duly supported by an affidavit and exhibits, which inter alia, included a certified true copy of the indictment issued against the Respondents; certified true copy of the warrant of arrest issued by the US District Court for the arrest of the Respondent; and a photograph of the Respondent. The Respondent contested the proceedings, contending that the application was incompetent because as at the time of the application, there was an existing charge at the Akure High Court on charges similar to those he was being sought to be extradited to face in the United States of America. The Appellant contended that as at the time the application for extradition was ripe for hearing, the existing charge had already been withdrawn. The trial Court disagreed and found against the Appellant and discharged the Respondent.
The Appellant being dissatisfied with the judgment filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal was emphatic that the main thrust of the appeal failed. It was consequently dismissed. Abimbola Osarugue Obaseki-Adejumo, JCA, concurring with the lead judgment, held at page 26, that:
“… The provision of Section 3(5) of the Extradition Act is clear and unambiguous. It states: “A fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered if criminal proceedings are pending against him in Nigeria for the offence for which his surrender is sought.” It is obvious from the above provision that no extradition proceedings shall be brought against a fugitive criminal when there is a pending criminal proceedings against him. In the instant appeal, it is evident that the Appellant failed and/or neglected to comply with the mandatory provision of the statute.”
Regarding the uncoordinated role the Attorney-General played with the EFCC, Yargata Byenchit Nimpar, J.C.A. (delivering the Lead judgment) held that:
“The issue is not the timely withdrawal of the pending charges because the statutory requirement is that no proceedings should be pending when the application for extradition is made. The point of filing the application a decision was taken by the Attorney General to want to surrender the fugitive. The Appellant is wrong to think that it is only at the point of surrender that Section 3 (5) comes into play. It is activated on the filing of an application for extradition. The Attorney General would have decided on extraditing a fugitive before filing the application. The section applies in this case. The simple expectation is that the prosecuting authorities should work in a coordinated fashion complimenting themselves and not to be at cross purposes. The EFCC was already prosecuting the Respondent on charges similar to those he was being sought to be extradited to face in the United States of America and the simple thing would have been some sort of coordination by the EFCC and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation so that whatever was pending should be withdrawn before the filing of the application or the office of the Attorney to ensure that no proceedings were pending before filing the application. This was not done.”
As is provided in Section 3(6) of the Extradition Act and in line with the above judgment, a person such as Abba Kyari, who is charged with any offence not being the offence for which his surrender is sought, shall not be surrendered until such time as he has been discharged, whether by acquittal or on the expiration of his sentence or otherwise. The statutory requirement is that no extradition proceedings for Kyari’s surrender should be going on until such time as he has either been discharged acquitted or convicted. By his actions, the Attorney-General of the Federation appears to be stalling, tacitly, the extradition of Abba Kyari, by allowing or consenting to the prosecution of Kyari for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking simultaneously as the pendency of an application for his extradition by the same Attorney-General. Since the court will assume jurisdiction on the criminal matter the moment Kyari is arraigned and his plea taken, the Attorney-General of the Federation still has the time to quietly back-off before the criminal court assumes jurisdiction and await the court’s decision. It is more honourable to do so.
Re: Kogi East Senator Isah Jibrin, Killer Squad, Echocho Boys, Launches Violent Attacks on SDP Supporters
When the news of Senator representing Kogi East Senatorial District, Jibrin Isah Echocho was published in several online platforms on September 28, 2023, “titled: Kogi Guber: Kogi East Senator, Jibrin Isah Killer Squad, ‘Echocho boys’ launches violent attacks on SDP supporters”, it aroused my interest and of course, any other person who has flair for investigative journalism would have waded into such dastardly act by a sitting Senator with a view to making news headlines.
Ajiolo Ojaji is a community in Dekina Local Government Council and home to the two term lawmaker. Before now, Echocho has ‘cult-like’ followership because of his antecedents when he was working in the banking sector. His magnanimity and philanthropy earned him respect not just among his contemporaries, elders, and youngsters.
His commitment to philanthropy over time influenced the choice of some families naming their born male children after him, “Echocho” . It is paramount to know that when he was in the banking sector, he was into his philanthropy without envisaging that he would one day delve into politics.
His professional background forms part of his decency and decorum after he had made foray into politics, first as a Chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in 2011, when he contested for governorship primary and won before the turn of events at the time of the former governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. In the past eight to nine years he became active in politics, he has never been associated with political violence not even at a time that injustice was done to him.
Thus, the “Echocho boys”, as it were, are names named after him in admiration of his lofty contribution to the development of the communities in and around Dekina Local Government Council and were never evil intended as being portrayed in some sections of the media.
