Judge threatens to punish Obasanjo for releasing book

Olusegun ObasanjoA judge has threatened to punish former President Olusegun Obasanjo for flouting an order not to publish his latest memoirs.

The three-volume autobiography, entitled “My Watch”, contains damning criticism of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, his administration and other senior political figures.

Judge Valentine Ashi, sitting at Federal Capital Territory High Court on Wednesday, said that Obasanjo had flouted a court order not to publish the book until a legal challenge to its contents had been heard.

“As long as the substantive suit is not yet determined, no party is entitled to publish or comment on material facts that are yet to be decided by the court,” the judge said.

“I hold the defendant (Obasanjo) not only in contempt of court but to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt and ordered to undo what he has wrongly done.”

The judge gave Obasanjo and his lawyers 21 days to file an appeal and ruled that the book should be withdrawn from sale in the meantime.

Obasanjo’s lawyer, Realwon Okpanach, said his client would appeal, but argued that the original case brought before the court was only submitted this month when the book came out in November.

Obasanjo was military ruler from 1976 to 1979 and Nigeria’s first president when democracy returned to the country in 1999.

His strongly worded criticisms of Jonathan have been seen as a signal that he no longer supports the president, whom he backed for the top job after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2010.

Extracts from the book have already appeared in newspapers. In them, he praises Muhammadu Buhari, another ex-military ruler, who is challenging Jonathan at next year’s elections.