• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Still on that controversial pardon

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 The recent granting of presidential pardon to ex-governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, by President Jonathan has continued to generate criticisms – and rightly so.

To be clear, section 175 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) grants the president the power to invoke the prerogative of mercy on any person upon the advice of the Council of State. Before now, such power had been exercised by past heads of state in the country. Among those who had at one time or the other received pardon in the country include the late Obafemi Awolowo, the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Many of them were incarcerated as a result of the roles they truly or allegedly played which were considered damaging to the political image of the country.

In the case of Alamieyeseigha, however, we feel the decision to grant him a state pardon was ill-advised as it, indeed, has the capacity to put spanner in the ongoing war against graft in the country. We agree with Opeyemi Agbaje that “in the current circumstances of Nigeria, in which corruption threatens to subvert and destroy the nation, any action that seems to further legitimise public theft and grand larceny is a gross failure of leadership and morality”.

We also consider most irritating the presidency’s claim that the decision to pardon Alamieyeseigha had to do with whatever role he is playing in Ijaw land. It must be stated that Nigeria is bigger than Ijaw nation.

The presidency also said Alamieyeseigha’s forgiveness was as a result of his remorseful disposition, but at no time had the ex-governor of Bayelsa State, either through print or electronic media, expressed regret at his action and consequently sought the forgiveness of fellow countrymen.

With the pardon, Jonathan may have indirectly given approval for all forms of criminality in the country. What the president has officially told Nigerians and indeed the world is that stealing from the public till is justified so long as one is well connected to the corridors of power.

Here is a country that is ranked among the most corrupt nations of the world; here is a country whose president trumpets his commitment to fighting graft; here is a country where poverty level has hit the roofs; here is a nation claiming to be the leader on the African continent and whose leaders junket from one part of the world to the other in search of investors; and here is a country that claims it wants to join the league of the 20 leading economies in 2020.

What moral lesson then does the pardon have for the youth and for students who are told to steer clear of examination fraud? Will the Jonathan government still have the moral fibre to prosecute kidnappers who have taken the pernicious way to eke out a living? Should we then also pardon all others who have stolen the country blind? And what happens to all those serving jail terms across the country for stealing goats, fowls, phones and other pittance?