African Outlook Online

Letters to the editor

Open Letter To President Goodluck Jonathan...

Open Letter To President Goodluck Jonathan...

 

By John Aderogba

Dear President Goodluck Jonathan, I wish to inform you this morning that more and more Nigerians are running out of patience with you. Those of us who have been giving you the benefit of the doubt are seething with rage.

Increasingly, the excuses are drying up. Many cannot understand the rationale behind the pardon you brazenly granted to certain characters last week. In case you don’t understand the implications of your action, I will put it in simple English: you have lowered the bar. This is an avoidable embarrassment to you, your government and the whole nation.

 

This not only undermines the nation’s anti-corruption efforts, it is going to destroy public morality for generations to come, similar to what General Ibrahim Babangida did to us from 1985 to 1993. Mr. President, you pardoned those convicted of plotting coups against General Sani Abacha which you expect all of us to clap for. We all call the coups “phantom” – so it plays perfectly into public sentiments for you to be seen as redressing an injustice done by Abacha. That was a nice shot, Mr. President. But you were so much in a hurry that you even included the names of those already pardoned by General Abdulsalami Abubakar 15 years ago. How many pardons does a man need for the same offence?

 

Why does your administration keep scoring own goals, as we say in football – or committing unforced errors, as we say in tennis? Your Excellency, despite your “good” intention of righting the wrongs done by Abacha, how come we were not deceived that you slotted the name of former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, into the pardon list? You can pardon 1000 ex-convicts if you like, but we understand the game when we see the name of Alamieyeseigha on the list.

 

The whole pardon bazaar was organized in his honor, we know. The inclusion of the names of other non-coupists like Alhaji Shettima Bulama, who wrecked the Bank of the North, and Dr. Chichi Ashwe, another failed bank chief, was intended to create a “federal character” effect. Maybe Bode George or Tafa Balogun will make the next batch.

 

For the record, Alamieyeseigha was not accused of plotting a coup, which is essentially a debatable political offence. He was accused of stealing billions of naira. Even though President Olusegun Obasanjo was allegedly pursuing vendetta against him for purportedly refusing to support the third term agenda, Alamieyeseigha was properly tried in a court of law, not a military tribunal. He appointed his own lawyers. He pleaded guilty. He was convicted. He forfeited a fraction of his loot. He was jailed. It was a major victory for the anti-graft war in the history of Nigeria – the first time a former governor would be jailed in a democracy.

 

Mr President, that is what you are trying to undo in 2013 – at a time we should be moving forward. You may not get this, Your Excellency, but you have, by this action, sent mixed messages to Nigerians and the whole world. To the looters, you have told them: “Loot on!” You have designed a template for future presidents. Babangida, the man who democratized corruption in Nigeria, released the Second Republic politicians (jailed by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s government) and granted them pardon. Babangida even returned their confiscated loot to them, with a pat on the back. Can we ever recover from this perfidy?

 

Obasanjo did a similar thing in 2000 when he pardoned the “Toronto” Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Salisu Buhari, a serial certificate forger. Obasanjo, unsuccessfully, bizarrely tried to return Buhari as Speaker. Yes, you won’t be the first to grant controversial pardon. But, Mr. President, is this the company you want to keep? Is this the breath of fresh air you promised us? Is this transformation?

 

Another message you have sent out, Your Excellency, is that the anti-graft agencies are wasting their time. You are telling them: “If you like investigate, prosecute and get conviction. I am eagerly waiting here to pardon the crooks!” You are telling the few courageous judges to go to hell. Why should any judge seek to jail any politician again? The judge would do himself a world of good by collecting part of the loot and setting the suspects free. I’m sure the rogue bankers currently undergoing trial will be licking their lips at their own prospects. “We will be remorseful and get a pardon,” they would be whispering to themselves now. You are also telling the foreign countries, which have been helping us in the anti-graft war, to stop weeping more than the bereaved. With due respect, Mr President, you have committed a grievous blunder.

 

Your spokesman and dramatist, Dr. Reuben Abati, was as disgusted as most of us when the Alamieyeseigha saga broke eight years ago. He wrote in The Guardian on November 25, 2005: “Alamieyeseigha ... has shown himself to be a dishonorable fellow, unfit to rule, unfit to sit among men and women of honor and integrity, unfit to preach to the people that he leads about ideals and values.”

 

Although Abati, with his “sophisticated amnesia”, has to defend your action today employing as much abuse as his intellect can summon, the fact remains that truth is constant. What Abati said in 2005 about public morality is still potent in 2013, no matter where his bread is buttered now. Truth, I repeat, is constant.

 

Another of your spokespersons, Dr. Doyin Okupe, told us to the face that you “don’t give a damn” about our complaints. He said you can do and undo. What he doesn’t understand is that power belongs to the people. When you were elected into office, you were elected to hold power in trust for the people. It is not your personal property. You, therefore, need to exercise it with every sense of responsibility, patriotism and good faith. Okupe even said Alamieyeseigha is practically responsible for the sustenance of the Nigerian economy, helping to move our crude oil production from 700,000 barrels per day to 2.4 million. Well done! In that case, Alamieyeseigha should be made president. His performance, out of office, is quite outstanding and impressive!

 

All said and done, Mr. President, I hope that in a moment of introspection, when you are left alone with your conscience, you will be able to ask yourself if indeed you have done the right thing in the best interest of the present and future generations of Nigerians. Ask yourself if truly what you have done is for our good. Mr. President, unto thyself be true....