You can’t be a hero for going to jail over fake news, defamation

By Adamu Kawu

Many attempts have been made to distort the narrative in the ongoing saga between Rafiu Ajakaye, the chief press secretary to Kwara state governor, and the Akogun brothers (Rasheed Akogun and Dare Akogun). Again, I see a herd behaviour playing out in the whole issue. Many have even let youthful exuberance to take over their reasoning. A whole lot are just trying to be politically correct in the matter, conjoining lies and drawing fallacious inferences.

How the issue started. Rasheed Akogun, publisher of Fresh Insight and an also-ran in the recent primary elections on the platform of Social Democratic Party (SDP), had made a claim on a WhatsApp platform that the CPS facilitated the sum of 15 million naira to influence the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) election. He went ahead to say that the CPS is corrupt. Dare Akogun, his brother, supported the claim and said it was true. They said they had evidence (we are yet to see one anyway) to back up their claims. Is that how investigative journalists do?

Ajakaye disagreed with the claim, saw it as a defamation of his character, and sought refuge with the law. He announced clearly that he would be seeking refuge with the law as he had petitioned the police on the matter.

Is there anything wrong with the step above? Absolutely nothing! Even Rasheed Akogun himself had commended the move taken by the CPS. I have seen some uninformed statements saying Ajakaye is a tyrant. Ah, you don’t know who a tyrant is. A tyrant wouldn’t even petition the police on the matter before dealing with whoever he wants to deal with.

Following the petition, the two brothers were invited by the police to help their investigation. There is nothing new here! The police then detained them for less than 24 hours in that process. This is still within the confines of the law. But some of these young boys who are exuberant and lack the tact to approach issues like this were out to make noise at the police headquarters, disturbing public peace and doing all manner of emotional blackmail and conspiracy theories.

I jumped one line. There’s an account that the police forced the two accused to write an apology letter. This couldn’t have been true. The police did not force them. If the police had forced them, they would have written that apology statement, trust me! Maybe you don’t know what they call force. I therefore disagree that the police forced them. They might have been advised or told to write an apology letter to settle the issue out of court. This is also not strange. But since the Akogun brothers insisted on not writing an apology letter, it meant that the court would be involved.

They were charged to court the next day. The magistrate postponed the hearing and ordered their remand. Some people were spreading the misinformation that it was the police that detained them. That’s not true! The magistrate ordered their remand. Later, some youths led by a lickspittle of Akeem Lawal, the gubernatorial candidate of SDP, one Issa, who had also benefitted from the pro-youth policies of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, were mobilising for #FreeTheAkoguns rally. The said Issa was clearly playing to the gallery and looking for cheap popularity given that his principal lacks the needed popularity to win an election and has been projected by the preponderance of political analysts as coming a distant third in the gubernatorial race. It was good that some elderly people called Issa and his ragtag group to order. What they are doing is an insult to the court and an affront on the judiciary that had ordered their remand.

On Wednesday when the court resumed, the two accused persons were granted bail and the session was again postponed. Has this translated to the innocence of the Akogun brothers? No. They will still have to appear at the court to prove their claim against the CPS. I am surprised that the exuberant youths and bloggers spreading outlandish falsehood against the court last week are not doing same. Some of them have claimed that the magistrate was being controlled by government forces in the first session. So, now that the ruling favoured them by way of granting bail, the magistrate is not receiving orders from Government House again? Look, we can support our own without being petty, distorting the narrative, trying to stampede the CPS into withdrawing the case with outlandish lies, hearsay, afterthoughts and other rubbish like some glorified WhatsApp commentators in the name of ASKOMP are doing! The Akogun brothers say they have evidence. Why should we be shielding them from a lawful process where they would provide the evidence and clear themselves? This is where I commend the maturity and diplomacy of the NUJ.

ASKOMP should not lead Rasheed Akogun and his brother Dare Akogun to jail over a matter they could have simply handled with maturity. The two Akoguns should understand that all those hailing them today would not be there to serve jail term with them if they fail to convince the court of law appropriately. All these media lies, gaslighting do not amount to evidence before the law court. They should also know that they can never be a hero over fake news. It was the same Rasheed Akogun whose platform ran a story that two House of Assembly members contracted COVID-19. It also reported about Prince Mahe becoming the Chief of Staff and resuming duties. All these have turned out to be fables and tales by moonlight.

What we must note is that the CPS has done nothing wrong by taking recourse to the law in fighting against what he perceived as a lie told to tarnish his image. Se iwo je gba iru e? The same man has had to contend with so many insults and unpleasant remarks on his person, without batting an eyelid. Why should he be attacked for trying to protect his name from this grave allegation against him by the two Akogun brothers? Obviously, those saying he is a tyrant do not know the definition of a tyrant. There is no report that Rasheed and his brother were manhandled throughout the process. They have been treated in accordance to the law. I saw that the former chief press secretary Abdulwahab Oba was also commenting on this matter. Was it not under Abdulwahab’s administration that Rasheed Akogun was given the beating of his life when they went to Government House. Why did he forget so easily that he has the audacity to talk about press freedom.

I understand the political capital some fellows want to draw from this issue. But it is dead on arrival. If anyone wants to be popular, he should find something important to do with his life, not this cheap popularity. Those who have been projected to come distant third should warn their toadies to find better way of looking for popularity. Defamation of character is criminal, not a matter to make hero out of. We have also seen that Kwara got quite a lot of talent in the saga. We have our own Temple Run here, and the low budget Dino Melaye/Olisa Metuh who staged a drama at the court just to court sympathy and increase their pay with their principal. Everybody sha want to be in the news. It’s cash out season. But going to jail over fake news and defamation is a stigma!

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