Can Jonathan Sign off as a Hero?

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Social media is indeed intriguing in many ways and at the same token exciting.

Social media is like an open school whereby the good, the bad and the ugly hibernate and cohabit with each competing to outdo each other in mischief and virtues.

For contemporary Nigerians the social media has become one forum whereby persons of divergent opinions converge or rather congregate to market their ideologies even as others are busy dishing out warped opinions.

It was therefore not out of place that the social media more than other mainstream and conventional media has hosted the war of words between supporters and opponents of the recent decision by the Nigerian President elect General Muhammadu  Buhari to bar the African Independent Television (AIT) from covering his activities.

This decision which has now been reversed by the the All Progressives Congress,(APC) was not unconnected to the less than professional role played by the television house during the last presidential campaign.

Ironically, the outgoing ruling party-Peoples Democratic Party has joined the debate by criticising Buhari for his anti press freedom stance. Interestingly, as the press statement of the PDP hit the newsrooms, the story of the prosecution of some senior editorial raff of the Abuja based Leadership Newspapers by the current President for alleged forgery of his letter headed paper emerged when the Abuja High Court took a long adjournment to continue further hearing. Whilst the PDP was criticising  the President -elect for being anti media, it pretended not to remember that this same government is still prosecuting journalists for simply doing their job.

Those who praise the current government for signing the Freedom of Information Act(FOI) has therefore asked President Jonathan to discontinue the prosecution of Leadership Newspaper editors so he can leave office as a complete hero of democracy.

Earlier in the day coinciding with the issuance of the PDP’S press statement lampooning Buhari for what it calls anti -media freedom stance, the absence of Justice Usman Musale of an Abuja High Court in Jabi reportedly stalled further hearing of alleged forgery of presidential bromide levelled against two journalists.

The Group News Editor of the newspaper, Mr. Tony Amokeodo and Senior Correspondent, Mr. Chibuzor Ukaibe, pleaded not guilty to the charge

when it was read to them during their arraignment.

In the suit, the federal government had accused the journalists and the newspaper of alleged involvement in forging a presidential bromide.

At the last adjourned date of the matter, the court rejected a letterhead paper emanating from the Chief of Staff to President Goodluck Jonathan.

The trial was supposed to continue on Monday but parties in the matter were told that the judge travelled out of the country. The court had rejected the letterhead paper, which the prosecution claimed was from the Office of the Chief of Staff to President Jonathan.

Lawyer to the federal government, Chief Adegboyega had intended to prove that the bromide as published by the Leadership newspaper was forged and therefore did not emanate from the President.

The first prosecution witness from federal government, Mr. Ibrahim Bako, had testified that while investigating the forgery allegation,he approached the Presidency and was given a blank letter head paper

from the Office of the President by one Abiye White, an assistant director.

The police officer said he discovered in the course of the investigation that the bromide and the Coat of Arms did not tally with the document from the Presidency.

But the lawyer to the journalists, Mr Femi Falana ,objected to the admissibility of the document.

According to him, what Awomolo sought to tender was  just a blank letterhead paper, which did not emanate from the Office of the President, but from the office of the Chief of Staff to the President.

He said: “What the prosecution sought to tender is a blank sheet of paper from the office of the Chief of Staff to the President.

But Awomolo in his reply, disagreed with Falana, saying that his objection was misconceived and a misunderstanding of the law.

He said the document came from the officer who had custody of them,stressing that, “It is wrong to expect that the President will certify documents by himself.”

The judge however ruled against the argument of Awomolo and accepted the submission of Falana.

Justice Musale consequently rejected the document as exhibit in the case.

The case has been adjourned to June 8, 2015.

The long adjournment is somewhat a huge victory to media freedom.

As someone who has authored more than 18 dozen articles on issues around governance under the current government, I appeal to President Jonathan to instruct the Federal Attorney General to discontinue this matter to save his legacy. Let his government take this heroic decision and enter the history book as a hero.

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