Faculty Publications

The Pen Is Mightier Than The “Koboko”: A Critical Analysis Of The Amakiri Case In Nigeria

Document Type



Amakiri, Arbitrary government action, Koboko, Nigeria, Nigerian Observer

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Political Communication





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This paper is an analysis of public reactions to the Amakiri incident, a 1973 show of authoritarian power during which military authorities in Nigeria arbitrarily picked up journalist Minere Amakiri from his lunch table, shaved his head and beard, dealt him 24 strokes of the “koboko” whip across the bare back, and imprisoned him for 27 hours in an unused restroom in the Government House. The result of the study shows that the public—including the press, other professional associations and organizations, students, and the common person—vehemently condemned the government action. The paper's main conclusions are the following: First, press and public opposition of the government action partially accounts for why such an action has never again been taken by the state against a journalist in Nigeria. Second, public opposition of unpopular government policies and actions against the press is one of the bulwarks for freedom of expression in Nigeria and can ensure freedom of the press even more than can constitutional provisions. This is because constitutional provisions can be suspended or modified whenever the armed forces seize power from an elected government. Furthermore, the Nigerian dominant class, which drafts the federal constitutions, has never drafted one that will give great impetus to press freedom for the fear that corruption, embezzlement, graft, and other vices inherent within the dominant class would more readily be unearthed by a truly free press. Finally, a courageous and assertive (independent) judiciary, as seen in the Amakiri case, can help bring an end to arbitrary state actions that violate press freedom and other fundamental human rights. © 1991 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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