March 25, 2022 6:00 Am
*Says governor’s various public statements open his character to question
Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt
A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt yesterday watched video clips tendered by THISDAY as evidence in defense of a libel suit against the newspaper by the State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
In the video clips presented by the defense witness, Jude Igbanoi and played in the courtroom as evidence to the said report, Igbanoi in a heated argument informed the court that Wike’s various public statements open his character and integrity to public scrutiny and fair comments.
He further stressed that Wike’s character since coming into public office had shown him to be such that he would say certain things about someone one day and turn 360 degrees a few months or years later to say the contrary.
The governor had filed a N7 billion suit against THISDAY and three of its staff, claiming that the newspaper publication of June 23, 2020, with caption: ” With a Friend Like Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost,” was intended to damage his character.
The governor claimed during his appearance in court that the publication portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person.
Wike also claimed that THISDAY accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
Wike had also told the court that the defendants denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress, in order to get at his political enemy, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi.
The matter was registered in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020. The court presided over by Justice Adolphus Enebeli, yesterday, watched some of the video clips where Wike was speaking relating to the alleged reports in THISDAY.
In the video clips presented by Igbanoi and played in the courtroom as evidence to the said report, Wike was sighted in a campaign speaking about Obaseki as televised on Channels and TVC News.
The court also watched a video clip during an interview with the Governor televised by Arise News titled, “The politics and issues in PDP.”
A video clip of Wike praising Amaechi over his performance in Rivers State, when he was the Acting Director of Amaechi Campaign Organisation was also played.
However, during cross examination, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), lead counsel for the claimant, told the defendant witness (Igbanoi) that the publication was intended to smear the integrity of the governor.
But in defense, the witness stated that the story was gathered from speeches made by Wike from different occasions of campaign and interviews.
Igbanoi also told the court that the publication had no intention to damage the image of the governor but was only doing being professional.
He added that Wike has always been a friend and wondered how he would want to hurt a friend.
However, after about three hours of hearing the matter, the judge adjourned till today to continue with cross examination of the first defence witness.
Igbanoi denied strongly that THISDAY was out to libel the claimant, Wike.
He stressed that the newspaper was only fulfilling its constitutional duty of informing the public and making a fair comment on the situation during the Edo State governorship election in the said publication.
While responding to some of the questions during the cross-examination, he further pointed out to the court, that Wike has been a public servant in the past two decades.
That his life therefore was an open book that is open to members of the public and therefore the media was free to comment on his utterances and actions, whether positive or perceived negative. He cited examples of his televised statements as the Director General of the Rotimi Amaechi’s Campaign Organisation where he praised Amaechi to high heavens and turned round a few years after to lampoon, castigate and lambast him at every given occasion.
He also pointed out that Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki whose campaign organisation he chaired is now his number one enemy to the dismay of the public.
That he has since been apologising to the former Edo State Governor and former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole openly in the media.
After several hours the court adjourned the case to today.