Comparison between the trial of Nnamdi Kanu and trial of Sunday Igboho

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Yes, there are many differences between the two cases. But one thing they now have in common is the issue of due process and fair hearing.

When it comes to the general issue of fair hearing, the two cases have one area for easy comparison. And that is the quality of the lawyering. Even though the two men are still in detention, it is clear that Sunday Igboho stands in a very good legal position. And that is largely because of the superior quality of the lawyers he is using.

Igboho has experienced and disciplined lawyers. They have focused on the law and there are good atmospherics between them and the prosecuting authorities in Igboho’s case. You don’t have the bitter accusations and abuses and threats that we have seen in Nnamdi’s case. That has helped Igboho well. Even the Nigerian government are relenting in their pursuit of Igboho. The bitterness and personal animosity is much less in that case.

Good lawyers are trained professionals. They know how to push back the emotions and sentiments. They understand human nature. They know that in the end, it is all about the game of power. They know how to manage these emotions and focus on the hard core job. If you noticed well, the Igboho lawyers have been careful and disciplined in the manner they use the press in the case. They have carefully avoided attacking the courts or the government of Nigeria in the media.

But compared with the lawyers in Nnamdi Kanu’s case, what you have are rabble rousers, who think that being popular in the media and social media is how to help their clients. This is why you need a well established lawyer who does not have much need to prove himself to lead the team. Ejiofor was a local chap, with little experience before Nnamdi’s case. You cannot point at any major case Ejiofor handled before Nnamdi’s case. Indeed, ironically, the only reason Nnamdi chose Ejiofor and used him for as long as he used him was because more disciplined lawyers would not stand Nnamdi’s tendency to want to run the show himself.

A good lawyer does not allow his client to dictate to him. The first thing a good lawyer does is to make sure he has control over the client. I will never forget the day General Abdulsalami met me in Minna and asked me officially to handle his case in the US. I said to him: “Sir, I have a problem with representing you”. He asked me what problem. I said: “I like to maintain control over my client as far as the case goes. I want my client to listen to me and follow my advice. But I have never represented a former head of state before. You are a powerful man. Will you be able to follow my advice and do as I tell you in matters relating to the case?” General Abubakar looked at me and laughed. Then he said: “Yes, Emeka. I will follow your advice”. And he did till the end.

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Nnamdi Kanu is a man filled with so much self-righteousness. He believes he is right. He believes he is on a God-given mission. He believes he is receiving message from Elohim. He believes he is many things – a prophet of God, a Supreme Commander, Ohamadike, a king, etc. When you deal with a man with such confusion about his identity and relevance, it is hard to be his lawyer. According to those who witnessed it, when Nnamdi was in Kuje prison and Ejiofor was representing him, he would summon Ejiofor and would be rebuking him and Ejiofor would be shaking.

Even though in the little encounter I had with Nnamdi, the experience was different. He treated me with respect. And I was able to tell him my mind and he listened and showed interest, I specifically warned him that he had unleashed a great force that he would not be able to control. He was quite fascinated about it. His eyes lit up. But it was more in appreciation of what I mentioned than out of consideration for its implications. It was clear to me that it would be a hell of a task to manage and control him as a client. So, I was not looking forward to being his lawyer for a long time. I got along well with his brother. He was actually more in touch with me then because Nnamdi was in prison.

The bottomline is that Nnamdi needs a lawyer that does not antagonize the court. Ejiofor has antagonized everybody in the decision chain. He has antagonized all the people he needs their favorable discretion to make any progress. He is not experienced and he is not very bright. He has complex. You can see that in his mind-boggling emphasis on his status as “Lead Counsel”. This is not a term common in Nigerian legal practice because leadership is automatically determined by seniority in Nigeria. The most senior counsel is automatically the lead counsel. There is no need to keep drumming that he is the lead counsel. That is sign of a complex.

Also, because Ejiofor knows he is not solidly grounded and he is afraid that Aloy Ejimakor would overshadow him, he has been the one insisting on the use of Bruce Fein. Bruce Fein is actually there to diminish the role of Ejimakor, as the lawyer more familiar with the international law dimension to their case. He knows that left between him and Ejimakor, Ejimakor will be preferred to deal with the international law aspects of the case, which are important to address the issues of rendition. To make sure that Ejmakor does not outshine him, Ejiofor hangs onto Bruce Fein. But Fein has his many limitations. He cannot address Nigerian court. All what has happened was that Fein was paid to travel from Washington just to address Nigerian press and bloggers.

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As you all know now, Nnamdi Kanu’s case is doing worse than badly in the court. His case is worse today than on 27th of June or July when he was brought to court after his capture. In June/July, there was hope that some argument could be made on his behalf and there might be a clear pathway to justice for him. But today, everything is in limbo. Nobody is sure when next Nnamdi will appear in court and what will happen. And all this is due to the poor quality of lawyering in his case.

Whatever Ohaneze does for Nnamdi must depend on the progress he makes in court. If he is doing so hopelessly bad in court, Ohaneze will not have much they can do. Soom, the government will find a solution to the seat-at-home and the unknown gunmen in the East, and Nnamdi’s case will recede to the back burners in terms of importance. Also, IPOB’s ability to raise funds will gradually drop as the politicians do not need them much. And without money, Nnamdi cannot afford to bring Bruce Fein in and out of Nigeria as he pleases.

Now that there is still time, Nnamdi and his brothers should close ranks and get a good team of lawyers who will change the game. First thing is for the new lawyers to have a meeting with the Attorney General of Nigeria to confirm that there will be no more charges coming or to know what those charges are. I believe that the Federal Government has not yet filed the charges that would reflect the list of allegations the Attorney General recently made against Kanu in his last press briefing. So, the 7 amended charges were horridly filed just to stall bail, but they are not the intended charges.

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The Government is still preparing their main charges, which they will file separately and probably end up in another court. Those are the charges to fear, not the amended charges. And this is where Ejiofor shows an extraordinary level of incompetence. He was in the press bragging that the amended charges were weak. True, they were weak, but they are not the charges to fear. Why taunt the prosecutor who still has the power to modify his charges and make them stronger? By taunting him, are you not challenging him to go and improve on the charges to file? It was clear evidence that Ejiofor is incompetent and cannot handle a case of this magnitude.

That is a major difference in the two cases. Igboho has a good team of lawyers, while Nnamdi Kanu has rabble rousers and attention seekers as lawyer.

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By Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire

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