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Edo 2020: Zibiri Recants, Apologises to Hosa Okunbo Over Libel

One Marvelous Muhizu Zibiri, a youth leader in Edo State, has recanted his libelous allegation of drug peddling made earlier this month on social media against multi-billionaire business mogul, Idahosa Wells Okunbo, popularly called Captain Hosa. Zibiri had in a politically motivated publication titled “The Big Revelation And How A Drug Baron Is Funding The Political Crises In Edo State” which went viral on social media, accused the prominent Edo son of dabbling into the politics of the state by sponsoring a particular governorship aspirant.

But on Tuesday June 23, 2020, a remorseful Zibiri recanted and profusely tendered an unreserved apology to Okunbo, with an undertaking not to engage in such devious act again. He also agreed to publish his apology and retraction of the libelous and damaging publication in major national newspapers and on social media. When he was paraded by the police in Abuja on Thursday, Zibiri said “This is to inform the general public that the earlier publication on the above subject is hugely regretted and hereby give notice that it was a publication made out of oversight, baseless, and not grounded on provable facts. To that extent, I hereby withdraw the publication in all sincerity and urge all to kindly disregard the content therein as being false without verifiable facts. I greatly regret any inconveniences the false content of the publication may have caused to our father and highly respected brother, Capt. Idahosa Wells Okunbo and his family. Capt Idahosa has greatly distinguished himself worthy of our recognition and respect. I therefore use this medium to urge him to kindly forgive me as a son”.

Following Zibiri’s apology, Okunbo decided to forgive him and not press charges on the condition that he kept to his undertakings as expressed through his lawyer’s letter, and reiterated in the response letter by Cyril Atano his (Okunbo) lawyer.

Recall that following Zibiri’s damaging publication, Okunbo had on June 3, 2020, petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to complain about what he described as “malicious, vicious and injurious” conduct of Zibiri and asked the IG “to put a stop to the ongoing criminal falsehood and conduct of Mr. Marvelous Muhizu Zibiri and his cohorts, while we seek other legal remedies for this very dastardly act”. The petition led to the arrest of Zibiri after days of playing hide-and-seek with the police. On interrogation, Zibiri, TELL gathered, could not substantiate his allegation as contained in his write-up.

Having apparently shot himself in the foot, Zibiri decided to look for ways of wriggling out of the case by making peace overtures to Okunbo. On June 20, Jimba Chambers, his solicitors, wrote to Okunbo, pleading for patience and understanding. In the letter signed by one Alhaji Yakubu Jimba, the solicitors wrote: “Our client is willing, ready and able to put up and publish a written withdrawal of alleged defamatory publication without prejudice. To this extent, we shall be grateful if you kindly decline to press charges. Our client further undertakes that upon regaining freedom, he shall publish a written apology to you forthwith.”

In his response in a letter dated June 21, Okunbo, through his lawyer, C.E Atano and Co, noted that “Our client has been and is greatly hurt and embarrassed by your client’s conduct and actions. His slanderous publications not only dented his image, but also caused great damage to his reputation and business for which he is justifiably angry and had initiated legal actions to seek redress. Our client is an elder statesman, who has worked so hard to build his image and Business Empire over the years, and his people, especially, the youths look up to him as a role model and beacon of hope in Edo State and the country in general. He is particularly interested in developing the youths and encouraging them to pursue their dreams for which he has greatly invested in Edo State.

“Suffice it to say that your client caused serious damage, but based on his apologies and undertakings as stated in your letter, our client, out of magnanimity and as an elder statesman, may, without prejudice, decide to forgive ‘IF’ and when your client is able to make wide and copious publications and a handwritten apology as stated in your letter. Our client believes he was misled and ill-advised, and now that he is remorseful and repentant, our client may overlook his excesses, though the damage has been done.”

Okunbo was to follow up with another letter June 22, 2020 to the police, this time through the office of the Assistant Inspector general of Police to inform them of the new development which signaled an amicable resolution of the matter. In the letter, Okunbo’s solicitors stated that “Being an elder statesman and a person with good interest of the youths and people of Edo State, coupled with several pleas from his people, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo has decided to forgive and not press charges on the condition that Mr. Marvelous Muhizu keeps to his undertakings as expressed through his lawyer’s letter and reiterated in the response letter by Cyril Atano esq., lawyer to Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo.

“Though serious damage has been caused by Mr. Marvelous Muhizu’s acts and conduct, and though his undertakings, pleas and withdrawals may not adequately redress or compensate for the damage, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo, being a father figure to such youths, and out of his magnanimity, has decided to forgive and let go if the conditions aforesaid are met.” In two separate letters of apology and undertaking dated June 23, 2020, Zibiri said, “I further hereunder vow never to be involved in such publications affecting him (Captain Okunbo) in any manner. I hope Captain Idahosa will find a heart to forgive me and withdraw the petition against me in the FIB.” In his letter of undertaking, Zibiri stated also: “I wish to undertake that I shall make wide and copious publications in both Print and Social Media, recanting, withdrawing and disclaiming slanderous publications against Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo. I also wish to undertake that I will cease to, in any manner, defame or undermine Captain Idahosa in whatever guise. Failure to do so shall entail judicial action against me.”

Okunbo had sometime in May, distanced himself from the politics of the 2020 governorship, particularly the outcome of a botched APC shadow primary election to arrive at a consensus aspirant. One Sebastian Okungbowa had in a write-up accused him of supporting a particular aspirant, an allegation he denied, stating that he enjoyed personal relationships with each of the contenders, including the governor. In a statement he personally signed titled: ‘Edo 2020: Smear Campaign, Mudslinging And Character Assassination, Please Leave Me Alone’, Okunbo, who described the allegations as lies, denied the report that he had pledged to fund Ize-Iyamu’s campaign and that he had already introduced him to APC leaders.

He said: “It is, from all intents and purposes, infantile, silly and odious. It is the height of mischief and evil to drag a man who has been quietly minding his business into the political arena, which he has chosen to distance himself from”.

chairman, Ocean Marine Solutions
Idahosa Wells Okunbo chairman, Ocean Marine Solutions
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