Presidential Pardon: Corruption Of The “Virtue Of Forgiveness”?-A Reply To Doyin Okupe

DSP Alamieyeseigha
By Rev. Fr. Azike Gerald Rome

For some days now, the argument about the morality of the presidential pardon granted to DSP Alamieyeseigha has dotted the pages of our newspapers and elicited heated altercations with many Nigerians. Ordinarily, as a Catholic Priest, I am supposed to be on the side of the supporters of this “pro-bono” action of Jonathan’s since it has to do with forgiveness, which in my role as priest, I am supposed to champion. My patriotic allegiance is demanding otherwise. I have struggled with my personal feelings to justify the action of the President but my heart says otherwise. I discovered that my uneasiness with this “forgiveness” was not generated because there was a dearth of human kindness in my heart but the moral poverty that surrounds this “holy action”.  As I listen to the reasons being proffered by the government for the justification of this action, the more anger is being stoked in me. Finally, when I heard the SENIOR SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO
THE PRESIDENT ON PUBLIC AFFAIRS, DR DOYIN OKUPE gave the Press Conference where he enunciated the reasons to justify the action; I knew that I must speak out in response to Doyin Okupe’s explanations and justifications.

An initial response of the government which was shown in the “I do not give a damn” posturing of no-apology stance demonstrated by Doyin Okupe when he likened the public misgivings to the action to a parent–child misunderstanding stating, "It is like a parent, it is not every decision a parent takes that is palatable or acceptable to the child. But in due course, we always find out the parents were right”, smacks of insensitivity. If I may ask, who is the parent and who are the children? This government cannot continue to insult the citizenry. Let it be clear that the relationship of the President to the electorates in a democracy is never paternalistic. Democracy is always a government of the people, for the people and by the people and will always remain so.

In the Press Conference that followed afterwards, the Spokesman defined forgiveness and inter-alia said, “…Prerogative of Mercy by definition is not a justifiable affair. It has to do with discretion and the necessity to redress bitterness and thereby offer healing and forgiveness especially in the presence of evidence of remorse and potential to add value to the country.” Of course, this is true but only that the healing is not only meant for the offender but also for the offended and in this case, the Nigerian masses. Actually, forgiveness as a virtue is supposed to heal both parties, while the offender is being offered healing and reconciliation the offended is benefitting from the forgiveness since it frees him from the enslavement to the hurt. In this instance, it is evidently clear that this pardon abysmally fails short of achieving this peace of soul for the Nigerian masses offended. In fact, it does the contrary by aggravating the bitterness in the hearts of so many Nigerians, which it was meant actually to assuage.  The fact is that Nigerians know that the enunciated moral platitudes above are not the reason for this act but the selfishness of a few.

It may be interesting also to note the moral conundrums raised by this drama by the two protagonists given the likelihood that the President may run again for office in 2015 and stands to gain with a free Alamieyeseigha around him. World tabloids from BBC to the Associated Press invariably made reference to this. Of course, Nigerian politics has not evolved to the point that one would have expected the President to apply the principle of recusal in the said saga; but any president in a democracy is the moral icon and should always try to be so. As a public person, he should know that every one of his actions, whether intended or not, will always be subjected to the highest scrutiny. In this regard, the spin-doctor’s effort to browbeat the Nigerian citizens by asking them to adulate the President for his “never-seen humility” in his earlier admission of Alamieyeseigha as his political mentor a can never do the magic.

Again, the spokesperson was ingenious in quoting many American Presidents in the so called “forgiveness saga” obviously to attenuate the gravity of the callousness of the action of his boss and couching all in the name of responding to those who normally use that country as a “benchmark of good governance and democratic propriety”. Yet, he logically destroyed his argument when he said later “all Nations of the world have their own characteristics and will always do things that are socio-politically expedient at every point in time”. And this is the crux of the problem. Nigerians are crying out not because they are averse to forgiveness, a universal moral good, but because this particular one is loaded with so many negative implications given the present state of the fight against corruption which since inception of this government has been on life-support.

