threat by the Senior Special Assistant to President Good luck Jonathan, Dr. Doyin Okupe that social critics who insults President Jonathan henceforth by calling him “drunkard, clueless etc” would risk being punished by the Federal Government, is nothing but a poppycock and blustery.
It ought to be clear to Dr. Okupe that the fundamental and basic law of the country – The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) vests on every Nigerian the inviolable and inalienable right to free speech and expression.
The right to free speech and freedom of expression is undeniably a right that is naturally conferred or endowed on everybody by the Almighty God by virtue of his or her humanity and therefore hundreds of Dr. Okupe and the might of the Federal Government cannot derogate from this right.
The failure of Dr. Okupe to draw a line between criticism and insult leaves much to be desired. Dr. Okupe himself takes delight in dishing out insults to Nigerians who are at the receiving end of the numerous administrative and policy blunders and indiscretions of the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Jonathan, that has left the country on many counts seem rudderless and directionless.
Just last month, Dr. Okupe called Nigerians who spoke out against the ineptitude shown by the Military and the Federal Government of Nigeria when the second largest town in Adamawa State – Mubi inexplicably fell to a band of rag tag militants belonging to the murderous Boko Haram: “fools”. Throwing all decorum and comportment to the wind, Dr. Okupe vowed that he would continue to insult whoever criticises the clueless and grossly incompetent handling of the national security of the Country by President Jonathan.
It seems that Dr. Okupe is drunk by the allure and trappings of power around him that he has lost the presence of mind to know or remember what he himself writes or says to critics. Otherwise, how Dr. Okupe fail to comprehend and appreciate the fact that criticising President Jonathan and calling his regime clueless does not amount to insult.
Dr. Okupe has not cited any Statute or Law that makes it a punishable offence to criticize the President or call his government clueless.
To the best of my knowledge there is no such law in the corpus of Statutes in Nigeria now.
In any event, Dr. Okupe ought to know that mere vulgar abuse is not actionable under the law of defamation.
Conversely there is nothing defamatory saying President Jonathan is clueless in solving the myriad problems confronting and grappling the country.
There is nothing defamatory in saying that the President Jonathan is clueless in revamping the floundering national economy that has caused drastic fall in revenue allocation to State Governments leaving in its wake inability of such State governments to pay salaries to Civil Servants.
There is no libellous and insulting saying that the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Jonathan is clueless when the cease fire agreement of the Federal Government with the insurgents announced with so much verve and gusto turns out to be phantom.
There is nothing against the law to say that the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Jonathan is clueless when the Federal Government fails to prosecute sponsors of Boko Haram.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in calling the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Jonathan clueless when it cannot find solution to the chronic unemployment problem plaguing the young people in the country.
There is nothing insulting saying that the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Jonathan is clueless in the face of the lack of will power to rein in those who perpetrate corruption and steal public funds.
It is saying the obvious when we call the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Jonathan clueless when it cannot find solution to the epileptic electricity supply in the Country. It is not an insult from whatever prism one may look at it.
There is not libellous saying that President Jonathan’s Administration is clueless in stopping the murderous, merciless and sadistic bombing of hundreds of innocent Nigerians in Azare, Jos, Abuja, Kaduna, Nyanya, Potiskum into smithereens from January to November, 2014, till date.
Dr. Okupe should know that the fair comment by any Nigerian on any matter of public interest such as the running of the country by President Jonathan is a total defence to defamatory action instituted by him against such Nigerian.
I cannot therefore fathom why a man of the station in life of Dr. Okupe would not know that justification is also a complete defence to an action grounded on defamation.
If, Dr. Okupe is alluding to the law of sedition he ought to know that in 1983, the Court of Appeal in the celebrated case of Arthur Nwankwo vs. The State (1985) 6 NCLR 228 declared that the provision of Section 51 of the Criminal Code (that makes Sedition an offence) was inconsistent with Section 31 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979 (now Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution) that guarantee the right of Freedom of Expression on every Nigerian.
The Court of Appeal in the landmark decision roundly condemned the law of sedition as being anachronistic and colonial and consigned it to the dustbin of Nigerian Constitutional history, by striking it down.
It follows that Dr. Okupe cannot exhume a buried law of almost 31 years to use it to threaten the opposition. The only way the opposition would stop criticising President Jonathan is for his government to live up to its responsibilities especially in matters regarding the welfare and security of Nigerians which is basic for the existence of government.
Otherwise, Dr. Okupe should be ready to open the doors of the prisons in the country to lock those who would never stop calling the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Jonathan clueless in its management the affairs of the Country!