Governor has a tendency to change positions randomly and unpredictably
Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt
The cross-examination of the first defence witness, Jude Igbanoi, in the libel case filed by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State against THISDAY Newspapers and three others, continued yesterday at the Rivers State High Court, Port Harcourt, with the claimant’s lead counsel, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), questioning Igbanoi on the interview Wike granted Arise News last year.
The governor had filed a N7 billion libel suit claiming that the newspaper’s publication of June 23, 2020, with the caption: “With a Friend Like Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost,” was intended to damage his character.
Yesterday, Ukala said that in the Arise video clips on the Edo election campaign, Wike was very passionate in his speech for the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and then asked Igbanoi if in the interview, the governor displayed any sign of betrayal in his responses.
The witness said he was not in the position to say so; but that the claimant had shown by his character and antecedents that he could not be taken seriously for whatever he says “as he has a tendency to change positions randomly and unpredictably.”
Ukala further asked the witness if the said report in THISDAY insinuated that Wike influenced the case in the Federal High Court on who was to be the flag bearer of the PDP in the 2020 Edo gubernatorial election.
In response, the witness said: “Since it concerns the party, the court, if within his domain, although a federal high court, the governor would not have a passing interest but committed to the victory of the party. Since the cases concerned his party, and in the heat of the governorship election campaign, he (Wike) would be expected to have more than a passing interest in the cases.”
Ukala further tendered a letter to the court, where he said the governor had asked THISDAY to retract the said report and publish an apology.
The cross-examination of the defense witness was later adjourned by the presiding Judge, Justice Adolphus Enebeli to April 25 and 27.
Speaking with journalists outside the courtroom, counsel to THISDAY, Tuduru Edeh (SAN), explained: “The matter is continuing, the witness has adopted his position in respect of which he has made several comments or at least sustained his defense; all that is before the Honourable presiding justice.
“We are not here to prejudge what both parties have said until when the court comes to a conclusion. That is the minimum of respect we need to the court.
“Today, the witness was cross-examined again by the counsel to the claimant. There were two videos that couldn’t play yesterday but the transcripts are available. So, we have taken a date to bring them forward, play them again so the counsel can continue and conclude the cross-examination.
“We are returning to the court on April 25 and 27 for them to conclude.” In the video clips presented last Thursday by the defense witness, 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.
In the video clips, 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 Director of Amaechi Campaign Organisation was also played.
However, during cross-examination, Ukala 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 being professional.
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 was 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 Campaign Organisation where he praised Amaechi to high heavens and turned around 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, was now his number one enemy to the dismay of the public.
He stated that Wike has since been apologising to the former Edo State Governor and former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole openly in the media.
The governor claimed during his appearance in court that the publication portrayed him as a 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.