In his elaborate quotation of America, apparently to water down the genuine agitations of Nigeria over this issue, the spokesperson was smart to point out that American citizens sometimes reacted to a certain forgiveness granted by their past presidents. But unfortunately that comparison is a square peg in a round hole because of the diverse circumstances of the two nations. The citizens of America do not react over the presidential forgiveness because of fear they will induce corruption.

The state apparatus is always poised to check that. They react because of their zero tolerance for infractions of the law, which the recipients have done. In the case of Nigeria, the fear being expressed is the repercussion, which this will have in feathering corruption. So comparing and contrasting these societies begs the question. State pardon can never be independent of circumstances and situations and therefore forgiveness of Alamieyeseigha in Nigeria cannot logically or morally ever be compared with any forgiveness in America.

This issue of corruption brings us to the most laughable part of the Press Conference. The spokesperson accused Nigerians of bellyaching and growling instead of being grateful to Alamieyeseigha for the obvious blessings he has been to Nigeria. As he said, “…in truth Alamieyeisegha since he left prison has been working strenuously and silently to assist the President to stabilize the amnesty in the Niger Delta Region. Alamieyeisegha is a foremost leader of the Ijaw Nation, and his political and stabilizing influence have positively impacted the overall economy of the nation, bringing crude oil exports from the abysmally low level of 700,00 bpd, to over 2.4 million bpd!” This is again where the problem lies. Nigeria’s problem has never been about the paucity of funds but rather the management of the fund. I state this without any fear of contradiction, as the logic is clear. If our problem were lack of fund, Nigeria would have made giant leaps in those moments of abundance like the oil windfall of Babangida era and subsequent governments. And the reason for this lack of progress is not far-fetched, CORRUPTION.

It is here that spokesman’s quotation of Lord Denning that “the purpose of punishment is not to destroy the offender but rather to reform him and deter others” should be scrutinized. If I may ask, how will this action of the President deter others from corruption? Of course, if Doyin Okupe knows much about Lord Denning, which I hope he does, he will not be quoting him in Nigeria’s case as the learned English man will turn in his grave at such a betrayal. I want to draw Okupe’s attention at this point to another English man, Thomas Hobbes who wrote in his Leviathan “the value or worth of a man is, as of all other things, his price which is not absolute, but a thing dependent on the need of and judgment of another. An able conductor of soldiers is of great price in time of war present or imminent, but in peace not so. A learned and uncorrupt Judge is much worth in time of peace, but not so much in war. And as in other things, so in men, not the seller, but the buyer determines the prices.”

In analyzing Hobbe’s quotation above in the light of our ongoing debate, the person being priced is Alamieyeseigha and the buyer is the Nigerian citizenry. Just like material goods, human beings can also in certain sense be valued and this valuation is always relative to the need of a particular buyer. Just as Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan wrote that a just judge may not be priced much in times of peace or a war veteran in time of war, so in this case. In the present state of Nigeria mired in corruption, a humbled ex-convict Alamieyeseigha is more valuable to the Nigerian buyers than a forgiven-proud Alamieyeseigha who would help boost Nigerian crude oil output.

The reason is because the former Alamieyeseigha would always be a sad reminder to the would-be thieves of Nigeria and through that figure help in keeping corruption in abeyance, the bane of Nigeria. But the later Alamieyeseigha will rather make corruption attractive, as you only need to embezzle so much and restitute so little with only a little spank from the government. Besides, the tenet of forgiveness goes with the resolve never to sin again but what good does it make in exposing the recipient to filthy lucre that caught him pants down before. Nigeria’s wealth cannot again be made available to Alamieyeseigha through his so-called help in boosting oil production. I would want to end this discussion by asking our President to help us come out of the corruptive woods where we are being driven into by many of his actions. God bless you all.
Rev. Fr. Azike Gerald Rome
 

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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@Nimi - No scapegoats, and no 'SACRED COWS'!

