by Willfred Okiche
Yoruba actor and comedian Babatunde Omidina a.k.a Baba Suwe made his first public appearance in court today since his arrest and subsequent detention. He is being held by officials of the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for alleged possession of ingested narcotic substances detected by an airport scan at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Ikeja on his way to France on the 12th of October.
For an actor whose specialty is comedy, his debut court appearance was a mixture of the comic and the dramatic. His numerous fans and admirers thronged the premises of the Ikeja High Court where they waited patiently for the man who had brought smiles to their faces at some point in their lives. They did not wait for long though as he was soon driven in a white bus belonging to the NDLEA. Anticipating a stampede, the NDLEA officials came prepared as they briskly and efficiently whisked him into the courtroom amidst the thronging hordes of reporters, camera men, fans and plain speculators eager to have a go at the man of the moment. Dressed in a flowing white traditional outfit, he attempted feigning indifference but later acknowledged the presence of his supporters as they cheered him on.
Soon it was time for the business of the day and the presiding judge, Justice Yetunde Idowu ruled that he be released on the 4th of November on bail of #500,000 and one surety if he does not excrete any illegal substances. This is in line with an earlier ruling by a Federal high court which allowed the NDLEA 15 days to observe him closely under detention. He has still not excreted any banned substance. Counsel for Baba Suwe, Mr Bamidele Aturu spoke with journalists after the session; “under the constitution, every citizen has a right to liberty and you cannot detain a person unless under procedure permitted by law. We have shown the court today that there is no offence known as ‘having ingested large amount of substances in your system’ in our jurisprudence so for NDLEA to keep him this long is the height of violation of his constitutional right to liberty.”
However NDLEA lawyer Femi Oloruntoba saw things from a different angle. When asked what was likely to happen if the comedian still presents on the 4th with no new developments, he replied “No comment but of course you have seen the evidence; we showed the court that something is in the applicant and it looks like the drug we are looking for. Six different scans and two Doctors cannot be wrong. We even challenged them to do their own independent scan but they did not take advantage of that.”
While the lawyers engaged the press, the man of the moment, Baba Suwe was brought out, again under heavy protection, placed in the vehicle and driven away amidst loud cheers of support from his fans and well-wishers. He looked on morosely, perhaps not accustomed to playing this role which has suddenly been thrust on him; that of a man not being able to give as good as he gets.