SHALL WE PARDON THE HEEDLESS PARDONER?

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SHALL WE PARDON THE HEEDLESS PARDONER?
‘’corruption is like a ball of snow, once it sets rolling it must increase’’
Charles C. Colton

The recent show of ineptitude by the Jonathan led administration has earned sundry denigrations from across the nation and beyond. The show I speak of is none other than the presidential pardon granted to Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a former governor of Bayelsa state, and some seven others. The reason for the intense criticism received by this outlandish move, most especially from the Anti-corruption network, coalition against corrupt leaders (CACOL) and the United States, is not far-fetched. The minute percentage of public opinion that suggest that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the pardon have as their pretext the ‘facts’ that due process was followed, Alamieyeseigha is a great asset to the nation and presidential pardon is a common practice across the globe.

Eight years back, Alamieyeseigha was accused of accumulating (outside Nigeria) known properties, bank accounts, investments and cash exceeding £10m in worth. His portfolio of foreign assets included accounts with five banks in the UK and further accounts with banks in Cyprus, Denmark and the United states; four London properties acquired for a total of £4.8m; a Cape town harbour penthouse acquired for almost £1m, possible assets in the United states, and almost £1m stored in cash in one of his London properties.

This same individual is also infamous for allegedly jumping bail in London by dressing like a woman, to return to Nigeria. In point of fact, the corrupt activities engaged in by Alamieyeseigha are so titanic that they are still under investigation by the governments of Britain, United States, South Africa, Bahamas and Seychelles as well as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Bank under the Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative.

Hence, indubitably, the past record of Chief Alamieyeseigha is one that is one that flooded with illegality; and to associate with such person, let alone support him, is a pointer to the fact you are no better. A good leader, especially one who claims to be fervently fighting corruption, ought to not only distant himself from such personalities but also publicly show his discontent with their ill actions.

I strongly believe that the action taken by the federal government, on the advice of the National council of state is either ill-judged or externally instigated. I even find it difficult to see the expediency of the so-called National council of state in this regard, as the President will the one to suggest names of to-be-pardoned convicts, and he will also be the one to approve. To free an adjudged criminal is to officially formalise crime and corruption. It is akin to giving the green light to others contemplating on engaging in the same thing, saying to them, ‘worry not, we are firmly behind you’.

The fact that the constitution {in §175} gives room for a presidential prerogative of mercy is not a sufficient rationalization of what the president, in the person of Goodluck Jonathan, did. Legal reinforcement must not be mistaken for moral reinforcement. The pardon was obviously not ‘pro bono publico’, neither is it in line with rational thought. Apart from this, it is my believe that the convention is that presidential pardons are only given to those who commit political but not criminal crimes.

It is now glaring that corruption in Nigeria is not just as a result of the blemish that subsists in the judiciary, it is mostly due to the lack of will of the government to sincerely fight it. We have hundreds, if not thousands of Ibori’s, Bode’s and Alamieyeseigha’s in Nigeria. For us to luckily catch up with one of them should be a source of joy. In essence, revoking such a noteworthy achievement is like the situation of a woman who, after having sought for one for decades, is delivered of a child and then immediately kills it.

In a nutshell, I not only see this appalling and impolitic governmental move ‘as a setback in the fight against corruption’ as suggested by the American government, or as ‘great disservice to upcoming generations’ as averred by Dino Melaye, but as an affront on the machinery of justice and the intelligence of the Nigerians at large.

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