Before shouting “We shall meet in Court!”, make sure you have integrity and character to proctect.
It started some months ago when I ran into an old time Colleague. He was looking furious and walking dangerously without having regards for the ground on which his terrifying and deafening steps were landing, even to the point of almost stepping on my humble self.
I quietly called his name to inquire what the furry was all about. With clinched fist of anger and bitterness, he took me through a missionary excursion on the story of how a certain individual, who is coincidentally my friend, allegedly defamed his character through a purported libellous publication that he was dangling menacingly before my very before even as he made frantic efforts to issue his supposed offender some imaginary copies of slap by hitting the innocent breeze of that blurred Monday morning.
After listening to his painful story, I requested to read the said libellous publication.
I took the excruciating pain to clinically scan through the epistle. Upon finishing the lengthy missile, I was startled beyond belief myself.
Out of curiosity, I demanded to know what transpired between both of them, he said nothing. I asked if he was actually culpable of those things that were said against him to which he answered in the negative. He told me that he was going to approach the Court to seek redress. I then disclosed to him that the author of the publication is my friend, I told him to stay action and promised to wade in and ensure amicable resolution of the dispute.
After leaving him, I reached out to the author, what I found out from him was even more appalling and startling than what was put on paper. The author showed me documentary evidence of this guy’s atrocious activities towards him, his establishments and that of many of his allies. I felt sick immediately. It was there and then it dawned on me that this same supposed Colleague once defrauded me in respect of over N4m brief we once handled together wherein I had to allow him go with the entire money because of his greed.
As a good friend, I was still magnanimous enough to put a call across to him to advise him against going to Court in order to preserve the little that is left of his integrity, if any. I disclosed to him in confidence that the documentary evidence his supposed offender has against him is even more damning than what was placed on paper. Rather than heeding my wise and sincere counsel, this guy went berserk and started raining venom on my person on phone and accusing me of supporting plans to destroy his ‘integrity and assassinate his character’. At that point, I had no choice than to be blunt with him. I reminded him how he once defrauded me. I told him point blank that he has no character and reputation to protect. I gave him a free tutorial on some very potent defences to a Claim of defamation. I reminded him that for a litigant to succeed in a Claim of defamation, he must also be able to show that he has a character and integrity to protect. He ended the call abruptly and we never got to talk or see till I stumbled on him in Court today!
Against all odds and my innocuous advice, my guy still went to Court! His case came up for hearing today in the same Court I had my matter. His case was called first, after giving evidence in chief, the opposing Counsel took the floor, a neatly dressed and smart looking Litigation Attorney!
He subjected my guy to the turbulent fire of cross-examination. He confronted him with his ignominious role in a certain dubious transaction, his Lawyer jumped up shouting “objection”, “objection” and “objection my Lord”.
The Hon. Judge calmly asked, “What are you objecting to Counsel?”
He replied, my Client cannot answer that question, it is designed to embarrass him.”
The Judge smiled incandescently at his funny objection and humorously said “Counsel, but your Client has dragged the Defendant here for allegedly denigrating his good character and reputation, the Defendant is also entitled to show that the Claimant has no good character if he has anything to aid him in that respect.”
That is how the objection was thrown into the dustbin of legal insignificance. Thereafter, barrage and litany of more damning questions followed, at a point, my guy was sweating profusely like something that was tied at the back of the house for Christmas celebration. He literally went deaf and dumb at some point, repeatedly asking for interpretation of simple questions.
When the missiles and damning revelations were becoming too much I felt pity for him, I could see the agony and sorrow that have come to make home in his heart, I had to scribble something on a paper and passed to his Lawyer, advising him to seek adjournment on health ground. He did and the Judge magnanimously obliged them, that was how I sat down quietly watching my guy as he walked out of the Witness box and the Courtroom with heavy and staggering steps. He didn’t walk dangerously and menacingly like he did the first day.
So when next you are compelled by personal ego or rants from friends to run to Court and sue those people ‘defaming your character’, please take your time, take a deep breath, then relax and ask yourself whether you really have the integrity and character deserving of judicial protection.
Emmanuel Ekeutomiye, Esq. is a Litigation Attorney, Human Rights Activist, Social Crusader for Good Governance, Poet and Political Analyst.