Posted by News Express | 9 December 2015 | 2,560 times
One must move beyond sentiments and face the logic of the case against DAAR Communications Founder and Chairman Emeritus, High Chief Alegho Raymond Dokpesi. His bad journalism must not become the yardstick for analysing his current legal predicament. It is also important to realise that President Muhammadu Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), was not totally innocent of the vicious falsehoods that characterised the 2015 general elections. Indeed, the President’s party on many occasions during the election season resorted to the use of a vicious online news website to fight back the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). That online outfit, notwithstanding its clearly criminal tendencies, became a ready tool in the hands of the President’s party, even after they won the elections.
The only question before us on Dokpesi should be whether, given the stories told, a fair and honest prosecutor has sufficient evidence to get a fair and honest judge to convict him. The answer is No. To understand this argument, you must consider the counter-story of Dokpesi, which has not been contradicted by the prosecuting authority and could not be contradicted.
Dokpesi indicated that he submitted a proposal to then President Goodluck Jonathan, offering to render certain media and information services to Jonathan’s government. He stated that after studying his proposal, President Jonathan invited him and his team to a meeting. He indicated that at the meeting were President Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo and National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki. He indicated that at the meeting, he clarified issues on his proposal and answered questions that the President and his team put to him. He indicated that at the end of the meeting, the President of Nigeria accepted and approved his proposal. He also indicated that the President there and then informed him that the Office of the NSA would fund the project. And we now know that the NSA provided the funding to Dokpesi. It is that money given by NSA to Dokpesi that has given rise to the criminal indictment of Dokpesi.
Those who believe that Dokpesi committed a crime in the course of these events have based their reasoning on the belief that the NSA is not the right office of government to fund a media and information project. They further believe that the NSA’s office could only fund the purchase of weapons and military hardware used in fighting the insurgency. Therefore, for them, what happened was merely that the NSA diverted money meant for purchasing weapons and hardware to Dokpesi, who did not procure any weapons and hardware. This school of thought even goes forward to conclude that because of the fact that money meant for weapons and hardware was “diverted” to Dokpesi, the war against the insurgency went against Nigeria, leading to the death of many.
It is true that the above narrative is a beautiful story with intrigues of a nice plot for a good movie. But that narrative seems to be driven by lack of deep logical consideration of the facts. Remember that the prosecutor has not been able to contradict Dokpesi’s story. In fact, it cannot counter that story because it relates to what happened in a meeting of the President and his key officials and Dokpesi. Only someone in that meeting can credibly contradict Dokpesi’s account.
Accepting Dokpesi’s story on how he got the President’s approval for his project as true, the first question is whether it could be said that Dokpesi and President Jonathan and the other men present at the meeting conspired to commit a crime. Did the President of Nigeria commit any crime in directing that the funding of an approved media project should come from the vote of the NSA? Did Dokpesi commit a crime by receiving funds as directed by the President of Nigeria? Should Dokpesi have raised an objection when the President directed on how the media project would be funded? Should he have said: “No, Sir, I want the government to fund the project from other votes within the government”?
A second line of questioning is to consider whether there is any relationship between information/media or mass communication and wars/security. Do you need to spend money on media and information as part of a war effort? How much did the American Government spend on media to drum up the public support for the war against Iraq? How much did America spend on media in order to galvanise the public support for the war in Syria? It was said on many occasions that the reason for the Boko Haram insurgency was because some people were disgruntled against the corruption in Jonathan’s administration or for other reasons against the government. If this were true, it would mean that certain people had certain perception about the government and they decided to resort to insurgency. It would also suggest that the same adverse perception of Jonathan’s administration was helping the insurgency in recruiting fighters.
If you can recall such arguments, then you will come to see that information management could as well be a legitimate weapon in the war against the insurgency. Winning the war could have been achieved by both weapons and effective dissemination of information that would have changed the perception of government. If that were the case, then it is easy to understand that the NSA could legitimately spend on both information and hardware, all as part of the war effort.
I am sure that in the era of the poisonous divisions in our polity and at a time for desperate search for scapegoats, some would swear that this writer is only interested in saving Dokpesi. Indeed, some will swear that this writer has been bribed by Dokpesi or some opponents of this government. But that will not make a difference to the reasoning pursued here. You need another story line to justify the prosecution of Dokpesi. The mere fact that he received huge money from the NSA for media information does not cut it. Most people against Dokpesi would not have minded if he had received only one hundred thousand naira for his effort. If that were so, it makes no difference in law what amount he eventually received, provided that was what the government agreed to pay him!
•Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire, whose photo appears alongside this piece, wrote from Lagos.
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