Former Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo has dragged the Punch newspaper and columnist, Sonala Olumhense, before a federal high court sitting in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital over what he “defamatory” report published on January 27, 2019.
Obasanjo, who insisted that the article was “false, malicious, unjustified, injurious, scornful, distasteful, unsavoury,” and exposed him to “public odium, ridicule and disdain,” is demanding N1 billion as damages from the newspaper and the columnist.
In the syndicated article, titled “This is the Best Contribution Obasanjo Can Make,” Olumhense, recalled previous articles he had written about the former President, where he noted his “persistent efforts to distort Nigeria’s history and colour it in his own image.”
Olumhense had also in the article reminded Nigerians that the former president was not “the saint or patriot or doer he pretends to be.”
In the article, the columnist, also said “Obasanjo was no anti-corruption champion either, although nobody harangues corruption better than he. Yes, he launched the EFCC and ICPC, but they fought only the fights he allowed them to and wrote the reports he wanted. His real motivation was the largely retaliatory drive to recover the so-called (Sani) Abacha loot against the man who had thrown him behind bars. At the end, he could not account for the billions of dollars recovered.”
Olumhense also wrote: “So abominable was Obasanjo’s performance on electricity that he lavished at least $10 billion he could not justify. The House of Representatives said Obasanjo often paid money to companies that had not cleared space for the projects.
“In an article in December 2006, I demonstrated that he spent close to N1 trillion on roads. In December 2013, using one of those roads, I explored how the practice of persistent parallel spending keeps the money flowing but not project delivery.”
However, the former President is complaining that the columnist alleged that he was “heavily implicated in the Halliburton scandal with the investigations in Nigeria and the US concluding that he accepted massive bribes,” among other allegations.
Obasanjo, through his lawyer, Kanu Agabi, is also urging the court to declare that the article does not “constitute a valid exercise by the defendants of their freedom of speech and of expression.”
The former president also craved an order of perpetual injunction “restraining the defendants their associates, agents, assignees, servants, privies, proxies, allies or anyone howsoever called from further publishing or causing to be published the words complained of or any other defamatory words concerning the claimant.”
He prayed the court to issue an order directing the defendants to retract the “defamatory words via a publication on the front page of two national newspapers within three days from the day of the delivery of the judgment of the court.”
Meanwhile, Femi Falana, human rights lawyer and activist, is expected to represent Olumhense in court.