Just when we thought we had seen the worst example of a brazen act of corruption in Nigeria, then, we are treated to an even more gargantuan act: Presidential pardon for convicted state looters. This has happened to our faces, in broad day light, and life goes on; the moon has not crashed in on Nigeria. It is, quickly, business as usual; never mind the hue and cry of a few outside the realm of Presidential powers. The happenings in our country truly defy superlatives and hyperboles; they defy logic and rational analysis at the best of times.
The lugubrious medical doctor, Doyin Okupe; the bulldog on Jonathan’s lawn (aka spokesperson on “public affairs”)was doing the media rounds soon after the pronouncement, casting fire and brimstones on the head of those voicing reasonable concerns about the moral health of the Nigerian state at the sight of this most heartrending of occurrences involving public corruption in our country. Referring to the pardon granted the former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyseigha, Okupe decried: “He has been convicted, jailed and had his property confiscated. What else do people want of him?” Well, let me inform the Presidency of what people really want of him: They want the stench of corruption he brought on himself through his conviction and jail sentence to remain. A Presidential pardon of the kind shown by Jonathan cleanses him of this stench; it robs the whole country of its collective decency and justice. Is anyone listening at the Presidency?
Of a more immediate impact is what the Presidential pardon does for the body charged with fighting corruption in official places namely; the EFCC. When an organisation like this devotes human and material resources into tracking down corrupt officials, spend years trying to bring them to justice, and when they finally succeed, they have the rug pulled underneath them by the person at the helm of affairs at the very top. How demoralising can this be for the men and women inside the EFCC, sweating it out with corrupt leaders day-in day-out? These men and women labour under death threats most of the times while they and their families have to put up with major disruptions to their lives as a result of the unenviable task with which they have been charged. On top of all that, they go through relentless criticisms in the press for not doing a better job of catching, prosecuting and convicting enough high-powered Politian-robbers in our midst. I have to say, I am one of those critics. In one of my earlier write ups: “EFCC’s growing crisis of confidence”, PUNCH June 12, 2012, in which I said that the appointment of the current Chairman of the organisation, Ibrahim Lamorde, did not represent good use of his considerable talents, also that he lacked the “force of personality” to drive things through at the organisation. Well, I am now prepared to eat humble pie on that. No amount of ‘force of personality’ can override the corrupt will of the Presidency in Nigeria. EFCC lives at the behest of the Presidency and if the overwhelming forces of the state apparatus are bent on giving the likes of Alamieyseigha a clean bill of health in the face of local and international condemnation, then, there is nothing the head of the EFCC can do other than try and rebuild the shattered morale of his staff. It does, however, make their job impossible. There is no amount of ruthless efficiency on the part of EFCC that is capable of overrunning the Presidential brick wall around their political “benefactors” even when they have been convicted and jailed.
For Jonathan, therefore, his will to rehabilitate one of his own; his kith and kin, from political oblivion outweighs his will to stand up and be counted as a foremost anti-corruption President. It reminds one of US President Franklin D Roosevelt (1933-1945)’s sarcastic reference to the brutal, corrupt and right-wing dictator, Nicaraguan President, Anastasio Somoza (1937-1956): “He may be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch”. Is Alamieyseigha Jonathan’s inverted son of the soil? It appears so. Perhaps what is more frustrating is the damning acquiescence of the few high-calibre ministers in Jonathan’s cabinet. Wasn’t it the British philosopher, Edmund Burke who said that the only condition necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing? Granted that individual ministers could not have prevailed on the President to pull back from this ill-advised act, but doing nothing precisely makes them complicit in the wrong committed by the Presidency.
We have yet to witness a public official in Nigeria willing to put their career on the line for principle. Did it not occur to any of the high-ranking ministers especially the ones holding economic briefs, including the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and foreign affairs ministry that extending a Presidential pardon to a person like Alamieyseigha is palpably wrong? Is there nothing these ministers would not swallow for the sake of hanging on to office? Can one not imagine what a resignation by, say, Jonathan’s minister of finance, or foreign affairs, or even Central Bank of Nigeria governor over the pardon could have done to the administration and the cause of justice in Nigeria? Is standing up for public morality something only practiced in foreign land; in Western countries to the exclusion of Africa? Even more audacious and earth-shattering event would it have been for the Chairman of EFCC to tender his resignation on principle or, is that day-dreaming? If this is not the moment for gallant leadership from one of these figures, then, when would there ever be one? Is there nothing that could be so wrong; so morally offensive to these men and women in high office that would ever cause them to walk?
The attraction, allure and trappings of office are the ultimate aphrodisiacs for men and women in power and high office in Nigeria. They are pampered; showered with the kind of perks their counterparts in the West can only dream of. They wake up to their bowl of cereals, fresh milk and sliced bread; their retinue of maids, domestic servants and gatemen running at their beck and call, their police orderlies with their clacking walkie-talkies being seized of their boss’s personal security and route planning for their convoy of vehicles, their bullet-proof SUVs in tainted glasses, the blaring of sirens clearing off nonentities off the road to ensure the boss’s smooth passage to the all important ministerial briefings etc. This is peppered by sumptuous lunches, brunches, and dinners in between meetings and conferences through the rest of the day. These people are ensconced in a cocoon; a bubble that shields them from the reality of life around them. They live in a vacuum with no moral compass. After all, it is their turn to eat, why allow any pangs of guilt to interrupt that? They and the administration they serve are not only rotten from the core; they are rotten to the core!
Tayo Oke is an expert in international capital markets law, financial regulation and anti-money laundering legislation is also a director at OKEASSOCIATES INTERNATIONAL. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters