OPINION: By Sylvester Udemezue (Udems)
“The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.” (per Frédéric Bastiat)
Before I start, and to clear all doubts, and this is speaking generally, BE IT STILL KNOWN TO ALL that I am a youth (some say I no longer am, but I know I still am) and that I stand at all times on the side of all mismanaged, neglected abandoned, mistreated, oppressed, and degraded youths of Nigeria. Nigerian youths are most mistreated and the most neglected set in Nigeria (I have a piece on this). I am happy the youth are getting up to their destiny in their own hands in a country whose leaders (all) appear to have nothing tangible in store for the youth. However, the change or course of action I advocate for the youth is through nonviolence. I support a non-violent revolution, a reorientation among the youths. As Martin Luther King Jnr once said, “The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage they did not know they had.”
Back to the topic of the moment, I have just seen a news report appearing under the head, ”#EndSARS Lekki Shooting: CNN Objects to Lagos Judicial Panel’s jurisdiction to summon it as Witness” TheNigeriaLawyer reports thus:
”On the 28th day of November 2020, the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution of Victims of SARS Related Abuses, issued a Witness Summons on the Cable News Network, Inc.(CNN) and its Team of Reporters to appear before it on Saturday, 12 December, 2020 to give evidence on their reportage of the EndSARS Lekki shooting. Upon service of the summons on CNN …the international news outfit instructed their lawyers to file an objection on the ground that the Panel lacks jurisdiction to summon them since they are not in Nigeria.”
My humble view is that CNN is being mischievous and inconsistent in its stance. CNN’s objection to its being invited/summoned by the Lagos Panel on grounds that CNN is located outside Nigeria is laughable and may have serious implications on the various reports CNN has issued about the Lekki incident, even if there’s in law some support for such objection. If CNN knew it was located outside Nigeria, and was not prepared to come in Nigeria, to defend the reports it issued about events in Nigeria, why did CNN dabble into Nigeria’s internal affairs in the first instance? You made a report about an incident said to have taken place in Lagos, Nigerian, on 20/10/2020. Now, some controversy has arisen over the reports you issued and you turn around to claim you cannot come to defend the reports, and of course take cross-examination questions on the reports, your reasons being about you not being in Nigeria. Why not regard the summons as a mere fact-finding invitation and honour it?
In my opinion, CNN’s evasive and prevaricating tactics in this issue, are altogether perfectly illustrative of the Latin legal maxim “Quod Approbo Non Reprobo” (one approbating and reprobating at the same time and on the same subject).
CNN has reporters or correspondents in Nigeria, who had gathered or who had put together the reports CNN published about the alleged Lekki incident. CNN can easily send one its reporters, correspondents or bureau chiefs in Nigeria, to appear before the fact finding Panel to defend the reports as well as take questions for clarification purposes. It is that easy, if not for anything else, at least to show the world that your reports or documentaries are credible. This has nothing to do with whether the Lagos Panel has powers or lacks powers to summon CNN. CNN needs, by being prepared at all times, whenever it’s called upon to so do, to come out and defend its own reports or its source, to show that it has no hidden skeletons.
We all are aware that CNN is merely a media house involved in the job of journalism. But, professional ethics in journalism is not against a journalist being called upon to defend or give clarifications on a report made by the journalist. By refusing to appear before the Lagos Panel, and (as already pointed out) it could have easily appeared through any of its Nigerian correspondents, CNN has assisted in heightening doubt/aspersions already being cast on the said CNN reports/documentaries by Nigerian authorities and those sympathetic to government position. Besides, when you make a report about an incident which reports have now become a subject of controversy, whereupon you’re called upon to come and substantiate or clarify your reports, but you refuse to come, one major implication your action in refusing has brought about is that all doubts raised against your reports may be resolved against you.
Finally, how does the panel determine or be assured of the credibility of CNN’s reports and the veracity of the contents of the reports, if CNN is shying away from facing a simple cross examination thereupon? With due respect, I am disappointed at CNN’s refusal to honour a simple invitation to defend its position, about which it had earlier issued statements insisting it is right. Now, the chips are down and CNN is on the run. Indeed, and unfortunately so, this appears to an era of disobedience to simple, cogent amd reasonable summons/invitations in Nigeria— summons obedience to which could have helped to clear so all cobwebs covering so many issues currently weighing us down. CNN should be reminded in the words of Vineet Raj Kapoor, that _” LIFE IS LIVED LIKE A COURT CASE TRIAL. YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO DEFEND EVERY VALUE YOU PROFESS TO STAND FOR” Besides, as held In the Nigerian case of Governor of Ekiti State v. Fakiyesi, “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be only one commandment – thou shall not ration justice.”
I heartily commend the CNN for its rare courage and boldness in the face of oppression and threats of harm, but CNN must know that justice is a two-way sword; CNN needs to stand up and substantiate its courageous stand or risk being regarded as a mere mischief-maker. CNN cannot hide under the law to evade discharge of responsibilities it has voluntarily undertaken for itself when it issued reports and statements saying it stood by those reports. Let CNN come and prove all doubting Thomases wrong.
Sylvester Udemezue (Udems)