OF POLITICAL MUSCLE-FLEXING & SUBTLEITY OF LAW: Igboho’s Travail & Agbekoya’s Vitriol
By Tunji Ajayi
In Gross Lincoln’s Own Stories, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States was quoted to have recalled a laughable situation of a man. The man who had callously murdered both his parents was allowed to plead his alocutus. In law and litigation the privilege is often extended to the accused by the court as last benefit to ponder and plead with plausible reasons for mitigation of severity of likely punishments before judgment is finally pronounced by the court. Taking the advantage of this, the wicked man pleaded for mercy from the court to reduce the severity of his sentence on the ground that he was an orphan! Hmm! Nigeria is her own problems. A country that appreciates and wants peace and equanimity must pursue justice, law and order. Law and order thrive only when truth is not trampled upon. That explains why the Holy Bible gives its homily in unmistakable term: “Seek peace and pursue it.” A nation though has enormous power. But application of strength without justice is tyrannical so says Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and writer. Thus, Power is more powerful when it is not abused.
Until I was buoy up by a Spanish philosopher Miguel Unamuno’s assertion that “every peasant has a lawyer inside of him, just as every lawyer, no matter how urbane he may be, carries a peasant within himself”, like a plague, I often avoided discussing any matter that has much to do with law as a subject. Doing so might be mistaken for obtrusiveness, especially by my learned lawyer friends who might accuse me of being guilty of presumptuousness for my audacity to discuss on their constituency; when in fact I am not learned. Nonetheless, I seek permission to quote from my piece entitled: “Another Look at Those Draconian Decrees” (Daily Sketch, November 29, 1985) wherein I had enthused: “Our court of law, we are made to believe, stands for justice. Justice connotes the quality of being right and fair. Therefore, when a matter becomes a subject of litigation, you expect nothing other than justice, because the court, we are told, stands for fairness, equity and justice. However, for quite a very long time now, I have been greatly puzzled and extremely in doubt of the veracity of the claim. I am inclined to think that even since I so averred in 1985, my position has scarcely changed.
In the past months, the issue of the human rights activist Sunday Igboho had taken the front burner on the public discourse of Nigerian contemporary issues. Beyond the academic pontification on the relativity of news and determinants of newsworthiness often encapsulated in “immediacy” or newness of the story; “propinquity” or closeness of the event to the audience geographical space, “status” or prominence of the subject matter, etc, I am emotionally attached to the case in focus. Like the Italian Pope St. Gregory VII once said of his strong believe in sanctity of justice and truth: “I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile”, Sunday Igboho’s travails – our travails, would naturally attract the attention of any writer with love for social justice and fair play. Thus, I am not surprised that I am yet writing on this subject for the third time in a short period of time.
Indeed, in IGBOHO’S UNBRIDDLED ALTRUISM: Filling the Void in Lethargic Governance (Ohio Wesleyan University Press, USA, January 30, 2021) I alluded to the ace comedian Gbenga Adeboye’s rib-cracking joke about his witty conclusion after his dreamt-up stormy ride in the same aircraft with late MKO Abiola - the world renowned multi-billionaire acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 botched election. The story goes thus: During the stormy ride during which the aircraft was at the verge of crashing into the deep sea, the entire passengers were in a deep frenzy. While many were crying profusely on the approach of looming death. Many passengers who perhaps hadn’t prayed for decades momentarily remembered God and turned born-again Christians or Muslims; and were praying fervently to God in frenzy state of mind to let the “cup pass over them”. But surprisingly, one of the passengers on board, Gbenga Adeboye was rather reveling in convivial mood. While he brought out and kept gulping down his varieties of liquor unstoppably in succession, Gbenga Adeboye the Jengbetièlè was exclaiming that the Pilot needed not bother himself struggling to save the air-craft from crashing. His reason for being so impudent was that since he neither had money in any bank account in Nigeria nor overseas he didn’t bother if they all crashed! However, in the cacophony of the airborne disaster and the attendant melee, MKO Abiola the multibillionaire heard Gbenga Adeboye’s nonchalant reactions in his Business Class section, and was begging him top of his voice to please stop discouraging the Pilot in his efforts; while appealing to the distraught Pilot to please do all his best in the name of God to safeguard the fast-turning ill-fated aircraft and the passengers from crashing to death! The great lesson I drew from the joke was reinforced in the aphorism: Eni bá lówó, tó ríje rímu kìí bá’kú ta Ludo”. The meaning? “A wealthy and affluent man, who lacks nothing never plays Ludo Game with Mr. Death.”
