Some President Muhammadu Buhari’s political allies who responded in anger against the pardon granted to a convicted former governor of Bayelsa State, the late Diepreye Alamieyesegha, in 2013, have maintained a curious silence over a similar gesture the president extended to two jailed former governors for five days ago.
Mr Buhari, with the approval of the National Council of State, on Thursday, granted a pardon to former Governors Joshua Dariye of Plateau State, and Jolly Nyame of Taraba State, who are serving 10- and 12-year imprisonments, respectively, for corruption.
This came about nine years after Mr Buhari’s predecessor, then President Goodluck Jonathan, granted a similar pardon to the late Mr Alamieyesegha who was jailed after pleading guilty to corruption charges in 2007.
Some of the present-day members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who was in the opposition when the former Bayelsa State governor was pardoned, criticised Mr Jonathan for the action. They also accused him of failing to fight corruption and of reversing the gains of previous governments’ anti-corruption efforts.
Prominent among the then critics, are Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, and Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, an appointee serving in Mr Buhari’s cabinet.
A video clip showing Mr el-Rufai angrily criticising Mr Jonathan for the pardon granted Mr Alamieyesegha, surfaced online after Mr Buhari’s pardon for Messrs Nyame and Dariye, was announced.
A tweet by Mr Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, critical of Mr Jonathan, also began to circulate online about the time.
In the clip, which is from an interview on STRAIGHTalk, a programme on TVC, Mr el-Rufai, faulted the decision of the Mr Jonathan-led administration to pardon corrupt politicians while failing to fight corruption.
“Nobody says you should eradicate corruption but don’t go around pardoning people who have been convicted for corruption and then you say you are fighting corruption, that’s giving the wrong signal,” the governor had said.
Mr el-Rufai, who served as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, added that it sent the wrong signal not only to those engaging in corruption but also to young people who may now think there is a reward in being corrupt.
His tweet on February 27, 2015, was close to the 2015 general election in which Mr Buhari ran against the then incumbent President Jonathan. Mr Buhari defeated Mr Jonathan who was seeking re-election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party
He queried the justification of Mr Jonathan’s pardon for Mr Alamieyesegha.
“To GEJites: Give us 1 Good reason why pardon was granted to a convicted thief (Alams) when we are even looking for more ex-govs to send to jail,” the tweet read.
Aside from the tweet, Mr Keyamo had also issued a statement lambasting the Jonathan administration for being insincere in its avowed war against corruption.
“It is shocking, confusing, and disheartening that at a time when the general mood of the country indicates that the war against corruption is insincere, slow and a sham, the President deems it fit to even rubbish the very little work that has been done by the anti-corruption agencies in securing the conviction of these individuals.
“It is also disturbing that at a time when Nigeria is still ranking very low in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International the President has further damaged the image of the country by this singular act,” the statement read in part.
Messrs el-Rufai and Keyamo have not reacted five days after the council of state ratified Mr Buhari’s pardon to Messrs Dariye and Nyame since last Thursday.
The pardon of the former governors, whose convictions were validated by the Supreme Court in 2020 and 2021, has been widely condemned.
PREMIUM TIMES interviewed personnel of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), the two foremost anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria, who spoke to our reporters in confidence, accused Mr Buhari of sabotaging the anti-corruption war.
A PREMIUM TIMES analysis also showed that the pardon exposed Mr Buhari’s hidden soft sport for corruption.
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