President Jonathan Has Lost A Friend, By Nkemnelem Uwakwe

“I have been one of those who have defended Jonathan in some of the issues that he has been hacked by the so called opposition.”

I was shocked when I saw the headlines in some newspapers on Wednesday that President Goodluck Jonathan has granted state pardon to Chief Deipreye Alamieyeseigha, a former governor of Bayelsa State who was convicted and jailed for corruption. It filtered in yesterday as a rumour and I prayed it would just fizzle out. I even almost blamed the opposition for flying that kite.

Jonathan was Alamieyeseigha’s Deputy and knew the grave offence that led to his impeachment and later conviction. He is also fully aware of the rigmarole that got not only Nigerian authorities but also the British government involved, the purported escape from U.K. and sudden appearance in Yenegoa and what followed. How could he pretend not to be aware? It was because of that conviction that Jonathan sprang to the springboard as the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State. I can still see him vividly fighting against forces loyal to Alams (as the ex-convict is fondly called) on AIT that day when it was obvious that those forces wanted Alams to be reinstated at all costs. As the state governor, then, he must have been briefed adequately and he must have seen records of misappropriation and all the allegations levelled against Alams; so he cannot claim that he does not know that the man was convicted and jailed for corruption. And so I wished it was just one of the pranks of the opposition that needed to be ignored. You can imagine my shock to read this grim reality on the front pages of some newspapers on Wednesday.

Let me confess that I have been one of those who have defended Jonathan in some of the issues that he has been hacked by the so called opposition. I know for a fact that some of the ‘issues’ raised by the opposition were mere propaganda which is common in political battleground. I have taken a lot of flak also because of my stand. I have been called all sorts of names ranging from GEJ’s mouth piece to his apologist. I still do not agree with people who hurl insults on Jonathan because such insults directed at the person Jonathan are smearing the exalted office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I recoil when people call him clueless. But if Jonathan has a clue of the avalanche of reaction from Nigeria and the international community that this singular pardon will elicit, I think he wouldn’t have agreed to be part of it at all. Online newsfeeds and the social media have received unprecedented hits following this singular act. How a can man shoot himself on the foot is what beats me hollow! This indeed is not the best of times for Jonathan’s handlers. I don’t envy Guardian yesterday man Dr. Reuben Abati or yesterday-turned today’s man, Dr. Doyin Okupe. I am waiting for Labaran Maku who has shown that he has learnt quite a lot from Prof. Jerry Gana to put one of those unconvincing spin on this one.

According to the Daily Trust account, the state pardon was also granted to Late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua; former Bank of the North managing director Mohammed Bulama; retired General Oladipo Diya; the late General Abdulkareem Adisa; Major Bello Magaji; and Muhammad Biu. Except for Bulama, most of the other persons involved, were those accused of plotting a coup against the Late General Abacha. None of those people were indicted for corruption of the magnitude that Alamieyeseigha got himself enmeshed in. Coupists have been granted pardon before all over the world but I have never heard of any country granting pardon to a convicted corrupt man. While he is granting pardon to corrupt people, in the U.S., Reuters reports that former Detroit Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, has been convicted of corruption. He ‘was convicted of widespread corruption, extorting bribes from contractors who wanted to get or keep city contracts, and turning the mayor’s office into “Kilpatrick Incorporated” from 2001 until he resigned in 2008. Kilpatrick could face prison sentences of up to 20 years for the most serious charges for steering more than $83 million worth of municipal contracts to his friend Bobby Ferguson, a city contractor, who shared some of the money with the former mayor’. Notice that this is what happened between 2001 and 2008 but the law followed him up until today he is going to pay dearly for corrupt life. In China, Alamieyeseigha would have been hanged a long time ago. Contrarily, Alamieyeseigha was convicted of dipping his hands into the coffers of Bayelsa state, diverting funds belonging to the state to his own use and corruptly enriching himself stupendously. Had Alamieyeseigha deployed funds meant for Bayelsa state, billions of Naira being used to build schools, hospitals and infrastructure in the state would have been saved for better use. He stole the state dry. As the Deputy Governor then, Jonathan should know these facts and shouldn’t have been waggoned onto this rail track to perfidy.

During his inaugural speech, GEJ had fighting corruption as one of his cardinal priorities; so granting a state pardon to a man like Alamieyeseigha makes his posturing laughable and sends the wrong signals to the international community. How can America or U.K. or any other country take Nigeria serious when they read about this pardon? The man that was convicted and sent to jail for stealing bread or the one that was jailed for stealing yams or chicken or rice are the ones who deserve this pardon because they are victims of bad governance perpetrated by the likes of Alamieyeseigha and not the other way round.

I think the problem Jonathan has is that he has not been able to wring provincialism out of his system. For crying out loud, he is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not the President of Bayelsa State or South South region. It is a sign of cluelessness and weakness when he said according to daily Trust account that he decided to pardon Alamieyeseigha because some Bayelsa Chiefs paid a courtesy call on him and begged him to grant that pardon. So if Ibori’s people or Tafa Balogun or Cecilia Ibru or Bode George etc come begging for pardon for these high profile corrupt people, would he not grant them pardon? What would be the rationale to say no to them when he has set a precedence that will not only buttress corruption but also give a bold face to corrupt people.

I feel sad, because by his action, Jonathan has given credence to all allegations being levelled against him and which I fought and received knocks for. I am now battling with my mind whether he is not clueless as they call him? Whether he lacks leadership quality as they say. Whether he is sincere as they say he is not. Whether he is keen on fighting corruption as they he is corrupt too. Whether he knows what he is doing as they say he does not. Could it be that they have been right all along and I am the one who is wrong? I am confused but if the story of the pardon to Alamieyeseigha turns out to be true, Mr. President I am afraid that you have lost one loyal follower. So sad indeed.

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