By Richards Murphy
Something profound happened in Nigeria in the month of April but it was lost in the hubbub of the socio-political grind of Nigeria. It was the sentencing of IG Wala, a self-style activist to 12 years jail term for criminal defamation. He is meant to spend at least seven years in the slammer.
What is noteworthy is not that Wala got canned. The profound aspect is that he was convicted and sentenced for what he posted on Facebook. The post that sent him to jail claimed that he had documents with which he was blackmailing the Chairman of the National Hajj Commission. Even when faced with the prospect of jail he was never able to tender the said documents because he never had them to start with.
A few of those that have reacted to Wala’s conviction and stiff jail term missed the point though. They failed to see that the courts have transcended the limitations that once made it difficult for electronic evidence to be admitted in the prosecution of cases. What has happened to this pseudo activist is a wake-up call that his co-travellers will ignore at their own peril. The era of unbridled flippancy on social media is over for good.
But it appears one Jackson Ude, an online militant of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), appears to be blissfully unaware of the much that has changed in what is acceptable and what is not when people interact with the rest of the world online. Ude, who continues to throw caution to the wind, is targeting Lt. General Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), for blackmail by claiming about phantom contracts and ghost bureau de change in Abuja. He is also running a campaign of calumny against the wife of the president, Mrs. Aisha Buhari and just anyone that is connected to President Muhammadu Buhari in any way.
One amazing thing is that even in the aftermath of IG Wala getting his just dessert, Ude went on a Twitter rant making spurious accusations that are weighty but without proof. While his co-traveller had claimed to have document (that he was later unable to produce), Ude did not as much as mention that he has proof or that his allegations can be substantiated.
This is a long established pattern of Ude, who publishes Pointblank News, which is best known as a platform for publishing tarnishing lies against those that refuse to pay for the owner’s silence. His exploits are well documented when his attempts at blackmailing several politicians of Igbo extraction spectacularly landed him and his “boys” in trouble in 2014. It must be mentioned that even fellow publishers of online news are not safe from Ude’s activities.
Ude is also complicit of deceiving the reading public by failing to disclose that his so called exclusive revelation about General Buratai is in fact part of his brief to demonize the administration of President Buhari for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He was after all an aide of former President Goodluck Jonathan, he was responsible for pushing online propaganda to obscure the corruption that went on in that government. Additionally, he is among the online warriors paid to launder the election loss of PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
What is interesting is that Ude is trying to hide behind one finger believing that he can defame others, conceal his sins and shield him from consequences. He is further complicating things for himself by antagonizing those that are enlightened enough to point him to the errors of his way. The comical height of this is Ude blocking those that are critical of his follies from interacting with his social media post. This posture in itself smacks of ignorance of how the law works. Blocking others from viewing his libellous posts will not shield him from legal consequences when his IG Wala moment comes.
Interestingly, the social media posts that will nail Jackson Ude are already written. All that is left is for the subjects of his serial failed blackmail attempts to approach the law courts. Should those targeted by Ude for blackmail decide to take their matters to the court, the hapless fellow will first be tortured by the sheer impracticality of hoping from one courtroom to the other across the country because he has, by virtue of his engagement, written enough defamatory pieces to spend the remainder of his natural life in jail and possible reincarnate to complete the outstanding custodial commitment in his next life.
One must however appeal to General Buratai to put any judicial response to Ude’s puerile behaviour in abeyance. This is because, with the benefit of judicial precedence, Buratai heading to court will earn Ude a one way ticket to jail and swiftly too. While this will serve the interest of justice and deterrence to other blackmailers, the urchin’s impish followers will not be able to distinguish between a conviction for criminal defamation and the suppression of free speech. They will take to town to allege that their warlord is being hounded for being outspoken and sadly there is a way that idiocy appeals to people with limited reasoning faculties.
So, in the interest of the institution of the Nigerian Army, which needs all the focus at the moment because of its responsibility to the nation, General Buratai should allow Ude’s reckoning to come from other quarters, and this is guaranteed to happen being the train wreck that he is. He continues to be an irritant, a minor one. The COAS must also avoid ever responding to Ude, who already has too many people after him, because accusing fingers will point the Army boss’ way if any of those he had scammed or blackmailed decide to take matters into their own hands, like some them tried to do in 2014 when the scammer alleged threats to his life.
However, Ude should not be deluded that the appeal to General Buratai not to waste time on his pettiness means that his day of reckoning is far away. It is here already. Plus, he should be afraid. Very afraid. Unlike his co-traveller, IG Wala, who is wearing prison issued uniform as a consequence of his defamatory shot at blackmail, Ude has strayed sufficiently into judicial perdition. Blackmail and defamation are the least things he has to worry about when he is dragged before the court since some of his posts and publications are directly promoting the ideologies of a terrorist organization, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Murphy wrote this piece from Calabar.