Important Lessons From IG Wala's Imprisonment



By Na-Allah Mohammed Zagga

Whether you are an activist, journalist or a social media blogger, you enjoy the same right as other fellow citizens. Journalists are particularly taught about the law of defamation because what we write can and may affect the reputations of others. In the eyes of the law, it's insignificant whether you know about defamation or not. After all, ignorance is no excuse in law.

Unfortunately, the advent of the social media has given almost every individual the platform to write whatever they like. But writing whatever you like is like walking through a minefield: you're courting danger. The fact that you are not aware libel law applies to you is immaterial in the eyes of the law. Treading cautiously is, therefore, important.

Although I have written sympathetically in support of IG Wala, my solidarity shouldn't be mistaken for endorsing recklessness. Whatever platform you're using to advocate for any cause or express opinions on any issue you should bear in mind that every right exists in relations to other rights. While exercising your freedom to express yourself and criticise individuals, government and other organizations, you should do so factually and sincerely.

What I have noticed however is that ego doesn't allow many people to admit their mistakes and avoid trouble. I have gathered that the Chairman of the Hajj Commission Abdullahi Mukhtar was ready for an out of court settlement after third party interventions. In fact, the repeated delays in giving judgement was part of the efforts to create a window for resolving the matter without complications. Unfortunately, Wala scored an own goal because of stubborn pride. But pride should  give way to humility when it is obvious you are wrong.

At the point Wala realised that he didn't have the facts to prove his allegations against Abdullahi Mukhtar, he should have opted for the out of court settlement by apologizing to the complainant. He never did so, apparently out of sheer obduracy to avoid losing face in the eyes of his fans. But I would rather admit my mistake to avoid trouble thank risk going to jail needlessly. It's better to disappoint your fans than to put yourself into unnecessary trouble.

Wala should have given a thought to his family who might be affected by his imprisonment. Admitting your mistake is not cowardice, it's wisdom. Wala's 11th hour efforts to embrace the wise advice he spurned  from the beginning didn't succeed. In fact, he was alleged to have annoyed even the Judge who was making efforts to avoid the severe sentence he eventually imposed on the activist.

I am, however, still convinced that there is a window of opportunity to help Wala out of this predicament. The chairman of the Hajj Commission should find a space in heart to forgive the activist before the case goes on appeal. Wala's close friends should prevail on him to put pride aside and face reality. Apologizing for your mistake is not the end of the world. It costs him nothing to apologize to the complainant.

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