By Donu Kogbara
EHUD OLMERT, who was Israel’s Prime Minister between 2006 and 2009, was convicted on Monday of collecting bribes totalling 560,000 shekels ($160,000) to fast-track government permits to build a housing estate in Jerusalem.
While Olmert – a good friend of ex-US President, George Bush and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel – was in office, he promised to pull Israel’s army out of the West Bank after four decades of globally condemned occupation.
In 2008, he offered the Palestinians a fair land-for-peace deal and has played a key role in every recent attempt to bring about a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict. Until he was arrested, he was widely regarded as a dynamic Action Man who had a lot of life left in him, politically.
Now his reputation has been dealt a killer blow and his outstanding career lies in tatters. Instead of mostly being remembered for his intelligence, his positive character traits, his glittering social circle and his professional achievements, he will mostly be remembered for avariciously succumbing to corruption – a seriously stupid move in a country where NOBODY is above the law.
His lawyers intend to appeal his conviction before the court rules on his sentence; but there is plenty of evidence against him; and it is more likely than not that he will join the club of Israeli VIPs who have wound up behind bars.
Olmert’s own Finance Minister, Avraham Hirschson, was sentenced to five years, following an investigation into the theft of funds from Holocaust survivors.
An Interior Minister was locked up for three years in the l990s for accepting a lesser bribe than the bribe that led to Olmert’s downfall. Meanwhile, Moshe Katzav, an ex-President, is still serving a seven-year prison term after being found guilty of raping and sexually harassing various female subordinates in 2010.
If Olmert is eventually carted off to jail, he might not be lonely because it is expected that he’ll be accompanied by nine cronies, including a Jerusalem Mayor and the Chairman of Israel’s largest bank, who were convicted alongside him.
I am not the type of person who celebrates when high-profile people are disgraced. Even if I know them personally and dislike them intensely or simply disapprove of them from afar, I feel sad whenever the once-mighty fall into the gutter because of their human weaknesses, particularly if they became successful because they were talented or hard-working or charismatic.
However, in a world full of starving children, devastated victims of war, hospital patients who are slowly dying in agony and so on, it really doesn’t make sense to squander one’s sympathies on dishonourable dignitaries who have enjoyed highly privileged existences, brought their humiliations upon themselves, injected toxic dysfunctions into systems they took oaths to protect, abused the trust that was invested in them and caused suffering to others.
Even relatively minor offences like pocketing a few thousand dollars to push a planning application or whatever for a contractor should be punished. And the Israeli authorities deserve to be heartily congratulated for reacting sternly whenever public servants and other elevated citizens are caught misbehaving.
Will Nigeria will take a leaf out of Israel’s book in my lifetime and learn how to purge the corridors of power of rotten apples, so this nation can move forward?
I doubt it!
What do YOU think?
Cross carpeting legislators
ISRAEL is not the only place in which an important court judgement was issued on Monday. Here, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court restrained the 37 lawmakers who have defected from the PDP to the APC from altering the current composition of the House of Representatives’ leadership.
This judgement is being appealed by Aminu Tambuwal, the House’s Speaker, and his Deputy, Emeka Ihedioha, who are both PDP but are faulting Justice Ademola’s reasoning on seven rounds and describing it as “perverse”.
Justice Ademola also ordered the 37 lawmakers to vacate their seats and quit participating in House debates and motions. So hardly surprisingly, the APC is protesting and saying that the judgement is unconstitutional, that it was meant to cause mischief and that Ademola is not competent to issue such a ruling.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by the APC’s Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party expressed an intention to appeal.
People sometimes vote for parties rather than individuals or vice versa; and I have always believed that anyone (Governors included) who gets elected on the platform of one party and then moves to another party should be compelled to resign and go back to the polls in a by-election, so voters can decide whether they like him/her enough to re-elect him/her despite the new party affiliation.
But cross carpeters have never before been compelled to vacate their seats mid-term in Nigeria. So Justice Ademola’s stance puzzles me greatly.
Forgive me, my Lord, but I can’t help wondering whether you would have reacted similarly if 37 legislators had jumped from a minority party to the ruling party.