Thanks to voyeuristic press, so many nasty and incredible stories have been told about the circumstances in which the late military General Sani Abacha died suddenly on June 8, 1998. We have been told he died in the arms of Indian hookers brought into Nigeria for his alleged comfort. Some of the accounts are so wicked to bear a repetition here. The nasty things the media published about Abacha was something no reason person could have written or said about a worst enemy.
However, the recent revelation by Abacha’s personal physician, Dr. Wali, has exposed the falsity, mischief and deliberate falsehoods Published against Abacha when he died. According to Dr. Wali (now a professor of Medicine), the presence of alleged Indian girls in Abacha’s so-called guest house was the figment of the imagination of the authors of those who wrote the malicious stories against Abacha’s memory.
Professor Wali, who was breaking his silence 17 year after Abacha’s death, said he was not aware of such women or met any when he attended to Abacha in an effort to resuscitate the General who gave up apparently from a heart attack. He said he was taken to the Villa to answer emergency call and didn’t know anything about the alleged women and their arrest for a so-called foul play in Abacha’s dead.
The professor of Medicine explained that he was with Abacha at the Abuja International Airport to see off the Palestinian leader, the late Yassar Arafat. According to him, Abacha didn’t show any sign of sickness, despite the fact that he was having some health issues. He therefore, expressed surprise that an apparently healthy person could be in such serious state. He said his efforts with other doctors to revive Abacha failed to produce results, and they eventually pronounced him dead.
Professor Wali’s account is an indictment of the sensational press. Just because you hated Abacha, it was not right to write all sorts of rubbish and lies against him because he was dead. As confirmed by Wali, he met Abacha in the Villa, and not any so-called guest house where Abacha was allegedly spending time with Indian girls.
The Press should not take advantage of free speech to write malicious lies against a man because he was dead. No less important, taking advantage of your readers’ gullibility to sell trash is an abuse of free speech. Worse still, writing lies against a dead man is a reflection of callous insensitivity to the memory of deceased and a demonstration of cruel indifference to the grief of his family members.
Admittedly, the society needs the Press to be informed and entertained, but that doesn’t give the Journalists the right to abuse their freedom by vilifying the memory of the dead. It is irresponsible for Journalists to elevate rumours and glorify falsehoods in order to sell their papers. Members of the Press should know that their rights end where the rights of others begin.
Reading through Professor Wali’s interview, I was outraged that any right thinking person would sit down and write malicious falsehoods against a dead man in total disregard for the feelings of his family. If you are given freedom, you must behave in a responsible manner to show that you deserve such freedom.
However, the moment the Press abuse their freedom, they could ultimately lose public support and no professional body can expect to be relevant respected when it abuses its freedom by assaulting the rights of others. Of course, a free Press is essential to a democratic society. However, the press must recognise that their freedom is bound up with the freedoms of others. The constitution and the law protect everyone, and members of the Press should not arbitrarily breach public trust by publishing malicious falsehoods against the dead.
Bakori writes from No. 37 Lagos Street, Garki 2, Abuja


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