President Jonathan isn’t the clueless or know-nothing politician his critics say he is when the issue is the use of power to advance his own interest. But even by his standards, his stealth move in getting the National Council of State to grant an underserved amnesty to his political ally, Governor Diepreye Alamiesiegha is bewildering. If the scale and intensity of the public condemnation of this pardon, at home and abroad is anything to go by, the silliness of this decision can only compare in political terms to the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa by the Abacha regime.
The implication of this attempt to out-rank Abacha is that President Jonathan will have achieved his own milestone by the time Europe and America go ahead to impose sanctions on regime elements and the hapless Nigerian people as a whole.
The usually proactive daily newspaper, The Punch, reported, among other arguments, that the President had used the pardon to score two precious political points. One, to feather the nest of his second term ambition in 2015 and two, to repay “political debts” he owed his former boss.
Based on this reasoning, the hurriedly-put together pardon, has more clearly portrayed the administration as a government that runs carelessly, shoddily and therefore incoherently. Why pardon people who have been pardoned before? In confirmation of claim by Professor David – West that the Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy had been by-passed, a member, Yahaya Mahmood, SAN announced on BBC that they made no such recommendations.
The pardon is a product of desperation. The President needed to save an ally he needs to desperately stay in power. Put another way, this is a desperate attempt to save the President’s crumbling edifice in power.
The now-under–pressure presidential spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe says in defence of the faus pax that the pardon was granted to ensure the economic health of the nation. That without Alams being free, government will find it difficult to manage Niger Delta militants and mine oil. That is nonsense. If the President thinks Governor Alams possesses the midas touch to revive or keep the economy going, let him step down and explore the constitutional possibility of installing the former Bayelsa Governor as President.
The hidden justification, one that may be more important to the President and our politics is of course that it is a product of incipient paranoia on the part of the President of Nigeria. He seems neither trusting nor confident in other Nigerians, East, West and North to help him achieve his second (or third) term ambition. It is a part of the empowerment scheme designed exclusively for “my own people”.
The second important note to make of this is that it is a signal to state governors who, from the experience of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. PDP are, unless otherwise proven, the undisputed kingmakers. The President must be urgently feeling the need to weaken the unity of the Governors and drag them into his tent, as many as can help will pull enough weight to win the party’s ticket. He needs to show that he can be depended upon to protect his allies. This reassurance is absolutely necessary in view of side remarks that are sometimes openly made that the President is an unreliable person; that he looked the other way when allies get into trouble. Of course the reader may have heard people saying that the erstwhile PDP Governors, Segun Oni of Ekiti State, Governor Akala of Oyo, Otunba Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State and Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State are all in one form of trouble with one federal agency or another, with the President pretending as if he doesn’t know.
I am not suggesting here that the President should dabble into what the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC or the courts are doing to help allies who helped him to win in 2011. The point is: this is how our politics is run.
This therefore is an attempt to make the point that his political boat is the safest of all. It’s the Noah Ark and so whoever is on board is assured of safety and full protection against the law. This is the true meaning of the Alams pardon. It is for the governors to see that the President is after all a strong leader when it comes to taking care of his allies. Political leaders who have stolen so much in the hope of eradicating poverty in the family up to the time of their grand, grand children but are afraid that the usually politically correct EFCC and ICPC will come calling after the immunity goes after their leaving office may now have a sigh of relief.
There is a choice they can make. Support the President and be safe. To decline this invitation is to be left to your own devices.
Without necessarily putting up a defence for the President, my conclusion is that he is not abrogating the war on corruption. It would not be correct to say, as Nuhu Ribadu did, that the President was not interested any longer in the war against corruption. I take note of the calls for the cancellation of the pardon by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, the Civil Society and opposition parties, and the diplomatic spat it touched up with the United States of America. These all seem to miss the point. President Jonathan isn’t waging a war against the war on corruption. The important thing for him at this moment is his political survival, which as we can all see is very much in doubt.
But what the President misses is that unless he changes style and delivers on promises, Alams and one hundred of his type won’t save him and his political career.
The second thing he must do is to take redemptive step to save the National Council of State as an important pillar of democratic governance in the country. If they know that they are coming to such meetings to merely go through motions of political aggrandizement, no self-respecting former Chief Justice or President will make him/herself available at any future meeting.