by Senator Ihenyen
It’s no news that President Goodluck Jonathan has granted pardon to the ex-convict called Diepriye Alamieseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa State.
Since the current democratic dispensation began in 1999, Jonathan’s presidential pardon granted to Alamieseigha, could be described as the most shameless decision yet.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s third term agenda in 2007 was bad enough but this was largely a constitutional issue.
The issue of presidential pardon as exercised by the president in consultation with the National Council of States can hardly be legally questioned, but it is a serious moral issue.
Time and again, with increasing desperation by the day, the presidency has demonstrated to Nigerians that the administration lacks the integrity to fight corruption. The administration has clearly become a metaphor of corruption, irredeemable shamelessness, sophisticated impunity and incurable myopia. It is indeed a shame for us as a nation at this time to have such disgusting headlines on our national dailies, and indeed in the world news.
The United States has condemned the pardon, describing it as a setback in the fight against corruption. Not surprisingly, the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since warned the United States government to stay clear of the internal affairs in the country otherwise relationship between the two countries may become strained.
Perhaps, what I find most despicable are the annoying justifications put forward by Dr. Doyin Okupe, who many believe is one of the mops in the Aso Rock Villa. Attempting to strike parallels between the presidential pardon granted to the Bayelsan ex-convict and those granted by past presidents, he compared Alamieseigha’s pardon to that granted the late Obafemi Awolowo and late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu who were once beneficiaries of state pardon!
I consider such desperate comparisons treacherous. How can the presidency demonstrate so much disrespect for great men who literally sacrificed their lives to fight for social justice in our nation! Were the late Awolowo and late Ojukwu of blessed memories charged and convicted of corruption in public office? Nationally, we celebrate the lives of these men of integrity who stood for what they believed in all their lives. President Goodluck Jonathan, the no. 1 citizen of Nigeria, through his aides, must have appeared to many as one who has lost every sense of national history and national values. No one should be allowed to make any of our national heroes appear to be thieves who were pardoned by self-serving Presidents as political compromises. It is completely irresponsible and desecrating! It is too cheap and too low for what should be the most respected institution of the state.
Without mincing words, President Goodluck Jonathan is either a selfish man blinded by the hunger to remain in power beyond April 2015 or a victim of self-inflicted ignorance. Either way, he will not get public pardon for such unpatriotic and dishonourable actions and conducts in a hurry. He can be sure that the public standard is way higher than he thinks. He cannot bring honourable men down to such inglorious and disreputable state as to be compared to internationally-wanted ex-convicts and call himself honourable. It is dirty, Mr. President! Very dirty! But I do not suppose that anyone who dines with political pigs in the corridors of power would easily realise that.
Little wonder then that Dr. Okupe would shamelessly say on Channels TV Breakfast Show that the pardon is “an action that has been taken by the National Council of States and I have no apology for that.” But they will eventually be haunted by their own shadows. Truth will always triumph at the end. Rhetorically, with the unintended effect of a dramatic irony, Dr. Okupe asked: “How come granting pardon to him has become an aberration? Is it because he is from Bayelsa? Is it because he is from South-South? Is it because he is connected to Mr. President?”
Perhaps, the dodging Reuben Abati who in 2005 nailed Alamiesiegha with his article is in the best position to have a chat with Dr. Doyin Okupe.
Personally, I believe that this Presidential pardon is just one of those many political moves being made by the President to help balance the power equation in the mathematics of 2015 elections. As the President himself had recently admitted, Mr. Diepriye Alamieseigha, as the former governor of Bayelsa State is his political benefactor! A careful reading of the handwriting on the wall would reveal that the president is becoming increasingly unpopular even in the creeks where he comes from. In the very words of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, “Alamieseigha is a foremost Ijaw leader of the Ijaw nation,” and has “political and stabilizing influence in that region”.
For a President who is prepared to compromise our already malnourished integrity as a nation in honour of a man convicted of corruption in political office by a court of law, and still wanted in the UK for alleged criminal offences, we have every reason to be worried. The insensitive decision puts yet another big question mark on this administration’s much-trumpeted transformation agenda. It ultimately betrays a lack of political will on the part of the President to fight corruption in public office. It teaches us all that this President cannot be trusted with the lives of over 160 million people when the time is ripe to decide.