Saturday 6 August 2011

Editorial: In court with or at the court of Al-Mustapha

All sensational theatre

The past week has provided amazing sensationalist fodder in Nigerian courts with the long-awaited trail of the former Chief Security Officer of Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha.

He stands charged and accused of the murder in June 1996 of Kudirat Abiola, the wife of Moshood K. O. Abiola, the generally accepted but unaccredited winner of the June 1993 Presidential Elections. He seems to have his hands deep in all sorts of criminality all of which should be proven in court and then met with adequate sanction if found wanting.

Now, Al-Mustapha’s trial is literally headline news and though I have posted a number of tweets on the matter, this blog was inspired after certain reactions to his testimony have begun to obfuscate the quest for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Much to process

Facebook being where a short status along with a quote can be pasted and elicit rather strong passions; there is a time that one needs to step back and examine the circumstances and hopefully interject with the hope of letting reason prevail in these somewhat uncertain times.

For all the claims and counterclaims in reaction to the testimony being given in court, what is in the courthouse is really what matters and that is what we must focus on, those who have been tarred by the testimony have it within their prerogative if able to submit incontrovertible defence, those who cannot defend themselves because they are dead might will become casualties of history.

However, I am of the belief that those revered dead were of the old school of journal keeping and meticulous documentation of their affairs; those journals might well need examination because the events to which they have been linked are not in any way insignificant.

The reality of advocacy

The most important thing is to understand what the defence strategy is and hopefully the prosecution does not end up being mesmerised with the entertainment that they are in dereliction of their brief – judges however should not be expected to do job of either the prosecution or the defence, they are there to ensure that the course of justice is served and to the letter, hopefully, the spirit of the law is adhered to.

For all said and done, this is where things are, Al-Mustapha was in court narrating his side of the story as any defendant would. Everyman no matter how imperfect our justice system is should be allowed the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

In court or at court

If the prosecution has not found grounds to truncate his “diatribe” with a convincing objection by suggesting to the judge that Al-Mustapha is argumentative, speculative, suggestive, diversionary, digressing from the substance of the issues and/or failing to contribute to the essential matter of adequate defence strategy, then we will have to hear every big and little story Al-Mustapha has to tell.

If on cross-examination the prosecution cannot take each assertion and use it to destroy the basis, premise, character, dignity, standing and credibility of the witness, then his testimony becomes germane to essential investigation for the truth and veracity as pertaining all those mentioned - death or alive.

Maybe Al-Mustapha is a dying man clutching at straws; even a dying man sometimes has a few last words - note them.

However, not to afford Al-Mustapha his full, rightful and untrammelled day in court after a 12-year incarceration will amount to a travesty and miscarriage of justice.

A fat brief

We can so easily get reactionary with every sensationalist claim made, it will not change what is being said, maybe there are people who do need to answer for a lot and there are other dots that need to be joined up - in the end, with all the keen interest and theatre of the macabre that this presents, it is incumbent on the prosecution to determine without doubt who the murderer is, who the accomplices are, who the conspirators are and who benefited from that sordid and sad part of Nigerian history.

It is a fat brief and the prosecution had better be up to the task or justice will be served but there will be no justice for all concerned.

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