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SHEKARAU: AS COURT HAMMERS BUSINESS EYE, DESERT HERALD APOLOGISES

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Good name, they say, is better than riches, and according to another popular saying, "all days are for thief but one day is for the owner. Every thing of this world is based on time. There is time to work, to play, to sleep and to die. Likewise, there is time to defame, to make money (by hook and crook) and time to pay back. The day was 11th October 2010, a High Court sitting in Kano awarded Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, Sardauna of Kano the sum of N1 billion as damages in a defamation suit he filed against a Lagos – based magazine, Business Eye. Sensing that the day of reckoning and retribution has come, another notorious defamer, the Desert Herald that has taken defamation and blackmail as hobby, quickly atoned for her culpable sin by tendering public apology in her edition of Vol. 1, No. 78, 12th – 19th September 2010. This apology is not done out of coincidence but for fear of walking in the path of the Business Eye. It all started in December 2008 when the embattled Business Eye, acting on self-delusion published unfounded, damaging and libelous publication against the humble governor of the most populous state, Malam (Dr) Ibrahim Shekarau, Sardauna Kano. According to the publication, it alleged that the governor had eight foreign accounts through which he corruptly enriched himself by engaging in money laundering and inflation of contracts. The magazine further alleged that the governor had bank account at the National Commercial Bank, Saudi Arabia, several houses in choice places in France by the name Ibrahim A. Shekarau. But when confronted for confirmation, the said bank in Saudi Arabia said it did not have any customer by that name. The Business Eye had also alleged that Malam Shekarau had another bank account in Egypt by the name National Commercial Bank in the country. Delivering the judgment, Justice Tani Yusuf Hassan noted that for two years the defendants have failed to provide evidence to support their claims and tried to frustrate the case by incessant requests for adjournments and absence from court. The Judge stated that the court had received evidence in the form of letters and authorities in the eight countries in which the magazine alleged that the governor had accounts in foreign banks, adding that it was established that the banks are either non-existent or the accounts/account numbers are fictitious. So, the evidence before the court was "not challenged by the defendants despite being given all the opportunity to present their case before the court", the Judge maintained. Justice Tani therefore ordered the defendants to immediately retract the publication and awarded N300million as compensation to the governor for the libelous publication in addition to N700 Million as punitive or exemplary damage for the callous and unrepentant assault on his character, pride and dignity. The court, in addition to the award of N50, 000- as the cost of litigation, also ordered the defendants to write a public apology to the plaintiff on the Business Eye's website, Economy International Magazine, the Guardian and This Day newspapers. It also restrained the defendants, their servants or privy from further use of the same or similar libelous words against the plaintiff. See front page of Daily Triumph of October 12, 2010. This is the end of the road for recalcitrant and mushroom publishers who think that they can publish fake items and go scot free. All these would have been avoided if our modern day journalists and publishers adhere strictly to the good ethic of journalism profession. As a result of avarice and desire to malign the good name of people for no just cause, our reporters and publishers often resort to publication of unfounded rumour and blackmail for peanut and self serving goals. Perhaps, it is now a matter of second thought and had we known for the Business Eye. This landmark judgment has proven to doubting Thomases that no matter the interest involved, it is always good for one to cross check one's fact before disseminating same to the public. It is not proper that we destroy somebody's name just because we do not like such person. Religiously, we are enjoined to be fair to our enemy and do unto others as we would like others to do unto us. Leave that which you are in doubt and do that which you are not in doubt should be the guiding principle. Why must we say something, which we know is not correct? This is why the publishers of Business Eye had to face the music of their hand work. It is also now clear that the grain has been shifted from the chaff. The truth is that there is the need for all those who have been making fictitious and arrogant publications against Shekarau in particular and others in general to retrace their steps if their type of journalism must have meaning to the public. It is not always correct that the only way a newspaper can make market is to go sensational, publishing fictions and unfounded story instead of fact that the people require. If a newspaper is known of its accuracy of fact, it will be liked and patronized. If one does not have the time to ascertain fact before going to the press, where shall one get the time to devote to