Memories are very short and no condition is permanent. How sad jobless critics of the recent presidential amnesty to convicted former governor of Bayelsa, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, can hardly remember the man once once bestrode Nigeria like a colossus. As ‘Governor General’ of the Ijaws, he was even touted as a possible replacement for Chief Obasanjo as president of a nation where thieves, the indolent, oil/financial fraudsters, armed and pen robbers always steal the limelight.
The travails of a man now claimed to be the brain behind the then rampaging Niger Delta militants, started with his offshore detractors that chased him around the world investigating his involvement in corruption and money laundering. The war was led 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’. It was the international community that told us of his accumulated properties, bank accounts, investments and cash exceeding £10m in value. It was his off-shore enemies that revealed his portfolio of foreign assets which 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, assets in the United States, since seized by the US government and almost £1m in cash stored in one of his London properties. It was Britain Metropolitan police that charged him to court from where he jumped bail and escaped to Nigeria allegedly dressed like a woman.
It was only after this, Ribadu, then the helmsman at EFCC, overstepped his bounds by securing the conviction of the ‘Governor General’ of Ijaw nation, an affront he paid dearly for. And now our president who has made a fetish of his piety through various public demonstrations including exhortation amidst his state house church congregation that “when God gives us power, we must use it for the glory of His creation”, has granted the Ijaw ‘governor general’ an amnesty.
Those who are not stakeholders in the affairs of Balyelsa state have assailed us for over a week on the amnesty granted the convicted former governor. These busy bodies have forgotten that President Jonathan as everyone knows except mischief makers is a pious man Like late Tai Solarin who claimed he would accept gift from the devil if it would advance the course of education, he has in fact gone ahead to enthusiastically accept a gift of a church from a government contractor for his community Jonathan, a man of faith obviously to ensure the hard working fishing community of Otuoke need a place to commune with God , the only one who can lessen their burden after each day on the sea paddling canoes.
Last week, he was in Lagos to rake in about N7b from government contractors, sitting PDP governors and the ruling PDP for the expansion of evangelization work in Otuoke. (Less inspiring critics claimed the fund should be diverted to purchasing fishing trawlers for those who operate on high sees with paddle canoes). But the president knows, ‘they that labour without putting God first do in vain’.
Critics of the president’s granting of amnesty to a man he calls his god-father seem to have also forgotten that our humble president is a loyal and compassionate leader; whose sense of fairness and magnanimity is unparalleled in our nation’s history as long as there are no imaginary enemies that threaten his position and his control of PDP. If Ogbuluafor, the former PDP chairman, the disgraced former governor of Bayelsa and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, the chairman of now divided Governors Forum have different tales, it was because they misread the president’s mood.
But what if one may ask, are the problems of critics who like professional undertakers that weep louder than the bereaved who have assaulted and libeled our humble president this past one week? First, a ‘coalition against corrupt leaders’ led by Debo Adeniran, its chairman, said the pardon of convicted ex-governor Alamieyeseigha who Okupe said had served his terms was another proof that the present administration was corrupt.
I cannot see the logic. They also claim a man the president and his spokesmen claimed had suffered enough did not deserve a pardon because he bled his state’s covers during his tenure as governor’,
But the fishing Ijaw communities, who by nature are God-fearing and submissive like their illustrious son(s), have never complained to anyone that their ex-governor used part of their funds to buy a few properties in Europe and America. Not even the revelation by Sahara Reporters that the president himself as governor of Balyelsa donated $1m of his state poverty alleviation funds to a resourceful media guru who has changed all the rules of journalism (apology to Uncle Sam Amuka) to bring Beyoncee from the US to sing for about two hours to an audience Otuoke people had no opportunity of attending attracted any reaction. Can’t these critics understand that for the Ijaws of Bayelsa, their children are their children, right or wrong?
Another critic of the president action is Ribadu. Probably still nursing the wounds of having been rubbished as chairman of Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, whose report, Okupe said was inconclusive on the day of its presentation before he had time to read it. The report was finally thrown into the dustbin. And now a man whose views did not sell when consulted is without being asked for his views, claiming the ‘amnesty granted Alamieyeseigha and ex-Managing Director of Bank of the North, Alhaji Mohammed Bulama, is capable of stopping the war against corruption’. But we all know that war stopped a long time ago. Obasanjo, Jonathan’s and Ribadu’s godfather has even confirmed that. Will someone tell Ribadu, a failed presidential candidate to stop belly aching, keep his views to himself and allow our elected president to run his government?
Ribadu, not done also said the pardon granted Alamieyeseigha and Bulama would send a negative message to the judiciary and law enforcement agencies. One will like to know which judiciary he is talking about. Is it the one that freed Ibori, a man called a thief in government house and jailed in Britain, or the one that freed Igbinedion and Yusuf with a slap on the arm after massive looting of our resources? Or could it by any chance include the judiciary that is busy shielding children of PDP stalwarts alleged to have committed barefaced robbery through ‘plea bargaining’ which my good friend, Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN) recently described as ‘commercialisation of our Criminal Code’? As for the police, I thought before the police authority chased him out of the force and the country, he passed his judgment on the police by putting his then IG in chains before securing his conviction for stealing billions of police welfare and equipment funds. (By the way, if ex-IG Balogun has the right connection, he is also due for amnesty).
According to Okupe, a Yoruba adage says “you ask a thief to run and he runs, you ask a thief to drop what he is holding and he drops it, what are you chasing him for again?” In his view, the framers of the constitution envisaged the need for some ex-convicts to be re-integrated into the society, especially if they have shown penitence and willingness to contribute positively to societal growth. I agree with Okupe who is just a marvel when defending President Jonathan. Not too long ago he suffered the same fate, not as a convict but as an accused, when called upon to come and contribute positively to societal growth by President Jonathan.