Re - "TWO WRONGS MAKE A DAMN RIGHT UNTIL THERE IS EQUITY IN THE POLITICAL SPHERE AND EVERY PENNY IS ACCOUNTED". You make a good point, but the wrong CONCLUSION! A better conclusion could have been NO SCAPEGOATS, and NO SACRED-COWS!

Don't say 'ALAMS' was 'politically rail-roaded'. No! He was GUILTY as charged, even if he was the only one, out of the LOT OF 31, CONVICTED so far, thus making him seem like a 'scapegoat'. Instead of support the release of the 'goat', ask for the 'sacred-cows' to be harnessed as well!

As for your comparison of 'ALAMS' with DANGOTE, the DIFFERENCE IS THAT, WHILE ONE WAS A PUBLIC SERVANT, THE OTHER IS A PRIVATE BUSINESSMAN! That isn't rocket science, is it?

I like your 'closing' - "FIX THE PROBLEM, NOT SCAPEGOAT AS A GUISE TO FIGHT CORRUPTION". True talk, but don't FREE the 'GOAT'!

What exactly are you talking

What exactly are you talking about ? Dangote made his money from the scratch everybody knows that. He started from buying and selling salt & sugar to packaging and selling salt, sugar and transportation. Huge local demand, with corporate vision brought the company to the companies that they are today.

Please make meaningful contribution relevant to the issue.

Presidential Pardon

Rev Father, Thank you sir. Both Doyin O and Reuben Abati have collected their share and they should bury their head in shame. Shame on them!

MR. ANONYMOUS, FACE THE FACTS AND CALL A SPADE A SPADE!!(II)

FOR. you guys don't get it and probably will never get it. you are worried about propertis, what about refineries, estates, swiss bank accounts, dangote cement, dangote sugar, dangote snacks, dangote this and dangote that...ALL THE BILLIONS OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY AND YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT ALAMS RENT MONEY??? and you want to talk about chief Alams. one pardon to right the wrong and it has now made this nation a haven for corruption?? some sick jokers you guys are!!! pray you never scapegoated and used as the epitome of all evil when in fact behemoths perfected this craft before you. FIX THE PROBLEM, NOT SCAPEGOAT AS A GUISE TO FIGHT CORRUPTION.

MR. ANONYMOUS, FACE THE FACTS AND CALL A SPADE A SPADE!!(I)

why must they put tribalism aside? it has been the order of the day until now and you want to put it away for a man that was politically rail-roaded. was he the only one who embezzled at that time? why was he scapegoated? and used as the symbol of the fight against corruption. what about other governors? now you want to talk about "put tribalism apart" when in fact, it got us here. it is the impetus for the pardon. how soon we become santimonious. TWO WRONGS MAKE A DAMN RIGHT UNTIL THERE IS EQUITY IN THE POLITICAL SPHERE AND EVERY PENNY IS ACCOUNTED

Free Ticket for Deri and Alams

@Deri,

Now that Alams has become free courtsey of your President's pardon. I have put together enough money for return tickets and visas for you and Alam to Loondon and USA for you to visit his properties over there. He may just be able to collect outstanding rents from these properties and spent sometime with his children. Please provide your forwarding address for the delivery of the tickets.

@ Deri and Stanley Igwe

U guys are bent on destroying the people of Nigeria. Ur reasoning is so illogical! Lets leave out tribalism and political divides for one minute: think about (not Nigeria) but D people of Nigeria 100 years from now, what would become of the people? can you guys come up with solutions that would make d people better off?
Did Alams steal? if he did, then the way he was caught is of no consequence at d moment. D only way fairness would come to this whole saga would be for Jona to go after the remaining 33 with his presidential might. If u agree dealing with corruption is the way forward, then think of Nigeria having to take at least 33++ steps. Obj took 1, y wont Jona take more towards achieving d 33++ steps? instead he takes one back! & to think of it, u guys are happy with his decision? what a shame. Think about your generations to come. you can't possibly acquire enough for them. its best to leave them a healthy environment to make a good life.
Deri and stanley Igwe be sensible

OKUPE IS A SALESMAN.