court case should one be charged to court for defamation? This is why we must be extremely careful to have control over the information we disseminate because it is always a difficult thing if we allow our information to control us. Freedom of expression does not mean that we should fabricate issue and present it as fact. This is what the modern communicators; especially those hungry for money do not want to understand. It is not easy to be good in our modern day society. Those who want to be good citizens should be ready to be maligned and disparaged, and this is mainly why we have more number of bad people than the good ones. This, however, does not mean that we should not be good citizens because, no man plants maize to harvest yam. It is what we sow that we reap. The Business Eye magazine planted seed of discord, ill-feeling, lies and destruction some two years ago but today, the repercussion of its bad deeds has been put to test and made to pay dearly for it. And even if the paper appeals, the truth is that it will only be postponing the evil day because the truth has clearly come out and it is not easy to be carpeted. It shouldn't be business as usual all the time. As the publishers of Business Eye mourns their 'death' over the catastrophe that greeted their careless sinful publication, based on the outcome of their defamation against the honourable Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, the publishers of notorious Desert Herald quickly apologized for the false publication they carried in its edition of its 5th -12th October, 2010 alluding that a certain building situated at BUK road belongs to one of the Shekarau's wives. In addition to the fact that the publishers of this junk newspaper knew that they were just telling lies to sell their nauseating paper, the true owner of the building was able to get to their neck for them to retract the fake story or get the boot in their mouth as the court did to Business Eye. The Desert Herald quickly put a kind of mutilated apology against its false publication. Look at this. "Our attention has been drawn to an unintended mix-up in the above story published in our edition of last week, where 'Yallabo Super Store, located along Bayero University road, Kano was erroneously presented as belonging to the wife of Governor Shekarau, Hajiya Halima. This is a mix up from our part and we regret any inconveniences caused to the real and genuine owners of the said business. Signed: Management." The irony of this statement from the so called Management of the Desert Herald is that in its false publication, it boasted to the readers that it was sure of its story and promised that more facts would be published in its next edition. The fact of the matter in its next edition is the above apology it tendered. In any case, what did they mean by mix up? Mix up implies that certain thing was meant for what was actually done. So, what did they intend to publish that they mistakenly published something else? How can there be a mix up in a full page publication with picture to match? In its first story, the Desert Herald did not mention one of Shekarau's wives that purportedly owns the false property attributed to her. It said it belongs to one of the governor's wives. But how come that Hajiya Halima is now mentioned in Desert Herald's corrigendum? This is why it is not good to tell lies because a liar like Desert Herald needs another lies to cover its lie. This is what I have always been saying in my constant responses to every false publication against Shekarau by the now seemingly repentant Desert Herald and its fellow travelers. I thank God that I have now been vindicated. Alhamdulillah! Consequently, certain Jaafar Jaafar of No. 319 Warshu Hospital Road Kawaji, Kano should also know that his serial lies he posted in the Sahara Reporters website under the heading of "How Shekarau Operates His Foreign Bank Accounts" is useless and of no effect and therefore, must be thrown to the dogs, following the defamation judgment against his principal, Business Eye in favour of Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. Like I succinctly stated in my rejoinder to the said publication (See Daily Triumph of September 17, 2008, p.20; Weekly Trust of September 20, 2008, p43; New Nigerian Newspaper of November 20, 2008 and Daily Triumph of November 21, 2008), those assertions of Jaafar Jaafar are nothing but figment of his imagination and they have remained so. I am indeed happy that the truth has once again triumphed over the falsehood. Finally I wish to congratulate His Excellency, Malam (Dr) Ibrahim Shekarau for the landmark judgment over the defamation of his character by the Business Eye. Now that the truth has come out, I wish to caution other media owners to be wary of reporters that would always like to drag their names into the mud by presenting fiction as fact to them. They should know the serious implication on their papers if taken to court to prove such insinuations and blatant lies. Their reporters would nave done that for a peanut but the management of the paper may end up paying through their noses as in the case of the Business Eye. May the truth continue to rise over falsehood, amen Saka Raji Audu writes from Kano and can be reached on his email: [email protected]

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