Though, it is understood that at this political period, politicians of his standing are vulnerable to media vituperations by the opposition and those harboring empty grudges, hence one is not taken aback over reports alleging that he has killer squad as findings revealed that the altercation at Ajiolo Ojaji that led to violence was a usual fall out among brothers.
It was also discovered that those who were involved in the fracas, and the victims were once members of the same political family in the past, but have now divided interest, a development that has led to the nursing of animosity among themselves.
Despite the accusations and name callings, Echocho visited the victims, and cautioned the youths , as a Father.
More worrisome is the fact that one of the alleged victims, who was captured in their publication laying on the stretch was never part of the saga, but pretended to have been attacked and he was reported in the media to have been receiving medical attention in the hospital as a result of the crisis. All these were their desperate intention to damage the sterling reputation of the Senator.
It was clearly affirmed that the article was deliberately written and sponsored to project the Distinguished Senator in negative light, but unfortunately, they failed.
Interestingly, from our investigation, we have unveiled the pseudo name behind the libelous article to be one, Yusuf Abubakar.
We would follow due process as our lawyers have been briefed to ensure that justice is done through court processes. Those involved behind the scene will be summon soon.
– Atekojo Samson Usman, a journalist, writes from Abuja.
Edo 2024: Obaseki’s ‘divine’ forgiveness of Shaibu’s ‘political follies’
By Ehichioya Ezomon
“He who is begged or pleaded with is king,” is an adage that the average Edo person doesn’t take for granted, mostly if the act for which forgiveness is sought is committed publicly – such that the aggrieved feels slighted and injured – and the mollification is also displayed openly.
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki aptly symbolically assumes a kingly position lately, as he exhibits the spirit of divine, to forgive Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu, who’d “erred” by aspiring to succeed Obaseki in 2024.
It’s Shaibu’s inalienable right to aspire to be governor in an off-season election in September 2024 to round off Obaseki’s eight-year tenure in November 2024. But Obaseki reckoned the act as in bad faith and taste.
Deputy governors aren’t satisfied with playing second fiddle, and they begin plotting how to become the Chief Executive the day after their swearing in. To justify their aspiration, some deputy governors boast of influencing the governor’s pick for the position.
But woe beside the deputy governor, who thinks the influence of their godfather will carry them through after the governor has assumed the full powers of office. Most times, their political benefactors become their first victims.
In Nigeria’s brand of democracy in which the Constitution clothes the governor with powers of overlordship that subsume other authorities – ancient and modern – the deputy governor is laughably a “spare tire,” who owes his stay in office to the benevolence of the governor, and thus should be heard and not seen, or they risk being rendered redundant in the scheme, or hounded out of office when they want to assert their authority.
A deputy governor can hardly survive risking relationships with their principals on account of aspiring to succeed them. It’s either the governor engineers the mostly pliant members of the State House of Assembly to impeach the deputy governor over nebulous allegations of “gross misconduct,” or their powers are curtailed, and access to the governor and state activities limited or frozen.
Such was the fate that befell Shaibu in his undisguised ambition to be governor in 2024. To clear all roadblocks, he filed suits in courts to pre-empt Obaseki deploying the State Assembly to impeach him and scuttle his ambition.
Obaseki felt that Shaibu had gone about the project in a manner that betrayed their cordial relationship since they came together in a joint ticket on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2016, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2020.
To Obaseki, who’d dealt with his acclaimed political godfather and predecessor in office, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole – culminating in the now Senator for Edo North being sacked by the courts as National Chairman of the APC – Shaibu’s a small fry to make mincemeat of.
Thus, he cut communications with, and barred Shaibu from accessing him; stopped him from certain official activities, and relocated his office to outside the Government House, Benin City, via a two-para memo dispatched by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Osarodion Ogie, dated September 15, and received on September 19.
The memo, “Relocation of Office Accommodation,” reads: “I write to inform you that His Excellency, the Governor, has approved the relocation of your office accommodation to No 7, Dennis Osadebey Avenue, G.R.A., Benin City.
“You are therefore requested to ensure your compliance in line with Mr Governor’s approval, please.”
Surprisingly, Shaibu, after resuming in the new office, tendered his apology to Obaseki.
The months-long political feud between Obaseki and Shaibu had the potential to threaten the peace and security of the proudly homogeneous Edo State dubbed the “Heart Beat of The Nation”
Particularly on the verge of getting dragged and enmeshed in the murky waters of politics and personal ambitions were the people of Edo South and Edo North, where Obaseki and Shaibu hail from, respectively.
But before Obaseki could twist the screw further, well-meaning Nigerians stepped in to engender truce, leading to Shaibu’s withdrawal of his writs in the courts, and offering “sincere apologies” to Obaseki for whatever his follies.
