At the resumed hearing of Mr. Nyesom Wike, Governor of River State, yesterday, THISDAY Newspaper opened their defense against the N7billion libel suit instituted against the highly influential media house, by insisting through video evidence of Wike’s unreliability.
In the video, the Peoples Democratic Party presidential aspirant was seen praising Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, and Mr. Godwin Obaseki and later turned around to attack them the next Day.
THISDAY also insisted that publishing Wike’s character flaws was done in public interest.
At the resumed hearing, the defense witness, Mr. Jude Igbanoi, presented more video evidences to show the unreliability of the state governor.
The video further showed that the newspaper’s publication of June 23, 2020, with caption: “With a Friend Like Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost,” was not libelous. Igbanoi also rejected the assertion by the complainant’s counsel that the publication was reckless, insisting that the publication was fair comment on a matter of public interest.
The court watched video of Wike as the Director General of Godwin Obaseki Campaign Organisation campaigning for Obaseki’s re-election and saying good things about Obaseki only to turn round a few years later to be attacking his character. The court also watched video clips of Wike as the Director General of Rotimi Amaechi’s campaign organisation, where he was praising the former governor of Rivers State to high heaven only for him to change and started attacking him which THISDAY argued buttresses his (Wike’s) unreliability.
During the cross examination, the witness, Igbanoi, argued that the publication by THISDAY did not make Wike’s political associates and friends to shun or abandon him. The publication did affect his relationships and did not make him lose any privilege or opportunities that would have come his way. He was appointed Director General of Obaseki Campaign Organisation despite the publication an indication that the publication clearly did not injure his public perception.
The court at the end of the cross examination of the first witness for the defendant adjourned till May 20, to begin cross examination of the second witness.
Speaking with THISDAY outside the courtroom, the defense counsel, Tuduru Edeh, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, explained that: “The sitting yesterday concentrated on playing exhibit F and L, which were videos namely where Wike was campaigning for Amaechi as his campaign director for his governorship election and he praised Amaechi to high heavens.
“It was played to demonstrate that, that was the position he had, but it is a different story today having fallen out with Amaechi.
“The first video was to show that even though the man claimed libels but going through the videos you see a man who was made Director General of Obaseki’s campaign.”
Edeh added that: “The witness emphasised that he (Wike) was not shunned, political associates did not abandon him as a result of the publication he is complaining about.
“The matter was adjourned till May 20 for continuation of hearing, for us to bring our second witness.”
Justice Adolphus Enebeli of the Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, adjourned till May 20, 2022 to continue hearing on the suit.
At the resumed hearing on the matter, the lead counsel to Wike, Emmanuel Ukala, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, put to the witness for the defendant that the publication made by THISDAY was reckless and could negatively affect the image of the claimant.
Last month, the Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had also watched video clips tendered by THISDAY. Then, in the video clips presented by Igbanoi and played in the courtroom, he had in a heated argument informed the court that Wike’s various public statements opened his character and integrity to public scrutiny and fair comments. He had argued 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.
The governor had filed a N7 billion suit against THISDAY and three of its staff, claiming that the newspaper publication of June 23, 2020, with caption:”With a Friend Like Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost,” was intended to damage his character.
The governor had claimed during his appearance in court that the publication portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person.
Wike had 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.