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A footnote called Onnoghen

Steve Nwosu

Let me begin by reminding those popping champagne over the turnout of the case against Justice Walter Onnoghen that the case is not over yet. That the embattled CJN has not been discharged and acquitted. That the prosecution (not persecution) has only closed its case.

Yes, so many things are going wrong at the same time. But one has to be careful in intervening in any, especially as we’ve been promised that the next four years will be ‘tougher’ than the last four – which many of us erroneously thought were the worst years we’ve ever lived through in recent memories.

How do I mean? This government rode to power, in 2015, on the back of a generous dose of fake news and propaganda. In power, it has continued along the same path. The only difference now is that it is coming down hard on those who dare to infringe on its monopoly of fake news and propaganda. Depending on what part of the bed the government wakes up from, such interlopers could now be charged with Hate Speech, Fake News or Public Incitement. Only those franchised by the sole proprietors of fake news are allowed free rein to push out falsehood and get away with it. And they are a legion.

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With many media houses folding up and thousands of journalists suddenly finding themselves out of job, many otherwise respectable journalists have since joined the legion, and sold their souls to the devil in desperation to put food on the table.

Suddenly, hitherto circumspect, critical and even cynical journalists and writers now seem to reason from the wrong end of their torsos, as they go to town, shamelessly defending the indefensible. Anyone perceived to be an enemy of the paymaster is instantly torn to shreds in the social media. They seek to outdo themselves as they battle to impress the paymaster, and justify their next slurp of pottage.

So, less than 24 hours after the seeming collapse of the case Onnonghen at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the narrative suddenly changed. We’re suddenly being reminded that no one accused the Cross River State-born jurist of owning 55 houses. Nor that there was ever any mention of a foreign account. Nor that the cumulative amount found in all the said accounts of our ‘corrupt’ CJN cannot even buy the power bike of the yet-to-be employed son of our ‘uncorrupt’ president.

Of course, all of us, wailers and hailers, always knew this truth. It was only not politically expedient to own up to it. It was more profitable to leave the matter in the court of public opinion – when we know that 95% of that public does not understand the issues at stake.

Of course, like Onnoghen, like Atiku Abubakar and corruption. When it is clear that there is no shred of evidence to support allegations against anyone we intend to bring down, we take the case to the court of an ignorant public, make some insinuation to lead them in the direction we want, and then sit back to watch how the mob (we erroneously, or mischievously, call public opinion) bale for blood, criminalize Due Process, and lynch the innocent.

As the disciples of the Lamidi Adedibu school of politics would tell you, the dress they sewed for Onnoghen fitted him perfectly, why then should anybody bother with the little fact that it is actually not his own robe?

However, until the case is determined, because there is still plenty of room for both the prosecution and the defence to swing it, we must keep close watch, even if the tribunal chairman threatens to put all of us in jail.