June 23, 2020

Between Okunbo and Zibiri: Of a Deviant Son and a Large-hearted Father

It was a needless and avoidable friction. But, perhaps, providence had an unsuspecting need for the script. Earlier this month, Hon. Marvelous Muhizu Zibiri had slandered the highly respected philanthropist, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, when in a willfully damaging publication, which went viral on the social media he described the illustrious son of Benin a “drug baron”.

For many reasons, Captain Hosa as he is called, didn’t find such impudence funny neither was he going to let it slide this time. This was a matter that had been resolved some 25 years ago, with a competent court declaring him clean. So, where is this coming from? Who could be behind this, because obviously, it was beyond the man, who was the new face of the attack?

But Captain Hosa made a resolution: that he would though pursue this to the very last, however, in doing so, he would not employ any extra-judicial means or be seen to have abused his power and influence over a rather younger Zibiri, who was evidently misled. And that was how the journey that eventually culminated in a peaceful denouement, began.

First on June 3, 2020, Captain Okunbo, petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, intimating him of what he described as “malicious, vicious and injurious” conduct of Zibiri.

Mindful of the damage that the publication had cause to both his person and business, Okunbo asked the IG “to put a stop to the ongoing criminal falsehood and conduct of Mr. Marvelous Muhizu Zibiri and his cohorts, while we seek other legal remedies for this very dastardly act.”

Acting on the petition, the IG immediately deploy some of his men to work and after days of searching for Zibiri, he was arrested and taken to Abuja, where investigations about his destructive publication commenced.

However, on June 20, Jimba Chambers, solicitors to Zibiri, wrote to Captain Okunbo, seeking his patience and understanding, especially, having met at different times with their client, who had also owned up to the charges against him.

In the letter signed by Alhaji Yakubu Jimba, the solicitors wrote: “Our client is willing, ready and able to put up and publish a written withdrawal of alleged defamatory publication without prejudice. To this extent, we shall be grateful if you kindly decline to press charges. Our client further undertakes that upon regaining freedom, he shall publish a written apology to you forthwith.”

Replying to Jimba Chambers, solicitors to Captain Okunbo, C.E Atano and Co, in a letter dated June 21, noted that, “Our client has been and is greatly hurt and embarrassed by your client’s conduct and actions. His slanderous publications not only dented his image, but also caused great damage to his reputation and business for which he is justifiably angry and had initiated legal actions to seek redress.

“Our client is an elder statesman, who has worked so hard to build his image and Business Empire over the years, and his people, especially, the youths look up to him as a role model and beacon of hope in Edo State and the country in general. He is particularly interested in developing the youths and encouraging them to pursue their dreams for which he has greatly invested in Edo State.

“Suffice it to say that your client caused serious damage, but based on his apologies and undertakings as stated in your letter, our client, out of magnanimity and as an elder statesman, may without prejudice decide to forgive ‘IF’ and when your client is able to make wide and copious publications and a handwritten apology as stated in your letter.

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“Our client believes he was misled and ill-advised, and now that he is remorseful and repentant, our client may overlook his excesses, though the damage has been done.”

Thus, on June 22, Captain Okunbo wrote back to the police, this time through the office of the Assistant Inspector general of Police and intimated the police of the development, which included the proposed apology and other undertakings by Zibiri as part of the understanding resulting in the final resolution of the matter.

“Being an elder statesman and a person with good interest of the youths and people of Edo State, coupled with several pleas from his people, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, has decided to forgive and not press charges on the condition that Mr. Marvelous Muhizu keeps to his undertakings as expressed through his lawyer’s letter and reiterated in the response letter by Cyril Atano esq., lawyer to Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo.

“Though serious damage has been caused by Mr. Marvelous Muhizu’s acts and conduct, and though his undertakings, pleas and withdrawals may not adequately redress or compensate for the damage, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, being a father figure to such youths and out of his magnanimity, has decided to forgive and let go if the conditions aforesaid are met.”

In two separate letters – of apology and undertaking – dated June 23, 2020, Zibiri, while apologising to Captain Okunbo said, “I further hereunder vow never to be involved in such publications affecting him (Captain Okunbo) in any manner. I hope Captain Idahosa will find a heart to forgive me and withdraw the petition against me in the FIB.”

In that of undertaking, Zibiri stated also: “I wish to undertake that I shall make wide and copious publications in both Print and Social Media, recanting, withdrawing and disclaiming slanderous publications against Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo.

I also wish to undertake that I will cease to in any manner defame or undermine Captain Idahosa in whatever guise. Failure to do so shall entail judicial action against me.”

Hopefully, this uncharitable episode to the recurring albeit unfounded allegation puts an end to a matter that died and was buried 25 years ago.

However, there’s a lesson here for both sides. While the timely show of remorse by the accused was smart and commendable, because he would have spent a good time prison on account of a willful defamation of character, the show of magnanimity by Captain Hosa is worthy of note and mention.

By his action in this matter, Captain Hosa has also lived true to type as a kind, sympathetic and generous son of Benin, who is interested more in mentoring the youths and building a future for them than watching them destroy themselves.

Although many of those close to Captain Okunbo hinted that he was badly damaged by such a weighty allegation, which sadly, was lacking in substance, that he was prepared to go the whole hog in seeking justice, the father in him, however, showed up at a most auspicious time, when it was badly needed.

This is a classic case of a deviant son and a large-hearted father doing right from their respective standpoint. Importantly, however, it is hoped that many others in Zibiri shoes, who are susceptible to manipulations by the dregs of the society would take a cue from his ordeal and ponder a productive use of their time and gift.