Eight out of 10 Nigerians say the president wrongly.
An overwhelming eight out of every 10 Nigerians are opposed to the state pardon granted former Bayelsa state governor, Diepriye Alamieyeseigha, and former Bank of the North chief, Shettima Bulama, a major PREMIUM TIMES poll shows.
In a vote lasting two weeks, 84 percent of the respondents either deplored as a “glorification of corruption”, President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to grant the amnesty, or dismissed the beneficiaries as “self-confessed criminals” who ought to remain ex-convicts.
Only thirteen percent of the voters backed the president, either acknowledging his prerogative to give state mercy, or reechoing the administration’s argument that those pardoned were remorseful and are active in promoting peace in the nation’s troubled parts. The remaining three percent abstained from a position.
The poll, PREMIUM TIMES’ biggest ever, drew responses from more than a thousand readers for more than 14 days. Past polls conducted by this website recorded less than 500 votes.
The relatively unprecedented turnover, some readers say, reflect the fury the president’s decision has left with many Nigerians, and the frustration many face coming to terms with the government’s unapologetic posture.
“This one communicates directly to the authority,” one reader, Alexander Oko, who participated in the vote, said. “Nigerians may not have the power to change anything, but no guess work here, the numbers speak their hearts.”
For weeks, the president has drawn unstinting rebuke from critics who view the pardon as his invention to favour Mr. Alamieyeseigha, his former boss and political benefactor.
Criticisms, including from the United States, have portrayed the pardon as a setback for the government’s already frail fight against corruption.
Mr. Alamieyeseigha was convicted and jailed for stealing billions of state funds, while Mr. Bulama was jailed for a huge fraud during his time as the Managing Director of the now defunct bank.
Despite an outpouring of condemnation, with some calling for a reversal, the presidency and the ruling People’s Democratic Party, have dismissed the criticisms as politically motivated, defending the president’s right to act, and citing similar pardons in other countries, mainly the United States.
“I cannot understand why our people are politicizing the issue of amnesty so granted by Mr President. The question is: do you grant pardon to the innocent? No! Amnesty is granted to those people government felt did some wrongs and after some time, their behaviour and attitude showed that the wrong they did was just a slip,” PDP chairman, Bamagar Tukur, said.
Presidential spokesperson, Doyin Okupe, has repeatedly dismissed concerns too. “It is not every decision that a parent takes that is palatable to the children. But, later, you find out that you have taken the right decision as a parent,” he said a day after the amnesty.
PREMIUM TIMES’ readers were given five options to select from- two in support of the president, two against and one, indifferent.
An overwhelming 65 percent (733 votes) condemned the president’s action as a “glorification of corruption,” while 19 percent (209 votes) said Messrs. Alamieyeseigha and Bulama are “self-confessed criminals” who “should remain ex-convicts”.
For those backing the president, 121 votes, amounting to 12 percent, said president acted well within his powers, while 24 votes (two percent) said those pardoned, were reformed men, who were helping to improve peace and stability in the country.
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