I love Sunday Igboho with passion. Igboho, a wealthy and comfortable man by all standards left his comfort zone and faced death purposely to safeguard the interest of his Yoruba people being killed, maimed, raped, wounded and hounded by the heartless bandits. Literally, to bail out his people from disaster while the government was vacillating, he came down from his comfort zone, and faced the brass tacks. Igboho went into the bush to chase out the nocturnal killers. Thus, against all expectations Igboho literally “played Ludo Game with Mr. Death.” How many of our wealthy leaders can abandon their wealth and comfort zones to defend the people in anguish?
Thus I wrote interalia: “For me, Sunday Igboho filled the void created by our government’s often descent into ambivalence and quibbling, feeling shy to act promptly when it mattered most to tame the ember of bitterness and acrimony before they fester into utter disaster. . . . I watched Sunday Igboho’s video footages on how he left the comfort of his multiple multi-billion naira mansions, with parked varieties of posh automobiles, and went in the dangerous game of pursuing killer herders in the thick bush; trekking in the scorching sun all through the night to wee hours looking fatigued, with his men in the bush and frightening terrain to chase away the AK-47 gun-totting beheaders and vicious killers. Sunday Adeyemo Igboho, a stupendously wealthy man was reported as having all his children overseas, with some in schools or playing professional football. Regardless of whatever anyone may say, no one is perfect. But he has eloquently demonstrated empathy for the afflicted and altruism towards a beleaguered people. Like Alfred Lord Tennyson, an English poet would say, “Kind hearts are more than coronets.”
However, the situation that led to Igboho’s flee via Benin Republic to Germany alongside his wife is well known to all. In “IGBOHO & OUR JOURNALISTS IN EYE OF THE STORM: . . . Gadding between Cobweb Laws and gliding into Dictatorship” (see Ohio Wesleyan University Press, USA, July, 5, 2021) this writer submitted: “Sunday Igboho could no longer bear the endless vacillation and subterfuge often encapsulated in “we are on top of the situation” suffocating cliché from the government; while his kinsmen are being slaughtered on the streets on daily basis. . . . Like the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius Antonius said in his Meditations: “A wrongdoer is often a man who has left something undone; and not always one who has done something.” Since Igboho picked up the gauntlets, his properties have been attacked twice - first time it was torched; while he was almost physically mauled down on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by “unknown gun men”. Where laws go numb, tyranny reigns. Light arms have found ways into our society and are being freely used by vandals to maim and kill the innocent citizens while the government only laments and appears prostrate. Like the Roman statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero would say: “Laws are dumb in the midst of arms. The first human law is self protection. Again at the wee hours of July 1, 2021 around 1:34 a.m., Igboho’s Residence in Ibadan was reportedly raided by the joint team of security operatives based on the intelligence report by the DSS that he had allegedly stockpiled arms in the property. The team reportedly came under heavy gunfire by nine men, suspected to be Igboho’s guards, during which time two of his guards were reportedly gunned down while the rest were subdued and arrested.”
If the first human cardinal law is that of self defense; against the backdrop of July 1, 2021 gory situation on threat to his life, Igboho’s escape from Nigeria apparently in the dark, enroute Germany via the Republic of Benin, a neighboring country to save his life from imminent death couldn’t have been unreasonable. For justice to transcend, we are made to understand that law would rather allow 99 offenders escape punishments rather than punish a single innocent man unjustly. That explains the sanctity of the law and sacredness of justice and fair play. Igboho has been incarcerated in Benin Republic prison without due trial in the past 6 months on the allegation of illegal entry without relevant papers.
