The police in Ogun State, South West Nigeria have arrested a man, Joe Chinakwe for naming his pet dog Buhari, after the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Chinakwe is expected to be charged in court on Monday, 22 August.
The police say Chinakwe was arrested last week for what they called a “breach of public peace.” Police spokesperson, Abimbola Oyeyemi in a chat with the Premium Times said:
The Ogun State Police Command has resolved to charge the suspect to court on Monday to forestall breach of public peace which the suspect’s action may likely cause.” Adding that “His action is a provocative one and that is why the suspect will be charged for conduct likely to cause breach of public peace.
Reports say Mr. Chinakwe named his dog Buhari and made sure to have the name boldly written out on both sides of the dog’s body. His choice of name was deemed offensive by a northern Muslim neighbour who complained to the authorities that Chinakwe’s action was intended to deride his father Alhaji Buhari (not related to the Nigerian President).
Nigeria practices full representative democracy and there are no extant laws against criticism or impudence directed at the President. The police have struggled to make it clear that Chinakwe’s arrest is no way connected to his naming of the dog after the president, but that it was to prevent a breakdown of law and order. Speaking on behalf of the police, the spokesman said:
…the arrest was made to save the suspect’s life because the complainant and his group have threatened to kill him if he comes back, and this may trigger violence.
Chinakwe, 30, was picked up by the police after neighbours brought complaints before the authorities that they found his choice of name for his dog offensive. The police also say that they fear Chinakwe’s choice of name can provoke an ethno-religious war.
Nigeria is broadly divided into a mostly Christian south and a core Muslim north, The two regions have had an uneasy, troubled co-existence ever since culminating in the bloodletting that was the Nigerian civil war of 1967.
Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani Muslim from the north was elected president in 2015 after defeating former president Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian southerner, at the polls. The elections were largely free and fair but there has been continued animosity between the core supporters of both men with the authorities fearing that it could bubble to the fore at any moment.
Joe Chinakwe, the dog owner and the man at the centre of the storm, told reporters that he named his dog Buhari, out of his admiration and love for the president who he considers a role model and hero. Chinakwe will be arraigned in court on Monday for a one count charge of breach of public peace.