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Opinion: Jonathan, PDM leadership and the morality question

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar

By John Ainofenokhai

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar

It amazes me why people do not always like to come to equity with clean hands; otherwise, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), which courted controversy from the manner it was secretly registered as a political party behind the back of a vast majority of its founding leaders and members, should have exercised restraint in its attempt to splash mud on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Federal Government under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

I shuddered when I read the Open Letter to President Jonathan by the National Chairman of the newly registered PDM, Malam Bashir Ibrahim Yusuf in Leadership of September 23, 2013, on a day the president met with President Barack Obama in New York, wherein he pontificated on the issue of corruption to wit: “Corruption has plagued our institution and has embedded itself in our governance and society as the routine, standard modus operandi for transactions amongst public and private entities alike.”

The PDM chair, in a bid to deny President Jonathan of moral capital to fight corruption, alluded to the pardon granted to the convicted former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha.  This is the main issue I seek to interrogate; and, I will thereafter proceed to put the PDM and its leadership on the scale to see if they measure up in their implied self righteousness.   My attitude to the grant of presidential pardon to Alamieyeseigha about April, this year, has remained unchanged; and that is President Jonathan had acted within the purview of the Nigerian Constitution.

So the question of whether he acted correctly in the face of the law has been answered.  Should he have extended the pardon to Alamieyeseigha?  That was a matter for the president’s prerogative.  And in the exercise of his prerogative, did he act unilaterally outside the provisions of the Constitution? Not at all! The matters of Alamieyeseigha and other persons who were granted pardon along with him were discussed at the National Council of States meeting.

It was the body that approved the grant and the president implemented it in line with the provisions of Section 175 of the Constitution.  Put succinctly, therefore, it is clearly within the powers of the President of Nigeria to grant pardon within the purview of the said section.  If people like Yusuf have chosen to look at the issue from the prism of morality, their position would still have been warped because morality does not insist that pardon or forgiveness should be precluded in situations of sanctions, especially when the punishment is deemed to have been enough.

Presidential spokesperson, Dr Rueben Abati had rationalized the grant of the pardon thus: “What has been done from the point of view of law is in order. But people say that they are not talking about the law; they are talking about morality.  On that issue, I have said it before that pardon is given to persons who have been convicted. So when a man commits an offence, he goes through the legal process and he is convicted, then he is pardoned later….”

What Yusuf, together with his ilk, wants is for Alamieyeseigha to continue to bear the burden of guilt of an offence for he which he had been sufficiently punished and humiliated throughout his life into his grave.  Their disposition was perhaps so ostensibly because of the political relationship that exists between him and Jonathan.  Jonathan was deputy governor to Alamieyeseigha in Bayelsa State.  There is nothing more than this.

After all, what monumental offence of corruption did Alamieyeseigha commit that many of those who harangued and still harangue him today have not committed?  The fact that the long hand of the law has not caught up with them does not mean that they are clean.  It is because these criminals are walking freely that they can appropriate the moral high ground to cast stones at those who have not been lucky as they have been thus far.

This brings into focus the perfidy that the PDM under Yusuf rode on to register the Movement as a political party.  Does he think what he did by registering the Movement as a party behind the back of many of the founding leaders of the Movement, save former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who is believed to have promoted the act of registration, has any other generic name than corruption?  It is specifically the corruption of the soul, which is the foundation of financial corruption and other forms of malfeasance in our nation.

In pointing a finger of guilt at Jonathan, Yusuf’s other fingers were unfortunately pointing at him.  He was Special Assistant to Abubakar as vice president.  That was the time the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated his boss’ business associate, Congressman Williams Jefferson who was said to have had business dealings with Abubakar.  The report of the investigation was forwarded to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, who ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to look into the matter.  The report of the exercise was sent to the Senate by Obasanjo for its information.

But the Senate would not treat the report as being merely for its information.  It set up an Ad-Hoc Committee which probed the main area of discovery in the tracking of fraudulent embezzlements and diversions of public funds: Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), which was under the direct supervision Atiku Abubakar (Malam Bashir Yusuf’s boss).  So many discoveries were made, even though both Obasanjo and Abubakar had their shares of blame in the mismanagement of the slush fund which the PTDF then typified.

The report of the Senate on the issue was swept under the carpet, of course, not by Jonathan.  Nobody was punished.  The exercise collapsed under the weight of presidential power politics.  The PTDF debacle and other areas of alleged mismanagement traceable to Abubakar while in the saddle as vice president were his contributions and, indirectly, contributions by those who worked with him as special advisers and special assistants, including Malam Yusuf, to the endemic culture of corruption in governance in Nigeria.

It is sad that the political contraption and corrupted heritage of Abubakar as exemplified by the newly registered PDM party is the platform that has been deployed by Malam Bashir Yusuf to pontificate on the issue of corruption in governance under President Jonathan.  Malam Yusuf should get me right: I am not saying that there is no corruption in our society.  There is and in fact, it is prevalent in societies globally.  There is no system anywhere that is immune to corruption.  The only place whose atmosphere and governance are immune to corruption is the Kingdom of God in Heaven.

It is therefore patently fraudulent for Malam Yusuf to paint the picture of a Nigeria that is losing the battle against corruption under Jonathan.  The president is not reversing any gain of the anti-corruption war.  If anything at all, Jonathan has instilled sincerity of purpose and credibility in the battle; how else could he have shown sincerity if he had not followed due process to grant pardon to Alamieyeseigha?

What his action spoke clearly to us is that Alamieyeseigha committed the offences for which he was convicted but what the National Council of State did, which Jonathan gave executive effect to, was to pardon and purge the former Bayelsa governor of his sinful act.   Second scenario is the transparent election of 2011 and the subsequent ones in states of the federation where votes had counted and have continued to count.  Jonathan has been given the credit in this regard.

It is true that corruption in Nigeria is a hydra-headed monster; it is, however, not true that President Jonathan has not upped the ante of the anti-corruption war.  He has done it as a directive principle of state policy, and not as an instrument of blackmail as witnessed under some other administration in this country in recent times.  I am sure that Malam Yusuf, sans politics, did not believe himself on the position he espoused in his open letter.  In fact, neither his political platform-PDM party nor its secret promoter-is in apple-pie order to raise the question of morality around the presidency under Jonathan and the fight against corruption.  This is the truth.

·    Ainofenokhai contributed this piece from Abuja.

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