Shaibu told journalists in Benin City on September 21 that: “I will use this medium to appeal to Mr. Governor, if there is anything that I don’t know that I have done, please forgive me so that we can develop our state together.
“If there is any mistake that I have made as human, is (sic) not an act of maybe wickedness, because I’m not wicked. I have a very clean heart.
“So Mr Governor, please, if there is anything that you think I have done, I am sorry. I need us to work together to finish well and strong because that is my prayer for you.”
Shaibu vouched for his loyalty to Obaseki, and said he’d taken a personal vow with God to support the governor, stressing that, “If I have a vow with God, there is nothing that will change it.”
He hoped for a return of the good old days with Obaseki, saying: “And I can only wish that the relationship that we had, in the next few days and weeks, I know it will come back… We’ve been the envy of the entire country; it (cordial relationship) is still possible.”
Exactly one week after, on September 28, Shaibu’s prayers were answered, as Obaseki, touting himself as a “person of faith,” said he’s “under obligation to accept the apology”
In a letter, “Re: Public Apology By The Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu,” Obaseki said: “I have noted the public apology made by the Deputy Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu. This apology followed an aberrant behaviour that contradicts what the people of Edo State stand for.
“To name a few, the Deputy Governor needlessly filed unfounded petitions in the Nigerian courts restraining me, the State House of Assembly and Security agencies from a non-existent impeachment process, followed by repeated breaches of protocol; unwarranted and unprovoked attacks in the media on my person and the State Government.
“The media frenzy as a result of the above and more, provided an impression of crises that has been precarious and distasteful to Edo people in the State and across the world.
“Although these unwarranted provocations caused me severe personal discomfort, as a person of faith, I am under obligation to accept this apology because as they say, ‘to err is human, to forgive is divine.”
“In good faith, I trust that the public apology as expressed by the Deputy Governor is genuine and followed by contrite steps to improve his conflict resolution skills.
“I also enjoin the Deputy Governor to guide his proxies to act in accordance with his piety.”
“It is my sincere hope and that of my other colleagues in government and all well-meaning Edo people, that these rhetorics will be put to an end forthwith to enable this administration finish strong and deliver the dividends of democracy to the greatest number of Edo people over this final twelve (12) months.”
Governor Obaseki deserves some plaudits! Yet, the swords sheathed and the guns silenced, the lessons learned should endure, as political ambition dies hard. For Shaibu – and many in his shoes – the ultimate is to be in full control as the executive governor, despite being deputy for eight years. Nothing else suffices!
So, unless the “terms of the truce” for apology and forgiveness include the total surrender of Shaibu’s ambition, the battle may be over, but the war will continue until September 2024. And it’ll be epic in proportion and ramifications on both sides!
Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria
Communicating the President
By Tunde Olusunle
I was opportuned to serve in the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar administration at the beginning of our Fourth Republic. Obasanjo was a rather controversial personality. The media had stereotyped him as unfriendly and adversarial over time. The very fact that he opted for a medical doctor in Doyin Okupe as his very first spokesperson, broadened the hiatus between Obasanjo and the press. Okupe cut his dentition as public communicator, when he was the National Publicity Secretary of the defunct National Republican Convention, (NRC), one of the two political parties established by the regime of former military President, Ibrahim Babangida in 1991, in the run up to the actualization of Nigeria’s botched Third Republic. He was a good communicator in his own way. Fortuitously, a critical core of Obasanjo’s appointees were tested and respected journalists who added steel and spine to presidential communication in the nation’s nascent democracy.
There were Onyema Ugochukwu, Emeritus Editor of Business Times, West Africa and Daily Times newspapers and Stanley Macebuh, (of evergreen memory) whose footprints straddled several publications, including The Sentinel, The Guardian and Post Express. Haroun Adamu, former university scholar and proprietor of the rested The Nigerian Economist magazine and Ad’Obe Obe who succeeded Ugochukwu in West Africa in London, were also in the loop. Younger elements like Steve Itugbu and yours sincerely contributed to making up for observed lacunae in the management and communication of the voice of the president. I was in my 30s. We made friends for him. Tunji Oseni and Remi Oyo both accomplished professionals, (both sadly transited), occupied Okupe’s position at various times during the Obasanjo presidency, adding perspectives to presidential communication.
The preceding parade of presidential communicators was consistent, actually upgrades in instances, on the qualities of previous holders of the office. They were hitherto referred to as “Chief Press Secretary” to the Head of State, or the President, as the case might have been. Alex Nwokedi who was spokesman for the defunct National Electricity Power Authority, (NEPA) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC), was Obasanjo’s spokesman in 1976. He was succeeded by Charles Igoh who was once Sports Editor of the Daily Times, upon the ascent of President Shehu Shagari in 1979. Wada Maida who later became chief executive of the News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN), was appointed into the position when Muhammadu Buhari became military ruler in 1984.
