One of the Greatest weapons in the Arsenal of the modern day journalist is sensationalism.
Juicy! Scandalous! Controversial! headlines, garner more readership than good ol’ journalism ever will. So it didn’t come as a shock when the first headline on last night’s network news was ‘Olisa Metuh Slumps’.
A cursory look at the profile of Olisa Metuh is enough to convince even a child that once upon a time, Metuh was a powerful man. A man of timbre and calibre. One of those who were strategically embedded into the political wheel of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A legal practitioner par excellence and former publicity secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the story of Metuh’s fall from favour is indeed one that no Nigerian including Metuh himself could have predicted.
In January 5, 2016, Olisa Metuh was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, regarding allegations involving some funds (Arms Deal) said to have been traced to his firm, to the tune of $2 Million andN400 million . And a matter which was initially predicted to be one that will be ruled by the Nigerian factor, where all legal matters involving the political class are conveniently swept under the carpet, has shockingly blossomed into a Two (2) year legal tussle that shows no sign of slowing down without dragging Metuh down for good.
While some are happy that justice is finally being meted out to a prominent member of the political class, another school of thought is convinced that Metuh’s constant meddlesomeness with the toes of the powers that be and his penchant for making bold, boisterous and unguarded statements, earned him his current status as a scape goat of the powers that be. And as they say, those that live in glass houses, should not throw stones.
Be that as it may, images of Metuh slumped on the floor of the court and him being wheeled out of the court room on a stretcher, during his hearing, has made its rounds on the internet and garnered a lot of media brouhaha.
Prior to yesterday, Metuh made a dramatic court appearance on a stretcher on February 5, 2018, after Justice Abang ordered that he show up in court or have his bail revoked. During another court hearing on March 14, 2018, when he appeared on a wheelchair, one of his counsels, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), presented a letter from one Dr. Adrian T.H. Kasey, a neurosurgeon at Wellington Hospital in London, who said Metuh needs to be treated urgently. In his last application, Etiaba, said Metuh had lost sensation in his legs.
Metuh’s story is a direct allusion to Aesop’s Fable ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’. The tale concerns a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking wolves are attacking his flock. When a wolf actually does appear and the boy again calls for help, the villagers believe that it is another false alarm and the sheep are eaten by the wolf.
In the case of Metuh, his personal track record and the track record of Nigerian politicians as regards the status of their health once they face corruption charges is making it increasingly difficult to sympathise with him.
His collapse is reminiscent of the theatrics that tend to accompany the trial of prominent Nigerian politicians including:
Diezani Alison-Madueke – who miraculously got struck by the cancer gods shortly after facing allegations of corruption. Get well soon Ma. In other news, where is Diezani?
Then there was the famous Dino Melaye episode- which saw Dino’s health suddenly deteriorate following corruption allegations.
Then there is Sambo Dasuki – whose trial was stalled on multiple occassions, on grounds of ill health.
Then there is Femi Fani-Kayode – whose heart related ailment suddenly became a matter of public knowledge in January 2018, following allegations of fraud.
And the list goes on! Are you observing a pattern here?
If they don’t arrive in a wheel chair, they arrive on a stretcher or arrive the court premises aptly armed with doctor’s reports citing life threatening health conditions.
The problem with these recurring events is that it makes it difficult to actually identify the accused persons with actual health challenges, and those simply trying to make a mockery of the judiciary with baseless fables.
So what is the judiciary to do?
Strictly guard the floodgates or run the risk of leaving the floodgates open to unscrupulous accused persons? Grant any accused Nigerian politician who presents a poor bill of health an immediate adjournment and clearance to go seek medical attention abroad? At what point do we draw the line?
How do we ensure the authenticity of a medical report presented before the court? Since it is quite clear that any person of means can produce a medical report citing any health challenge of his choice- if in doubt, ask any youth corp member seeking redeployment how far.
This then begs the question, Is the trial of regular Nigerians easily stalled due to ill health? Or is the ground of ill health only readily available to the political class?
Only time will tell where Olisa Metuh’s fate will lie. May Justice Prevail.