In the last few weeks, there has been an unfolding saga that demonstrates just how warped the Nigerian state has become.
As the story goes, a trader named Joe Chinakwe resident in Ogun state was arrested on the 14th of August for naming his pet dog Buhari, following complaints by one Halilu Umar, said to be from Niger republic who resides in the same area.
The man had complained that since his father also bears Buhari, giving a dog the same name was offensive to him.
It was also alleged that the name had been inscribed on both sides of the dog.
Though this was never proven, it has become part of the popular narrative.
The police on their own part initially claimed Chinakwe was only arrested out of a need to provide him protective custody in the face of threats to his life by Umar and other Northerners in the area.
Strangely, the police deemed it unnecessary to arrest those who issued threats to kill another subject merely for exercising his fundamental rights to naming his dog.
The weird saga continued as Chinakwe was released then re-arrested ostensibly on orders from above and then charged to court on a one-count charge of intention to cause public breach of peace and thereafter granted bail.
His bail condition was put at N50, 000.
Unable to raise the sum, he languished in jail for a few more days before a human rights lawyer Inibehe Effiong reportedly raised N90, 000 and effected his bail.
Since his release, Chinakwe has in several interviews explained that he named his pet dog Buhari because of his admiration for the president whom he considers his hero.
He went further to say that he has a habit of naming his dogs after great men.
Of the four dogs he has owned, one is named after him while the others were named after Obama and Nelson Mandela respectively.
Even on the basis of common sense, there is no reason to dispute what the man has said. Dogs are pets and those who own dogs usually do so out of love.
There has been no dispute that the man owns several dogs which confirms that he does love dogs.
Historically and perhaps as popular culture dogs bear human names.
I do not know anyone who would give the name of a person he hates to a pet dog he loves. It’s usually the reverse.
You name your dog after someone you admire. I would never imagine any Jew naming his dog Hitler for obvious reasons.
This is simple common sense. Around the world dogs are the most popular pets for reasons of its unalloyed loyalty.
In some countries dogs are treated better than human beings. Indeed dogs in Western countries have a better standard of living than most Nigerians.
While it has been alleged without proof that Buhari was inscribed on the dog, I don’t see how that makes any difference or breaks any law.
Calling the dog Buhari or wearing it a name tag hardly differentiates from the other.
Would it have made any difference to those who claim offence if they had simply heard Chinakwe calling his dog Buhari? I don’t think so.
Considering the propensity of agents of the present government for lies and propaganda, I suspect the story of Chinakwe inscribing Buhari on his dog and parading it is hogwash invented by the police to justify their persecution of the man.
If not, why have they not brought any evidence of the dog with the inscriptions?
In this day and age of mobile phone video recordings and social media, why didn’t anyone record Chinakwe as he paraded the dog with inscriptions in the market as alleged?
In the absence of any evidence, I am persuaded to believe the whole saga was most likely occasioned by someone reporting to the complainant that Chinakwe calls his dog Buhari.
But beyond these brouhaha— what has been most troubling is the overzealous action of the police in arresting a man in the full knowledge that he broke no law.
The Nigerian constitution guarantees the right to free speech and the naming of a dog falls within that expression.
There is no law nor statute that criminalises or restricts the naming of dog.
The president is not the only person who bears Buhari, neither is the name a franchise that requires authorisation before it can be used.
Chinakwe has the right to give his dog any name and in that regards acted within his fundamental rights.
Those who broke the law were those who threatened to kill him for exercising that right.
The law does not mix with sentiments or emotions.
No matter how much our individual sentiments could be injured, we are all obliged to live within the law because our rights end where another man’s rights begins.