But here lies a jigsaw puzzle: A certain man was sleeping inside his apartment when a huge billow of smoke suddenly enveloped him and fire erupted almost simultaneously. He ran outside to seek the help of fire brigade before the fire could consume the whole building. While running on the road enroute fire fighters office, he ran into police patrol men who stopped and asked him to present his National Identity Card. He explained the gory circumstances under which he fled for safety enroute fire brigade office that wee hour. But typical of the Nigeria Police they insisted he must present his ID card before passage. This gory story aptly fits perfectly into Fela’s album entltled “Palava” wherein he sang that “when trouble comes yanga go wake am, wetin he go find? And when cat sleeps but rats go bite him tail, palava he dey want.” Obviously, this man could not have been able to pick anything in a commotion state, needless looking for his ID Card in the scorching inferno.
But here is the second scenario: A man was being pursued by irate killers with guns and machetes. Having run for about 15 minutes, he saw a gated fence and scaled over into your premises. Would law admit your complaints in litigation of trespass or illegal entry for scaling over your fence, without knocking, or waiting for response to enter through your locked gate? But I won’t be surprised if my learned lawyer friends argue citing a maxim unacceptable to me: “Du minimis non curat lex” – that law doesn’t take account of trifles;or that law is amoral. But Yoruba says: “Eniti okò gbá kó ni ó mu number e” - The man who was hit by a moving vehicle never has luxury of time and convenience to record its registration number. Igboho, after his face to face with death in Nigeria on the wee hours of July 1, 2021 ran up to Benin Republic where circumstances made him “scale over” the Benin Republic’s “fence” and jumped into the country geographical space. Thus, could Benin Republic have been morally justified in incarcerating Sunday Igboho for entry without “valid” visa since July 2021, especially without due trial? Many people alleged connivance of Benin Republic Government with the Nigerian counterpart, who they still hold in deep reverence as African Giant; and who perhaps want Sunday Igboho’s incarceration elongated till perhaps after a long time, ostensibly to allow the next elections hold without possible streets agitations for his Yoruba nation and restructuring agenda.
Fervent prayer that law and justice reigns in a society is not often enough. It is a corollary that when law fails tyranny rules! Perhaps, imbued with this option the dreaded Àgbékòyà a pan-Yoruba post-independent socio-political pressure group issued their recent warning to Benin Republic government to free the activist urgently after an Oshogbo rally on February 3, 2022. The President of the Àgbékòyà Worldwide, Chief Kamorudeen Okiki added that his group would use traditional means to achieve their aim. According to him “Sunday Igboho is not a criminal we will continue to say that. We know that it is the Federal Government that is holding Igboho in Benin Republic. But we are telling Benin Republic authorities to legally release him, using their court.”
Whether it is possible or not to release Igboho through their threats is not the question. The justification of incarcerating a man in another country for that long without due trial, smacks punitive and runs counter to the “audi alteram partem” postulation on cardinal principle of natural justice that an accused is presumed innocent until duly tried by a court of competent jurisdiction. Profuse agitations symbolize discordance and dissatisfaction with government’s policies. And in democracy, presumed to be government of the people for the people, every person or a group of citizens have right to be heard. It is hoped that whatever underhand dealings and political muzzle being flexed as alleged by many observers would be relaxed to allow Igboho regain his freedom without further delay.
Igboho may have been unduly held by connivance and compromise for the sake of having “internal peace”. But graveyard peace in a society is never true peace; especially when a Nigerian demanding for his rights and for his people entitled to state’s protection, is languishing in jail in another country. True peace is won through statesmanship, justice and fairness to all. It is never bought by brinksmanship, brute force, coercion, connivance and injustice. Perhaps all nations need to learn a good lesson from John Ruskin, an English art critic. Hear his homily: “You may either win your peace or buy it. Win it by resistance to evil. Or buy it by compromise with evil. A government has only one choice, while history is rolling the tape. Verbum Satis Sapienti.
N.B: Amazon's bumper promo on the new Book: “KING SUNNY ADE THE LEGEND! – Cultural Values & Philosophies Behind a Genre of African Music” – a whopping 56% off the $95.00 Cover Price to buy @ $42.75 for personal & academic libraries, culture & tourism depts. worldwide, great fans, music buffs etc. Get your copy via: https://amzn.to/3FD5fi3
*Tunji Ajayi, a creative writer, author, biographer and audiovisual documentary producer writes from LC-Studio Communications, Nigeria (+2348033203115, +2348162124412) Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tunji.ajayi.94