Lessons For Nigeria From The Aregbesola Experience In An American Restaurant

An unidentified American citizen, apparently of Nigerian Yoruba ancestry, spotted the Nigerian Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, in a restaurant in America, personally carrying a plate of food and began recording, as now seen in a trending video.

As Aregbesola openly walked back to his seat with his food, where his female partner was patiently seated and waiting for him, suddenly the Nigerian-born American, in a targeted manner, greeted the Minister and the former governor of Osun State, then brought out his phone and began recording the Minister inside the restaurant. Sometimes I wonder about technology; it is good and bad oo!

Nobody wants to be bothered while trying to eat by an impolite person, so Oga, the big man, or the esteemed Nigerian minister, was right to be irritated.

However, Nigeria, like all emerging democracies in Africa, should realize that as long as a person in a developed civilization or society is in a restaurant, which is a public place, the expectation of privacy is gone! Legally and publicly, I say gone.

The Minister would be right to say, as he rightly said to the irritating visitor, “You can’t record me, I have a right to my privacy.” Well, if he was in his private home or even in the restaurant’s latrine, such a recording would be seen as immoral and illegal, since in a toilet or private home there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy.

What needs to be learnt here, especially in Nigeria and other developing African democracies, is that in a public space like a restaurant, where more and more closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance systems are erected 24 hours a day, the recording of all people and things takes place. That is why the Nigerian American man said it openly and boldly. “You can’t touch me, this is America. This is not Nigeria. This is a free country; you can’t just take my phone.” “You can’t tell me that; if I want to record Biden (referring to Joe, the American President), Biden can’t tell me that. If you touch me, I will sue you; I’m an American.”

The Minister should be commended for quickly realizing he was not in Nigeria, where the horrific reign of impunity and leadership abuse continues, as he helplessly obeyed the free man, despite his words, “You can’t record me, I have a right to my privacy,” while attempting to stop the man from recording him with his with his pointed left hand.

But the fellow Yoruba speaking man with American citizenship reminded and warned the Minister, “You can’t touch me, this is America. This is not Nigeria. This is a free country; you can’t just take my phone.” “If you touch me, I will sue you; I’m an American.”

He went further to remind the able minister in the Yoruba dialect, as I was told since I do not speak Yoruba (I am an Ishan by origin) that he is not in Nigeria ” where such nonsense is done”

On psychological and authoritative grounds, the Minister of Interior, whose ministry controls the currently boiling Nigerian prisons and one of Nigeria’s law enforcement agencies, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), apparently reflected to Nigeria, internally saying to himself, ‘this man is lucky that he is not in Nigeria where such a trap could have led to his deadliest beatings from my bodyguards and possible indefinite detention.

To the world’s astonishment, the man would have found out that following such horrifying and brutish brutality by the Minister’s bodyguards, some in Nigeria would, by way of public sympathy, be on the side of the Minister.

While this entire experience may sound uncomfortable or irritating, the Minister of Interior Nigeria should now learn that video’s power as a human rights tool rests upon its ability to serve freedom. Nigerian policymakers, law enforcement and security systems, and legislatures, as well as the media, should work towards the realization that video recording in public places is seemingly protected speech.

For the Nigerian public, it is important to understand that the process of imparting and exchanging information through multiple audio and video recording tools including smart phones, enables them to serve the public interest without compromising the rights of anyone, especially in public places.

At a time when the incumbent governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC), had been defeated by long-term American resident Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples. Democratic Party (PDP), the Minister and a former Osun state governor, was on his travel and dining itinerary in the United States.

The minister and his female partner were just trying to enjoy a meal in a restaurant. Inadvertently, Nigerians should thank the uncomfortable Americana who played a crucial role in informing citizens about the whereabouts of one of their ministers and informed the Nigerian citizens of a core element of any democracy—freedom of information.

John Egbeazien Oshodi, who was born in Uromi, Edo State in Nigeria to a father who served in the Nigeria police for 37 years, is an American based Police/Prison Scientist and Forensic/Clinical/Legal Psychologist. A government consultant on matters of forensic-clinical adult and child psychological services in the USA; Chief Educator and Clinician at the Transatlantic Enrichment and Refresher Institute, an Online Lifelong Center for Personal, Professional, and Career Development. He is a former Interim Associate Dean/Assistant Professor at Broward College, Florida. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African Settings In 2011, he introduced State-of-the-Art Forensic Psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C and Nasarawa State University, where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor. He is currently a Virtual Behavioral Leadership Professor at ISCOM University, Republic of Benin. Founder of the proposed Transatlantic Egbeazien Open University (TEU) of Values and Ethics, a digital project of Truth, Ethics, and Openness. Over forty academic publications and creations, at least 200 public opinion pieces on African issues, and various books have been written by him. He specializes in psycho-prescriptive writings regarding African institutional and governance issues.

Prof. Oshodi wrote in via info@teuopen.university

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