January 14, 2013 by John Alechenu, Shola Fabiyi, Friday Olokor and Ihuoma Chiedozie
The Peoples Democratic Party has come under criticisms for appointing an ex-convict, Chief Bode George, into a panel to reorganise its Board of Trustees.
A Lagos High Court convicted George in 2009 for fraud after he served as Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Ports Authority. He spent two years in prison.
Legal practitioners as well as civil rights groups, Anti-Corruption Network and Coalition against Corrupt Leaders, on Sunday, condemned the PDP’s action, saying the party had no respect for the public.
Executive Secretary of ACN and former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dino Melaye, and the Chairman of CACOL, Debo Adeniran, said the PDP’s decision was akin to legalising corruption.
Melaye said, “Almost everybody in the party (PDP) is an ex-convict, only time will tell. The party is about corruption, so corruption and corrupt persons mean nothing to them. He (Bode George) is still carrying our national honours and so you can see.”
Adeniran said, “Nobody is expected to associate with a corrupt convict that has not been discharged of the burden of guilt because such people will not do anything to discourage similar crimes.
“He is not going to discourage people of doubting integrity from assuming office as a political leader. By implication, such characters will infest others with the criminal virus because he exemplifies corruption. And since like begets like, whatever decision taken by any committee he is a member can only be seen as lacking in integrity.”
But two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Rotimi Jacobs and Yusuf Ali, who spoke to our correspondents, differed on the issue.
Jacobs, who is a counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, while condemning the development, said it was an indication that the PDP was not sincere in its anti-corruption war.
He said, “Is that how the PDP will be fighting corruption? Is that how the ruling party will fight corruption? For a party that is supposed to be fighting corruption, it is a very sad development. It is the shame of a nation.”
But, Ali noted that despite his conviction, George had the right to belong to, and participate in the activities of a political party.
He added that the appointment was a PDP affair, and that the party was not the Federal Government.
Ali said, “The party is not the government. We should not equate the party with the government. Since he belongs to the party, he can function within the party.
“Even conviction cannot stop somebody from belonging to a group or a trade union. If he belongs to a group, he can take part in the activities of the group. It is different from taking public office.”
Meanwhile, a member of the PDP BoT, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the President suggested George’s name at the meeting where the decision was taken.
The source said, “The President suggested his name. You know this is politics; the President is losing followership in the South-West and other zones, so the best he thinks he can do is to look for those who can work with him.
“If he thinks an ex-convict is the best person to reorganise his party, so be it.
“Don’t forget that he said recently that another ex-convict, Chief Diepreye Alamieseigha is his benefactor.
“Ironically, both George and Alamieseigha were convicted for corruption. He has the right to choose his friends.”
When contacted, the Secretary of the Board, Senator Wali Jibrin, declined to speak on the matter.
Asked whether the appointment would not send a wrong signal about the country’s fight against corruption, he said, “I don’t know anything about that.”