Duro Onabule had served as Editor of the now rested National Concord one of Nigeria’s best selling dailies in its time, before he was appointed to the same office by Babangida. Sola Atere who retired a few years ago from the Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA) as Executive Director, occupied the position during the brief stint of Ernest Shonekan as Head of the Interim National Government, (ING). David Attah a former federal parliamentarian who also had editorial and management stints in the Daily Times, Standard and The Voice newspapers variously was appointed to the position by Abacha in 1993. Haruna Mohammed, a former managing director of New Nigerian Newspapers served in the position during the 11-month transitional rule of Abdulsalami Abubakar as Head of State.
Equally vibrant and respected professionals like Olusegun Adeniyi, chairman of the Editorial Board of Thisday and Reuben Abati, former Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Guardian were spokesmen for former Presidents Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, respectively. Femi Adesina was Editor-in-chief of Sun newspapers after working with the Vanguard and Concord newspapers before becoming spokesman to Muhammadu Buhari. Garba Shehu was managing director of Triumph newspapers at 37. Adesina and Garba were both Presidents of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE), the umbrella body of Nigeria’s topmost media professionals.
It is compelling, even impelling to establish the foregoing trajectory to properly situate the professional quality, cognate experience and broad network expected of a potential presidential spokesman. Bola Tinubu, present occupant of Nigeria’s topmost political office desires to be seen as very pan-Nigerian in the complexion of his administrative apparachik. He also wants to be portrayed as a believer in the capacity of the youth as important contributors to the Nigerian project. These considerations must, however, not be sacrificed for merit and experience. While attorneys may be assigned to administer the nation’s capital, or a seasoned journalist deployed to the solid minerals schedule, presidential communication requires a lot, lot more. It is neither for greenhorns nor for apprentices. The output of the current holder of the office thus far is at best amateurish, randomly unprofessional and notably un-presidential. The margins of error in this job are thin and minimal.
On two occasions in less than two weeks, Ajuri Ngelale, Tinubu’s spokesman has played the ultimate propagandist. He dished out false narratives and had the unpleasant task of doing a recant on both occasions. While reporting the highlights of Tinubu’s engagements with the authorities in the United Arab Emirates, (UAE) about a fortnight ago, Ngelale told the world that the subsisting visa ban on Nigerians travelling to the UAE had been lifted! It turned out to be embarrassingly false. Officials of the country put out a disclaimer. A few days ago, the overly excitable Ngelale told us that Tinubu was the first African leader to ring the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, (NASDAQ) bell in New York. This again turned out a hoax. Jakaya Kiwete a former president of Tanzania rang the NASDAQ closing bell in 2011. Fact-checking has long been simplified by information technology.
Presidential communication is beyond press statements which seem to be Ngelale’s forte. Even here, he is not in the least impressive. His releases are wordy and characteristically riddled with grammatical errors. Sentences wriggle and wind around and about in serpentine motions. Writing is a very intricate vocation guided by strict rules and regulations. Press statements are all about keeping it tight, sticking specifically and holistically to the facts without unnecessary embellishments and gerrymandering. Leave that to us creative writers and essayists. I should know having written quite a handful in my communication handling career on behalf of Abubakar Audu, Paul Omeruo, Bzigu Afakirya all former chief executives of Kogi State for whom I was spokesman at various times. Not forgetting my years with Obasanjo in Aso Villa.
Sentences are best kept laconic, at manageable lengths not exceeding three dozen words. There must be symmetry between the sound and semantics of the written word. Reclining into the big-manism of having press officers generate drafts for his blind endorsement is unacceptable and dangerous. Ngelale needs to get off his buttocks and face the job very squarely. He must forget the fawning aides around him opening his car door and making his coffee. That is if he’s convinced he truly has quality to offer. With every alacrity, he needs to mitigate his wobbling and waffling which are anathema to information dissemination at the highest levels.
Ngelale comes from the background of the electronic segment of the media. He launched out from the African Independent Television, (AIT) and crossed over to Channels Television. He was on the media team of Buhari in 2019 and was rewarded with an appointment as a presidential aide on public affairs. He also functioned on the Tinubu presidential organisation which culminated in his current recognition. At 37, he must be the youngest occupant of the Office of Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, if I’m correct. If he desires to retain his brief and flourish in it, he must deliberately avail himself of the quantum residual wisdoms of previous handlers of the schedule. Growth and perfection come by deliberate humility and diligent questing. Can Ngelale turn a good patch after his initial stumbles and adjust to the responsibilities of his seat? Tinubu by the way has never been in short supply of savvy associates at the topmost pedestal of the media. Where are they?
Tunde Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author is a Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE)
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