AGF Malami, please, be slow to speak!
The best value sincere friends and associates of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami, can inject in his career now would be to ensure that he always speaks sparingly and recognises the need to regularly deploy more time and effort to benefit from informed legal inputs before responding to very serious issues.
The office he occupies is such an important and strategic one whose submissions on legal controversies Nigerians can confidently rely upon. It will be very disheartening if his interventions on very weighty national affairs are easily faulted by Nigerians, including even street traders and roadside mechanics.
When the 17 Southern governors met in Asaba on May 11, 2021, and announced a ban on open grazing behind which gun-wielding Fulani herdsmen had for several years now hidden to commit various atrocities like brutal rapes of women and daughters, wanton destruction of crops, maiming or killing of farmers and the invasion and razing of communities, AGF Malami had rushed out to describe the governors’ resolution as “unconstitutional” and “dangerous.”
On Channels TV, Malami pronounced: “It is about constitutionality within the context of the freedoms expressed in our constitution…For example, it is as good as saying, perhaps, maybe, the northern governors coming together to say they prohibit spare parts trading in the north.”
The magisterial carriage with which this obviously very pedestrian and preposterous intervention was delivered must have deepened the astonishment of many Nigerians. How can a “learned gentleman” (least of all the AGF) compare violent herdsmen who appear to derive hideous animation from wantonly destroying farmlands and visiting their owners with diverse destructions and violations to motor spare parts traders who peacefully hire shops from their owners, pay taxes to the government and undertake their business in ways that do not inflict any harm on anyone?
It was such a horrendous faux pas from which Nigerians of diverse social and educational rankings quickly formulated a cocktail of jokes and hashtags to entertain and relieve themselves of the tension and stress lavishly donated to them by the severe hardship and crippling insecurity choking the country.
Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, himself a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), could not hide his embarrassment:
“It is most unfortunate that the AGF is unable to distil issues as expected of a Senior Advocate. Nothing can be more disconcerting. This outburst should, ordinarily, not elicit a response from reasonable people who know the distinction between a legitimate business that is not in any way injurious and a certain predilection for anarchy,” Akeredolu lamented in a statement he personally signed.
If Malami had reaped any useful lessons from Akeredolu’s rebuke, he has proved quite incapable of ensuring their proper utilisation. His shoddy handling of the “interception” and “re-arrest” of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) has further compounded the country’s image crisis and diminishment. At the press conference he addressed about 48 hours after Kanu was bundled back to the country, the AGF was unable to see the need to explain to Nigerians the legal and diplomatic processes followed by the government to bring back the IPOB leader. Nigerians were then left to feast on the speculations and rumours the pathetic absence of proper explanation had engendered.
Matters were made worse with the swift denial of the Kenyan Government of any form of involvement in Kanu’s “re-arrest.”
At a press conference in Abuja, the Kenya High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Wilfred Machage, fumed: “I want to address this allegation by denying that Kenya was involved in the alleged arrest in Kenya and extradition to Nigeria of Mr. Kanu. To us, therefore, these allegations are fictional, imaginary and deliberately concocted to fuel antagonistic feelings among certain sections of the Nigerian people. We are also disturbed, dismayed and astonished by the unfortunate statement on the alleged arrest in Kenya which was carried in the dailies. The government of Kenya is particularly appalled by the spurious, derogatory and libelous mention of the name of our dear President on this matter.”
Sadly, AGF Malami did not appear to have appreciated the damage Kenya’s rebuttal had wreaked on the image of his office and that of Nigeria. Following this was the revelation by Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, that Kanu had confirmed to his legal team that he “was tortured, maltreated and mercilessly beaten” in Kenya.
Ejiofor said on Arise TV: “After spending eight days in their illegal custody,” the Kenyans “now beckoned to the Nigerian government. Kanu was lifeless and unconscious by the time they were bringing him to Nigeria.”
Ejinkeonye, a Nigerian journalist, is the author of Nigeria: Why Looting May Not Stop.