By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — An Abuja High Court sitting in Wuse Zone 2, has restrained former President Olusegun Obasanjo from proceeding with plans to publish or have someone publish on his behalf, a new autobiography entitled ‘My Watch.”
Justice Valentine Ashi made the order following an ex-parte application filed before him by a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the South-West, Mr. Buruji Kashamu.
The court granted the motion marked FCT/HC/M/2392/2014, on Friday, after it listened to Kashamu’s lawyer, Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN.
Iziyon had argued that the content of the book relates to issues contained in the letter Obasanjo wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan and former National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, on December 2, 2013 , where he alleged that Kashamu was a fugitive wanted in the United States of America.
He contended that since the content of the letter is the subject matter of the libel suit his client filed against Obasanjo, which is still pending before the high court, it would be wrong for the ex-president to be allowed to proceed to comment on, write books about or make publications on the issue yet to be decided by the court.
While delivering his ruling on the matter, Justice Ashi specifically restrained ex-President Obasanjo from either publishing the book or have it published on his behalf by anybody, pending the determination of the substantive suit pending before him.
According to the court, “the defendant, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, whether by himself, his agents, servants, privies or any other person by whatever name called and howsoever described, is hereby restrained from publishing or caused to be published in the yet to published book, ‘My watch’ or any autobiography or biography and any extracts of same, by whatever name called or howsoever titled, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice hereof.”
Besides, Justice Ashi equally restrained Obasanjo, his agents or privies, “from further writing, printing, publishing or causing to be published or printed or circulated, or otherwise, publishing of and concerning the plaintiff, the statement contained in the Daily Sun (pages 47-49) and The Leadership newspapers (pages 3 to 8) of December 12, 2013 and which statements are alleged to have reproduced the letter written by the defendant to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria entitled: “Before it is too late’ or similar statements pending the determination of the motion on notice.”
However, before adjourning the case to December 10, the Judge ordered the applicant to “execute a bond with the Registrar of the court to pay such damages as shall be assessed should it turn out that the order ought not to have been granted in the first place.”
It will be recalled that Kashamu had dragged Obasanjo to court for defamation and character assassination, immediately the content of his letter to President Jonathan was made public.
He told the court that the defendant (Obasanjo) “maliciously and recklessly published a letter titled, ‘Before it is too late,’ which he said contained words which he (Obasanjo) knew to be false.
In his writ of summons, Kashamu stated that the criminal imputation made against him by Obasanjo in his letter, greatly “murdered” his reputation.
Consequently, he is praying the court to award the cost of N20billion against the ex-President to cover for the damage he has suffered as a result of the “malicious” allegations contained in the letter.
More so, he is praying the court for; “A declaration that the words complained of and published by the plaintiff against the defendant in a letter titled: “Before it is too late,” addressed to Dr. Goodluck E. Jonathan and dated December 2, 2013, which inter-alia carried criminal imputation against the plaintiff and published in several newspapers on December 12 is defamatory of the person of the plaintiff.
“An order awarding the sum of N20 billion only to the plaintiff against the defendants as aggravated and exemplary damages against the defendant for libel falsely and maliciously published by the defendant against the plaintiff in the said letter.
As well as for, “An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, his agents, servants or privies from publishing or further publishing or cause to be published any defamatory words against the plaintiff to any person or persons; and the sum of N100 million as cost of this action”.
Meantime, the suit had culminated into a war-of-words between the duo, with the plaintiff alleging before the court that the erstwhile President is a school drop out.
Irked by the fact that Obasanjo had in his statement of defence to the suit described him as “a drug pusher with neither local or international reputation”, Kashamu, fired back, calling the ex-president “a social misfit”.
“The plaintiff acknowledges that the defendant (Obasanjo),was a poverty-stricken dropout from school and otherwise a social misfit who eventually found fame and fortune by joining the Armed Forces of Nigeria and benefitting disproportionately from opportunism of military adventure into governance in Nigeria”, Kashamu averred before the court.
He told the court that “Obasanjo’s vaunted international acclaim was tested in 2008 when the former President contested for the position of the Secretary-General of the United Nation with a barely known diplomat from Egypt.
“The defendant (Obasanjo) was put in his place as he failed to fly the flag of the nation successfully and lost the contest disgracefully.”
Kashamu further insisted that Obasanjo’s claims in his statement of defence constituted “an aggravation of the libel charge before the court”.
He said Obasanjo’s use of his “touted national and international acclaim to malign more productive members of the society is uncalled for and could be symptomatic of megalomania.”
On the other hand, the former President who had earlier resolved not to personally testify in the matter, in his statement of defence, described Kashamu as a notorious debtor and a man lacking in local and international reputation.
He urged the court to dismiss the suit for being “frivolous, speculative and gold digging”, adding that no reasonable cause of action was established against him.
Obasanjo in his statement of defence to the N20billion libel suit against him, stood his ground, saying he has no reason to retract the words in the said letter as requested by Kashamu.
“The statement/words are correct, true and justified”, he maintained, adding, “The plaintiff has no iota of good reputation locally and internationally.
“Aside the plaintiff’s illicit drug business for which he was indicted and wanted in America, the plaintiff has penchant for taking loans from unsuspecting banks/financial institutions with intention to permanently elude/avoid repayment or liquidation of such loans.
“Further to that, the plaintiff has been judicially adjudged/confirmed a debtor by a competent court of law Cotonou, Republic of Benin. And the plaintiff presently occupies a choice position on the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria’s list of notorious bad debtors.
“The plaintiff is a person, who with his true name/identity supplied, will not be granted visa by the German government or any country of the world having good relationship with the United States of America”, Obasanjo added.