By Attorney Patryk Utulu
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode has called for Rivers State Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi to be quizzed by the Nigerian Security units for saying that the All Progressives Party (APC) would form a parallel government if President Goodluck Jonathan won the 2015 presidential election. At a recent press conference held in Umuahia, Abia State, Fani-Kayode declared, amongst other comments, that Gov. Amaechi’s statement amounted to treason. Of the recent incident at the Nigerian National Assembly where lawmakers climbed over police barricades to gain entry into the House of Representatives, Fani-Kayode said as follows:
“For the first time in the history of our country I saw elected legislators attempting to break down wall, attempting to break down gates…some of them in torn clothes, struggling through police lines…breaking the law, and I saw them display the highest level of indiscipline and lack of respect for constituted authority. Legislators took the law into their own hands. They broke down gates, jumped through the gates, and fought the police and created commotion and shameful acts.”
Fani-Kayode then concluded by saying that: “Again when you look at the comments made by…Gov. Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, I am alarmed, I am deeply disturbed and discouraged. He said that if PDP comes back in 2015 that not only would they make the country ungovernable, they would also set up a parallel government, and that there would be anarchy in this country.”
HERE IS MY NON-PARTISAN ASSESSMENT OF FEMI FANI-KAYODE’S STATEMENT:
(1): I agree with Fani-Kayode that no one, especially not lawmakers, should resort to thuggery by breaking down Police barricade to gain entry into the building when courts (including the Supreme Court) are there for resolution of grievances. Even valid grievances are tainted by refusal to follow the law (see my November 21, 2014, article entitled: “Lawless Lawmakers of Nigeria” published at the Facebook forum, The Nigerian Presidency Project HQ)
(2): Though I agree that all fighting-or-rioting legislators disgraced their office and hurt Nigeria’s image, Fani-Kayode is wrong to suggest that what took place yesterday was unique. There was turmoil during the administration of Shehu Shagari and many gun/knife fights, murders and kidnappings during Western Nigeria’s political crises in the 1960s. Did that in any way justify what happened at the National Assembly on Friday? No! But we need to keep things in perspective and Fani-Kayode who is from the Western part of Nigeria and born in 1960 (long before I was born) cannot credibly suggest that what occurred at the National Assembly was so unique as to be a deal breaker. We must condemn bad things but courage and patriotism demands that we resist the temptation to escalate this Constitutional crisis through hyperbolic statements. Unchallenged, such partisan statements could lead to a sense of self-justification to crush the opposition. Nigeria needs more than one party for choice, to grow our democracy as well as for political legitimacy!
[**See the white/black picture? That, courtesy of Ethelbert Mbama, is from the 1962 Western Nigeria’s political crises between factions loyal to Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola – a crises so threatening to national security, and lives and property that the Central (Federal) Government, headed by Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa declared a State of Emergency rule in all of Western region and appointed Chief (Dr.) M.A Majekodunmi, then Federal Minister of Health, as Administrator.] Forget textbook definitions of history as study of the past. History is the study of the future and THAT future WAS at the National Assembly on Friday. My point is that Nigeria survived the 1960s crises through de-escalation so we must tone it down and not go after APC with a sledgehammer.
(3): It is absolute nonsense for Fani-Kayode to call for Gov. Rotimi Amaechi to be prosecuted for treason. Mr. Amaechi is known to be flamboyant and confrontationally talkative. But just because his style edges between amusement and public irritation does NOT make his comment MADE IN THE HEAT OF PASSION TREASONOUS. I did NOT include the portion of Fani-Kayode’s statement where he needlessly “name-dropped” that he spoke with Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police to discover that police officers were injured at the National Assembly. Really? I did not know that any Nigerian needed the IGP to tell them what the whole world witnessed in real time on the Internet.
As I condemned the collective megalomania that led lawmakers to believe that they were above the law thus, did not need to go to Court to seek access to the buildings locked (wrong or right) under law, SO I MUST WARN against the itch of megalomania in those who would misuse the emergency law to muscle opponents and threaten free speech. One thing that always impressed me in the Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan is that — despite other debatable issues of achievements or failings — Nigerians have been allowed to say whatever they want to say, especially those who use that freedom of speech to scream and complain that Jonathan denied them free of speech.
Fani-Kayode should do well to update himself on the law. It is not treason to say that you will form a parallel government IN THE FUTURE (if Jonathan wins). The statement may be provocative and unproductive but it is NOT treasonous. Nigeria is a Federal Constitutional Republic. We are citizens, not subjects of a Monarch. A statement does not amount to treason simply because it hurts the feelings of our top leadership or simply because it makes their peace of mind less peaceful.
AS A LAWYER, FANI-KAYODE SHOULD KNOW THAT TREASON HAS A VERY HIGH THRESHOLD per burden of proof. Specific commissions (acts) or deliberate omissions that either betray one’s country, kill/injure/threaten the life of a Head of State and/or SPECIFIC ACTS to overthrow the government are some of the crucial factors legally IMPERATIVE as elements of the offence of treason.
Gov. Rotimi Amaechi may be loud but being loud is NOT a crime in Nigeria!!!
Attorney Patryk A. Utulu
U.S.-based Attorney & Strategic Communications Specialist
Global Defense Analyst and Global Events Commentator
Executive Vice President, Nigerian Diaspora-North America
Executive Director, The Center 4 Community Empowerment & Lifeskills, Inc
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SOURCE: Naija Center News