Human rights defender and president of One Love Foundation, Chief Dr Patrick Osagie Eholor has chided Mr John Maiyaki over threats on the Labour Party vice presidential candidate, Datti Baba-Ahmed.
Eholor, who is the Diaspora Director of Contact and Mobilization for Labour Party, also took a swipe at Wole Soyinka for meddling in issues surrounding the elections.
Maiyaki had warned Baba-Ahmed to retract his remarks regarding Bola Ahmed Tinubu whom INEC pronounced winner of the 2023 presidential election.
He had said the Labour Party chieftain would face legal consequences if he does not retract his statements.
But Dr Eholor in a response, wondered why Maiyaki would reference an obsolete law used by colonial masters to oppress Nigerians. According to Eholor, “the current state of our laws, the law of sedition, incitement and including criminal libel is no longer existence”. He also cited a case between the Anambra State Government led by Chief Jim Nwobodo in 1985 and Arthur Nwankwo, and wondered if Maiyaki sought the advice of lawyers before ‘delving into the legal misadventure’.
His words “Ordinarily I would have just ignored and face other serious issues that are seeking my attention. But in response to the recent article by the APC presidentail council campaign officer in Edo State, Mr John Maiyaki where in a trending published article, threatened to prosecute and take criminal and legal action against Mr Datti Ahmed over his recent interview with channels television, it is imperative that I respond to Mr John Maiyakias follows and thus:
“By the court of appeal decision as cited in Arthur Nwankwo v. The State (1985) 6 NCLR 228, where a bonafide citizen being the defendant in this case was charged with sedition under section 51 of the Criminal Code before an Onitsha High Court for publishing a book that had exposed corrupt practices under former Governor Jim Nwobodo of Anambra State. The appellant was convicted and sentenced to one-year imprisonment. But the conviction and sentence were set aside by the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the offence of sedition is illegal and unconstitutional.
Speaking for the court, Olatawura JCA as he then was held inter alia:
“We are no longer the illiterates or the mob society our colonial masters had mind when the law 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 laws enacted by “our colonial masters” and imposed on the country include the Official Secrets Act and the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to sedition and criminal libel. As criticism is indispensable in a democratic society, Olatawura J.C.A. charged the Nigerian people to defend their hard won freedom of expression at all times.
According to his lordship: “The decision of the founding fathers of this present constitution which guarantees freedom of speech just like that made by Datti Ahmed, 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.”
Since the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Nwankwo v The State supra is binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria it is submitted that the resort to criminal libel, incitement and sedition by public officers to settle scores with critics and political opponents is illegal in every material particular. However, public officers who feel offended by any defamatory publication are not without remedy. They have been rightly advised by the Court of Appeal to defend their reputation and bruised ego by suing for libel in a court of law.
Flowing from all the above, I then wonder why has Mr Maiyaki not sought the opinions of a lawyer and be educated on the current state of the law on sedition, criminal law of defamation and incitement in this regard. The answers to all the above is that the threat to prosecute Mr Datti Ahmed over a Channels Television interview by Mr John Maiyaki is dead on arrival, as by the current state of our laws, the law of sedition, incitement and including criminal libel is no longer existence.
Moreso we all remember in 2015, the present vice president of Nigeria in the person of Professor Yemi Osinbajo was in the same Channels Television and made certain and some sensitive statements against the then PDP government. We also hope that Mr Maiyaki will extend his threat to the APC and vice president Yemi Osinbajo also. A word is enough for the wise. We hope that Mr John Maiyaki will seek strong legal opinion and refrain from attempting to muzzle and intimidate our beloved vice presidentail candidate of labour party in the person of Mr Datti Ahmed.
Eholor in a related development, described Soyinka as an elder who does not know his priorities.
He condemned Soyinka’s stance in the 2023 election brouhaha arguing that, not only was Soyinka against the 1963 election, but he actually committed treason by seizing a national radio station, playing marshal music and announcimg a take over of government by himself!
“What could be worse than that? I used to respect Wole Soyinka for some of the noble acts he ventured into in the name of national balance, but I am sorry to say that I am ashamed of his actions lately. When he took that action, nobody called him a fascist. When he formed the Pyrates Confraternity to fight against oppression, nobody described him as a fascist. Today he is calling Labour Party players fascists for demanding for their rights that was stolen from them.
It would be better for him to keep mute than disappoint some of us who admire him.
Let him not force us to begin to see him as an ethnically biased person, because all through the attacks on Igbos in Lagos, he never said MC Oluomo should be arrested.
An Igbo man threatened to bring IPOB to Lagos and was promptly arrested and imprisoned after trial. That is commendable, but why is MC Oluomo walking free till date? Is the law meant to opress certain people?
So, Soyinka should just stay quiet”, Eholor stated.