by Nasir Suwaid
It could be a kind of dirt for dirt’s exchange, where a member of the family of a defamer is encouraged to write a letter of complaint, highlighting all the betrayals supervised by an all knowing father figure, which of which Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello purportedly wrote to her daddy.
This write up might as well have been titled; how not to defend defamation, after all, the sheer weight of evidence, and the drench in numbers of scandals, against our national leadership profile, have stopped to shock or matter in Nigeria.
Thus when the letter came unto the public knowledge, like every other curious and inquisitive Nigerian, I did all I could to read what was evidently an important communication between our leadership of the past, as well as that of the present. I even pondered on how lucky I am, at the very least, for being part of history, albeit from a position of an insignificant nonentity.
To be sure, these are the types of information likely to be found in presidential libraries, which many a Nigerian citizen would love to read and comprehend in the quest to relate to what actually happened in the past. This is not flippant. As a matter of tradition, events like these are not always revealed to the public. As I encountered this story, I could not imagine just how lucky I was, because, the best I ever thought, as an ordinary citizen, was to read something of this nature in an Obasanjo-type presidential library in Otta, Ogun state Nigeria.
Sensing my luck, I quickly downloaded the mysterious but now very popular document, though, what I got was merely a correspondence, by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to the current incumbent in office, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, where he laid and made several allegations against the person and office of a presidential peer, akin to a clear and probable defamation of character.
And, it was not only me, who thought of such a reality, even the Nigerian presidency thought so by the type of reaction it offered, after all, one of the first lines of defence in the rebuttal by the presidential spokesperson, pending a full and personal response by the country’s number one citizen, was to claim that the letter, by its injurious content, was intentionally leaked by Chief Obasanjo to cause grave disrepute unto the official position of the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Indeed, some reports that have not been disproved, especially as carried by Thisday Newspaper, stated how the letter had to be toned down due to its very feisty and sulphuric nature, allegedly, at the urgings of former military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.
In fact, the paper, ThisDay, claimed that the gap-toothed General advised the former Chairman of Board of Trustees of the People’s Democratic Party to subject the content of his presidential message to a legal perusal before sending it over, in order to avoid falling into the grave accusation of defaming a sitting head of state.
Generally, the mass of allegations contained in the letter was neither unique nor prophetic. Certainly they were non epochal, in fact what was stated is in full knowledge of many Nigerian citizens. Perhaps, if any credit is to be given for authorship, it has to be for the effort made to compile an 18-page letter, covering vast and wide areas of an administration, akin to a kind of a report card of a predecessor being documented by an administration it succeeded.
Usually, the Nigerian norm is for a subsisting administration to dig into the dirt of the past or, putting it more correctly, a current government examining the past activities of an administration that succeeded it, which often comes with the usual acclaim of persecution or witch-hunt of opposing political foes. This familiar narrative of winners and losers in the power games that come in the perennial seasons of elections is well understood that it needs no elaboration here.
To be fair, however, it was meant to be a private mail correspondence, an atypical brotherly complaint, which is not supposed to have come to the knowledge of a third party public, but which, unfortunately was leaked unto the public space. Perhaps also this was deliberate, most certainly to embarrass the Nigerian presidency, which suggest, in that case, that the accusation now rests on the sender of the letter. We must recall though, that this is not the first time sealed messages have unexpectedly found their way to the sight of a grinning public.
The letter of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to President Goodluck Jonathan is yet another one, while the Olusegun Aganga’s, as Finance Minister, alleged complaints was yet another. In fact, many of such confidential complaints seemingly have a way of leaking out to the embarrassment of the government. Looking at things from that context, could we then be so certain that the leak was a premeditated act of a political foe or that it was within the range of a fifth columnist?
What then is an appropriate response to defamation? It could be a kind of dirt for dirt’s exchange, where a member of the family of a defamer is encouraged to write a letter of complaint, highlighting all the betrayals supervised by an all knowing father figure, which of which Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello purportedly wrote to her daddy. Strictly this would be a private family correspondence of no value to anyone except to the clan, since none of the duo is currently a public officer.
But most appropriately, a detailed line-by-line response by the president should be the ideal rebuttal and a robust demand for proof of allegation. Beyond this, a demand is in order to call for a retraction followed by a genuinely profuse apology, pending which, if not done, a judicial relief for incurred damages should immediately demanded.
This post is published with Permission from Premium Times Newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.