He sells lies / falsehood. That is what his conglomerate trades in. His shares is worth nothing, just as his personality. He can therefore see no wrong in what Alamiyesagha did nor that of his boss even when the conscience convicts him. He is irredeemable beyond pardon.

Rev Azike should bear in mind

Rev Azike should bear in mind that even in the Vatican, there are so many allegations making the rounds as to what is actually the reason for the voluntary retirement by Pope Benedict, recently.

It could also be pointed out to Azike that, the bottler to the ex-pope is now serving a 18 month jail sentence and in the spirit of forgiveness, the former decided to pay the bottler a visit in his prison house.

Coming back to the situation of our circumstance in Nigeria and judging it side by side with what Azike has said, i want to ask him why he did not contradict Dr. Okupe by saying that no pardon was given to these people he, Okupe mentioned.

It is not fair for anybody staying out the confines of the country to sit somewhere and think he can send such infamous writings that seek to undermine the integrity of the constituted authority. Azike should concentrate on his job and leave politics or Nigerians alone...

Thanks father for the

Thanks father for the incisive piece. We could just have beeen back to the Abacha era, except that corruption then wasnt this bad. Save the IBB era when kleptocracy was a legimate tool of governance, no era in Nigerian historyhas has been so openly supportive of corruption in high places God knows what Rueben Abati would have written today if he was still on his desk at Rutam House, basking for attention. I agree with the erudite writer that the poverty of Nigeria is not about resources but of integrity, and inability to see strive personal interests. Were it not, anybody would be ashamed to come publicly, even on the anonymity of a blog, to argue for pardon of a convict caught with his fingers in the till on the basis of flawed trial! More than that,a president who grants pardon to a blatant felon while singing about eliminating corruption also needs an urgent help.

You are right

You are right

ARE YOU TRUELY A REVEREND FATHER?

Presidential pardons are used all over the World and have their basis in Matthew 6: 12 "and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us." The principle is also found in the Qur'an which says "But if you pardon and exonerate and forgive, Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful." [Qur'an, 64: 14]. The principle is that just as it is in the Bible and the Qur'an, where God promises not to remember our sins when we seek forgiveness and are pardoned, Presidential pardons have the effect of treating a conviction as though it never happened. It removes the stigma and restores the convict to normal life. The pardon is a prerogative of a grantor.

I doubt you, Rev. Fr. Azike Gerald if truly you are a Reverend Father cum Christian!

@Stanley, I find your

@Stanley,
I find your response to the Rev Father's write-up as falling below reason.

That there were 33 thieves caught and 1 was tried and sentenced does not make his case political neither does it make the 32 others justified. Justifying Alams' pardon on the non-prosecution and conviction of others is totally unreasonable.

Did Mr. President forget that the crimes for which Alams was convicted were perpetrated when they were working together? Is it not reasonable to now think and believe that he was also a beneficiary of those loots seeing that his first ever presidential pardon has benefited his erstwhile boss?

Alams the thief

MR. DERI, you are a senseless contributor. Check yourself properly. People like are suffering and smiling thinking all is well with you but not at all. If you do not know what to say, please stop wasting your time. Not thanks

Alams Is A Thief

No matter how people colour him, the truth is that DSP Alams is a thief. He doesn't deserve that pardon at all. This is a man who went into office in 1999 with a one point agenda - to steal, steal and steal. Just take a look at the crime sheet, you will notice that he spent all his years as governor of Bayelsa state stealing. He deserves to be roasted or be jailed for life.

Re: Rev Fr Azike I strongly disagree

@Stanley Igwe ... for once I concur with your comment making sense. If IBB for example could manipulate Abubakar to pardon OBJ for a crime, whether the coup plot was fanthom or not, so as to make OBJ the president, why complain about GEJ doing similar thing for his mentor Alams probably to become a senator. This is the consequence of the dirty politics played in Nigeria with crazy demons in control of what we call democracy in Nigeria. That's how far I will go with you.

I just hope however that the likes of you will maintain this same position when it is someone else in future and I will be on the lookout. I just do not see how Nigeria will get out of this vicious cycle of using one bad precedent to justify a new one. What comes around will continue to go around. One day a "Rawlings" will arise to put a stop to this malady.

