Obasanjo’s Autobiography: Group condemns court order

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

A group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has criticised the Abuja High Court for granting an exparte injunction stopping the publication of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s latest book, My Watch.

The court, presided over by Justice Valentine Ashi, on Wednesday, found Mr. Obasanjo guilty of contempt, after he defied its directive barring him from releasing the book.

Mr. Ashi had ordered that the book launch be put on hold over claims the three volume series contained details of a libel case already before the court. The case involves a drug trafficking allegations by the former president against a leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Buruji Kashamu.

HURIWA said the court’s order was an attempt to dabble into the arena of partisan politics and muzzle freedom of expression.

“In the considered thinking of the HURIWA, any Nigerian who feels that his/her reputation is tarnished by the contents of the book written by erstwhile President Obasanjo should do any of the two options – go to court to file a case of libel or do your version of the story told in this latest book by Olusegun Obasanjo,” the group said in a statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Zainab Yusuf, on Thursday.

It called on the Chairman of the National Judicial Council, NJC, and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Muhammad “to immediately activate mechanism to clean up the Aegean stable in the judiciary and stop judges from issuing baseless exparte orders which has created spectacular public image deficit for the Nigerian Judicial system over the past couple of years.”

HURIWA said it took exception to the attempt by the court to stop the exercise by Mr. Obasanjo of his constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression and right to fair hearing as enshrined in chapter four of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the issuance of an inexplicable and heavily one- sided court injunction.

It stated that any court’s attempt and/or action that appeared to be anti-intellectual should be rejected and jettisoned for that was an attempt to return Nigeria to the disgraceful days of military dictatorship and tyranny through the back door.
While faulting what it described as “belated injunction” from the court, which reportedly emanated as soon as the author had made every arrangement to publicly present the book, HURIWA argued that it was “immoral and disgusting for a court of law to involve itself in a bitter intra-party squabbles by seeking to halt the publication and circulation of a book written by a Nigerian who has the unfettered fundamental right to freedom of expression.”

The group said the enjoyment of the fundamental freedom of expression was the very basis for the existence of democracy and the principle of the rule of law.

It also stated that it was inconceivable that a judge could have attempted to stop an act that was already completed just as it asked any Nigerian whose reputation was reportedly injured and/or tarnished by the contents of the book to file a proper and appropriate libel case in the competent court of law rather than engage in an exercise in futility.

It said, ”We are all living witnesses to the gross abuses that exparte motions were subjected to by politicians only in the recent past and these frequently abused privileged orders of the court which is seen largely as a professional ambush against respondents who ought to be properly served and put on notice and so it is imperative that the hierarchy of the nation’s judiciary takes immediate and effective action to check the abuse of exparte applications by litigants.

“We have not forgotten that it was also by the abuse of exparte application for an injunction from an Abuja High Court obtained by mid -night by the notorious Association for a better Nigeria [ABN] that truncated the planned transition to civil rule during the General Babangida’s regime when the now martyred Icon of democracy Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola was coasting home with victory in the popularly acclaimed free and fair Presidential election of June 12, 1993.

“We completely reject any court injunction that seeks to keep Nigerians perpetually in information and intellectual darkness regarding the undercurrents of our politics especially in the contemporary times. Indeed the court of law should give judgements that will promote the exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms as encapsulated in the nation’s supreme body of laws.”


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  • Durosinmi P. Etti

    Justice Valentine Ashi is 100% correct in law

    This is wrong public advocacy. It is wrong on both facts and law. One, there was a libel suit filed in October 2014
    or thereabouts. Two, that libel suit is still pending. Three, Plaintiff (Buruji Kashamu) got notice that the
    subject-matter of the libel suit is to be re-published by the defendant (Olusegun Obasanjo). Four, the defendant
    admits that his publication of the book came AFTER the October libel suit. Five, the interim order issued by
    Justice Ashi is correct in law, as an order meant to last no more than a few days for the court to assess if
    the Plaintiff’s fears of repeat libel are well-founded. Interim orders are meant exactly for such purposes.

    • Adoki Achine

      Plenty grammer, but answer this one simple question: Did the judge see the copy of the book in question before issuing the injunction? Is he not supposed to see evidence before penalising people? They say he who allege should show proof. Did the Buruji man show him any evidence?
      Just wait until these judges show you pepper one day and you look for this same group to speak for you. That is when you will know what is wrong or right public advocacy.

      • Consolidation 2015

        Mumu dont u know that in law d burden of proof was on the defendant to proof to or show d court that d fear of d appellant was unfounded. Educate ur self well b4 u come out to expose ur ignorance in d public.

        • Adoki Achine

          So I can go to ccourt now and say you want to kill me, and without showing any PROOF, the judge would grant my prayers, abi. I realy weep for citizens like you.

        • tundemash

          shou ! what section of the law places of burden of proof on the defendant ?

