By EMMANUEL AZIKEN
One very close associate of Dipereye Alamieyeseigha was in jubilant mood last Thursday as the news of the presidential pardon of the former governor convicted of corruption distilled on Nigerians.
The associate, himself, a top ranking member of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN was particularly scornful of the condemnation of the pardon by Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-political group.
Irrespective of the near universal condemnation, the politician told your correspondent that he and other associates of the former governor were converging for a wild party in the Abuja residence of Alamieyeseigha that evening.
Whatever jubilation among friends of the governor-general would be understandable. Besides, lifting the ignominy of being an ex-convict, it may have opened the way for Alamieyeseigha to further whatever political ambitions he may have.
Remarkably, this would not be the first time that Alamieyeseigha would be returning from the cold.
The first resurrection was in June 2001 when he was about to become the first sitting governor of that era to be impeached. The Bayelsa State House of Assembly which had Heineken Lokpobiri, now a senator, as speaker, had raised issues over alleged extra-budgetary expenditure and irregularities in appointments into boards made by Governor Alamieyeseigha. The Lokpbobiri led house and Alamieyeseigha were drawn in a battle of wits that some believed could have snowballed into ominous dangers for the governor.
The ‘intransigence’ of the house was matched with swift reprisal from Alamieyeseigha’s sympathisers at the end of which the House of Assembly complex was bombed, and Lokpobiri removed as speaker. Lokpobori eventually spent the rest of his tenure on exile.
By mid 2002 Alamieyeseigha, together with another famed governor of that time, James Ibori of Delta State had positioned themselves as the leading political champions of the south-south geopolitical zone. It was inevitable that when the consequences came the two would become primary targets.
For Ibori, the first dose was the initiation of the ex-convict saga. For Alamieyeseigha, he was marked with Governor Chinwoke Mbadiniju of Anambra State for denial of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP gubernatorial ticket for the 2003 elections.
In the place of Alamieyeseigha, Timi Alaibe, popularly referred to as “Principal” by his political associates, was on standby as a shoo-in as the PDP candidate in Bayelsa State.
For most of December 2002, Alamieyeseigha was virtually a dead man politically, running from pillar to post, from Atiku Abubakar to Obasanjo and to all who could prevail. In the end, he won some reprieve, maybe because of Atiku’s strong intervention on his behalf.
But it was only for some time. Two years later, he landed in prison in Britain. It is remarkable that the two leading champions of that era from the region, Alamieyeseigha and Ibori, have now tasted the prison treatment in the UK, both of them having been forced there from third countries.
Since his “miraculous” escape, Alamieyeseigha has laid low, not his former self and almost dead politically. President Goodluck Jonathan it is argued had a moral responsibility to help his former boss. That is irrespective of the fact that while he, Jonathan was deputy governor in Bayelsa, he was virtually a footnote in the affairs of the Alamieyeseigha administration.
However, presidential aides have now argued that Alamieyeseigha has been helpful in keeping the peace in the Niger Delta through appeasement of the boys. It is an argument that is, however, hollow. It points to the surrender by government to blackmail and intimidation. Former Governor Timipirye Sylva was also known to have been chummy with the boys. What is evident is that whosoever is governor of Bayelsa will have the ears of the boys.
Given the moral responsibility of Dr. Jonathan to his former boss, he could have gone about the pardon more circumspectly.
Presidential pardons in other climes have not been less controversial. In the United States, President Gerald Ford’s pardon of President Richard Nixon in 1974 was widely regarded to have cost him that year’s presidential election. President Bill Clinton, perhaps learning from that mistake doled out his own pardons on his last day in office in January 2001.
By exerting this pardon at this time, the Nigeria administration has demonstrated a clear act of naivety. It is a pity.