My dear Rev. Alike.

Pls. Do not worry to say any more for you have already said it all. The fact remains that except to the president and his
Mouth piece, Alams is a thief , barawo, onleey, onyoshi. and shall remain so to Nigerians.Pardon or no pardon.

Alams never mind them highest we secede! animals

Look here Rev father or whatever name u call yourself-the church is a place 4 both saints and sinners alike-you have no business adding petrol to the burning fire-the catholic church needs your input on how to end sexual abuse-not stories on alams--Pls tell us with a clear conscience if you have any left in u, how many governors were indicted by ribadu? Ribadu it was who went to the senate and told them he has records of how 33 governors stole money from their states-Yet the only man who was unconstitutionally impeached was ijaw man Alams-where was your holy voice when ribadu locked up law-makers from Bayelsa state and threatened dem with death if they do not impeach Alams-Ribadu was also at heath-row airport waiting for alams when he arrived from Germany to enable him point Alams out to the metro police-which other governor from 9ja was given such treatment-did we see army tanks being used against the Zamfara state governor yerimah or d 33 thieves -Just shut up biko!

Rev Fr Azike I strongly disagree 2

I must make bold to say that the travail of DSP did not send any message to anybody in Nigeria because then most people felt that his prosecution was political. Those who were in the good book of OBJ went home with their loot.It was only DSP that was hounded down by all means using state apparatus. My question is why was peter Odili,Gbenga Daniels and other corrupt governors like DSP not have the same treatment.Joshua Dariye Jumped bailed in the UK but today he is a senator. OBJ pardoned Sanusi Buhari immediately he was convicted of perjury. It is this double standard by OBJ in his 'unevenly distribution' of justice that then the media accused Ribadu of being selective.What Alam did is it beyond pardon? Even Ribadu did not thoroughly prosecuted Alams, there was a plea bargain which set the precedence for corrupt officials which has done more damage to fight against corruption than state pardon, so what are we talking about?

Rev Fr Azike I strongly disagree

I am most surprise that a Rev Father can take this awkward position which is contrary to his cardinal ministry as the bishop of the church. My question is will father turn DSP Alamieyeseigha back from his church if he comes to ask for forgiveness? He dwelt so much on the reply of the SSA to mr President than elaborately treating the issue of pardon of DSP. What I found most confounded is the argument that this pardon will send wrong signal and that it will water down fight against corruption. I want to ask if since Alams was convicted and stripped naked, if it was the last corruption committed in Nigeria? How many governors learnt from him? In fact since then corruption have been on the increase. Anybody who think that he can now venture into corruption sector should as well be ready to go through what DSP went through.Alams was not pardoned without a price,his sin almost caused him his life.

Presidential Pardon: Corruption Of The “Virtue Of Forgiveness”?-

Dear Father Azike,

Please do not bother with all your expostulations.
This president has voluntarily decided to toe the path of infamy. He is lost. No amount of homily and cries can help this man. He is far gone into the abyss of no return.
Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan will be remembered in history as the most catastrophic and corrupt leader of any modern world. His place is already assured with the most infamous and globally rejected leaders of the modern era.
Father Azike, God bless you and more ink to your pen for people that are still reformable.

Alam do the right thing and

Alam do the right thing and take the load of The President. Alam you were his former bossof the President. Alam now you must stand very tall and reject the pardon. If you accept the pardon, the international community will one day will do you a James Ibori. Alam you know that you can not leave the shores of Nigeria, without confronting the international police, interpol. Alams in the UK you escaped from very lawful costody and this is the lacuna. it is a very serious offence here in the UK and as long as you live and attimes even in death you can be charged.. With the money you grabed from your treasury and which you have done time for in prison, my advice is to go back to the land, the farms and start at the very least to give back to the community. After you have cleanced yourself and promise the people that you will loot no more and then ask the community, the state, the Niger Delta and Nigeria in general to forgive you and then go and steal or loot NO MORE!!!