        • Yommie

          The burden of proof lies with the petitioner to adduce sufficient evidence for any issue in court. Burden of proof came from Latin maxim ‘semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit’ . Meaning “the necessity of proof always lies with the person who lays charges.”

        • sanetalk

          Haba! Must we always stand facts on their heads to defend the indefensible? Is it not elementary law that the burden of proof is on the accuser or in this case the petitioner? I do not support OBJ’s defiance of a court order even if its intention is suspect, he should have gone to a superior court to overturn it.

    • Yommie

      The judge is wrong. Judgement should be based on facts and not insinuation or hearsay. The judge did not see nor read the book in question before giving judgement. Freedom of expression should never be taken from citizens. If anyone is hurt or harm in anyway he/she should present the fact to court for damages. It’ll get to people be sued for their thought! Also, Obasanjo couldn’t stop the release of book. Like he said he submitted his manuscript to the publisher and probably paid. It’s like asking a reporter to stop publisher from publishing a story that he has submitted and paid for and known to be true. Or asking an artistee to stop the release of record submitted to recording company after being paid. Our judiciary is losing reputation because of these useless injunctions they are given.

  • ikenna

    This is the reason why this country cannot grow or move ahead. Obj ignored a court order whether it was issued in a wrong or not doesn’t make any sense the issue is that a court order was disobeyed still some people are hailing OBJ. What a country.

    • Adoki Achine

      It is surely for a reason that they say the judiciary is the LAST hope of the common man. These judges should know that when you start giving citizens reason to lose faith in your capacity to protect them, then what you get is recourse to lawlessness, to anarchy – people begin to resort to self-help. What kind of judge would say, “ok, I will punish your opponent; but if I find out later that I punish him in error, you should be prepared to pay damages”. After the did has been done, abi? Tell me, have you heard such a thing from any judge anywhere in the world before?

  • Siyan Adefisoye

    I will be surprised if the Court of Appeal does not immediately dismiss Obasanjo’s appeal as frivolous.
    At any rate, filing an appeal does not stop the 21 days deadline Justice Ashi gave General Obasanjo.
    After that date, should General Obasanjo fail or tender any frivolous affidavit he could be sent to jail.

  • Frank Bassey

    This ‘Group’ that supports disobedience to the Laws of the land must be as devilish as the man in focus. Those who sleep with their daughters-in-law cannot be morally healthy in any thing.

    • Bidemi Lukman

      Nigerain judicial system is already in shamble. The court order was dishonored by Police when an order was given by the court to return Tambuwal security aid. Court order was also dishonored when order was given to DSS to realease those detained in APC data centre.

  • ceweeco projects

    Sometimes I wonder what manner of people we are in Nigeria. Pretenders, opportunists or pack of gullible people. How come we suddenly forget that the ANSWER from the establishment (military/oligarchy) represented by IBB visits to the newly
    released OBJ then, when the latter raised the issue of what will become of MKO if he were to accept to become president was the death of MKO. So, put plainly, I will take it to be a classic example of pretence for anyone who was politically alive in 1998 not to know who killed MKO. Of course, IBB/establishment facilitated the assassination of MKO to return OBJ to Aso Rock. Followed by Bola Igie death and others, I think the sly character called Obasanjo is relishing the game he and his ilk’s are playing on Nigeria. He doesn’t seem to believe it that someone who committed the kind of impunity, corruption and fraud he did on Nigeria could be allowed to rove so annoyingly free so he finds it convenient at every point to throw a jibe on Nigerians for the kind of laxity that allows him such free rein. Isn’t it surprising that neary two decades after the death of Moshood
    Abiola, in spite of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and despite strong national and international interest in his death, the circumstances surrounding Abiola’s death remains a mystery. The kind of politic that some Yoruba’s plays baffles me a lot. Their tribe man just did 8yrs straight and now these clown and shimming to come rule through V.P of Nigerian. Now I ask with all sincerity of purpose what of their partners in crime from the other tribes? One is particularly attracted to the revelation by Ribadu that
    corruption under Obasanjo was worse than the situation during the military
    administration of the late General Sani Abacha. Nigerians were told by Obasanjo
    that Abacha had emptied the national treasury through large-scale official
    thievery. A case in point was the petition against Obasanjo filed by the Coalition
    Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), led by a Lagos lawyer. In the petition, the
    anti-corruption organization wanted explanation about how the former President
    became a multi-billionaire after becoming a president, in contrast to the fact
    that he was “stone broke” when he was drafted into power in 1999. General T.Y.
    Danjuma was the first to use the phrase “stone broke” to describe Obasanjo’s
    pathetic financial predicament before coming into power. CACOL particularly
    wanted the EFCC to investigate by what magic a man saved from bankruptcy by
    friends before he came to power could have become a billionaire overnight after
    being elected a president. The former president was worth only N20, 000 in
    1999, according to his assets declaration record at the Code of Conduct Bureau.
    The anti-corruption organization expressed open frustration at the EFCC’s
    apathy to their petition.