Thursday, July 16, 2020 9:37 am
By Richard Akinnola
I’m never afraid to take an unpopular position. I may be misunderstood or you may not even agree with my position, that’s ok by me, after all, we are all entitled to different opinions. Therefrom, we can learn from each other.
I had written here a couple of times that when some of us started the organized Human Rights movement in October 1987 with the establishment of Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), we were non-discriminatory in fighting for the rights of victims of abuses. We defended the rights of the military and the police, the same way we defended the rights of the victims of these same police and military. It didn’t matter that we were victims of same military jackboots.
For example, Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti was arrested and jailed by the Special military tribunal that was trying Obasanjo and other military officers over the 1995 phantom coup, because Beko acted on principles.
We are all familiar with the history of animosity between the Ransome-Kutis and Obasanjo, which culminated in the burning of Kalakuta Republic in 1977.
But despite the fact that Beko never liked Obasanjo, he didn’t support his unfair trial over the phantom coup. He managed to obtain a copy of the Tribunal judgment which convicted Obasanjo and faxed it to the international community, as part of the advocacy for the release of the alleged coupists. The fax was intercepted by the security agencies and Beko was arrested, tried and similarly convicted. Beko did it on principle, despite being a major critic of Obasanjo.
Chief Gani Fawehinmi, in his anger over the unfair treatment meted out to Obasanjo, said in a press statement -“Obasanjo is not my cup of tea. Many of you know that l can’t stand him but we would make this country ungovernable if Abacha kills him over this phantom coup”.
I give this background to explain my consistent position on the Magu saga and the media trial. A number of people are unbothered, saying he is drinking him own poison, having been guilty of similarly subjecting others to same media trial. That may be true. As a matter of fact, on this wall, few years ago, during the Bukola Saraki trial by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, l raised the issue of media trial of Saraki by the EFCC and the government. The fact that l upbraided the EFCC of media trial in the past, does not mean that l would validate same thing because Magu is now the victim.
This was the same position some of us took in 1999 when Major Al-Mustapher was arrested. We all knew how the former Chief Security Officer to Abacha was very vicious to us – the critics of Abacha. But when he was arrested, we insisted he must not be detained illegally as he used to do to some of us but that he should be put on trial.
My position on this issue may not be popular but all the same, what is fair is fair. Magu’s style may be unorthodox, he may have embarked on media trials in the past and stuffs like that but he deserves a fair hearing and not subjected to media trials. And a word of caution for the media – If you have not learnt from the way the Abacha government manipulated the media during those 1995 and 1997 coup saga, by dishing out fake stories about Gwadabe, Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and others, it would be unfortunate if you fall into the same manipulative tactics of those dishing out unverified and fake stories on this matter. It’s time for the media to be highly circumspect.