Diezani Allison Madueke, Nigeria’s former petroleum minister is alleged to have committed a number of offences. While there are no criminal charges yet, allegations are plastered all over the media.
I have deliberately refrained from commenting on Diezani’s case both privately and publicly simply because those who have questions to answer should do so. However, I don’t think it is fair to ascribe guilt to anyone based on mere conjectures and public perceptions of criminality, unsupported by water-tight evidence and without any concrete criminal charges brought against them. The sensational headlines and media trials have blurred the lines between the truth and falsehood, and the damage this causes is often too difficult to repair.
For instance, Femi Fani-Kayode is someone I had thought would go to jail after all the media hounding and pronouncement of guilt. In fact, had he been discharged and acquitted under Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, I would have smelt a rat. But things are not always as they seem. That is why Nigerians should make haste slowly in unleashing “guilty” verdicts on public officials based on baseless bandwagonist perceptions and group emotions.
I agree Nigerians want Alison-Madueke to be punished. This is not necessarily the right thing to do. What this does is to put pressure on judicial authorities and prosecutors to secure a guilty verdict by all means possible, even when there is evidence to the contrary. Because officials fear public opprobrium and would want to be seen to be on the side of the people, this may propel them to hurt innocent persons out of the desperation to please the populace. We need to draw these distinctions to help the government manage public expectations better.
Let there be proper investigations and credible prosecutions.
Let Alison-Madueke have her day in court. Enough of these media trials.
Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri is a graduate of the Harvard Law School. She is on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author.