By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
When a man dies eulogies and tears are shed. Some of his enemies will contribute genuine tears from remorse , some friends will tear their dresses in affected grief. Some sympathy must belong to the one who has dropped from contention, death is a resignation. Sins are forgiven or forgotten, good deeds are confessed , professed, exaggerated.
In times past , when superstition credited the dead with the capacity for evil or revenge, the living was admonished not to speak ill of the dead. Our culture still respects the dead and generally spares them of accusations partly because they cannot defend themselves.
Men become saints after death because something about living is incompatible with sainthood. Politicians in Nigeria , however, manage to appropriate some degree of sainthood while alive. They plunder the common heritage , fan divisive embers to generate a smokescreen, and conscript the conscience of the poor who are left to quibble endlessly .
The representatives steal and the represented, doubly victimized, rise to their defence , deflect their guilt and render praise. An identification can sanctify and can enslave. The poor masses embrace the delusion that they owe support to the thieving politician with whom they share a kind of primitive identification or association.
“He is one of our own.” Ethnicities , clans and religions own people in Nigeria, there is little sense of nationhood. It’s a bit more than an exploitation of desperation and hunger because even the elite are not spared by the affliction.
DSP Alamieyeseigha, is dead. I wish he had lived till ripe old age. Dirges and eulogies have filled the air. They say he transformed Amassoma and Yenogoa. And they list virtually everything in Bayelsa as his legacy. He was well loved by his people. A man of the people. Many days of mourning have been declared.
Flags, Nigerian flags, will fly at half mast. A state burial , befitting of a governor general , is in the offing. All have sinned and fallen short of glory, that must be the logic that takes away moral pungency from all his conspicuous shortcomings. Politicians say we have no memory, and they may be right.
President Buhari has sent his condolence message, he says the governor general was a great man. Fayose ,typically African, is keen on attributing the death to someone. He says the federal government and the UK government hounded and harassed him to death. And Dickson, the Bayelsa Governor concurs. Bayelsa elections are due, there will be graveside politics. The UK law enforcement agencies must bear with us.
If Lawrence Anini , the one that tormented Benin city in the 80’s , were a politician , many would have pointed to his sense of philanthropy and declared that there is no one like him. Who is like unto him that would rob a bank and drive to there nearest market ,where the poor can be found , and distribute half of his booty.
It wouldn’t matter if that piece of charity was a stratagem to aid his escape. Because in Nigeria philanthropy, like the struggle for resource control, is often not about charity or communal emancipation . You can fight for resource control , steal ‘controlled’ funds and find the equanimity to stuff your hand bag with a million pound sterling while setting out to shop in the Queens backyard.
What is the Queens business? The money belongs to the Ijaw people, and they are not complaining because Arewa and Igbo governors have been filling their bags too with oil money . But when riverine communities decide to throw a fit , after suffering needless deaths from lack of hospitals, their youths will hold only Chevron and Shell responsible.
I can’t pretend I don’t feel that DSP suffered enough. But it is a feeling that can be checked by thinking about thousands in many horrible cells in our jails who are there because they stole sums comparably insignificant.
The fate he suffered it would appear was the most unlikely in the circumstance and that makes him perhaps an unfortunate man. Was he really any different from the other governors? James Ibori thinks he wasn’t, says DSP had only one house. Perhaps he didn’t have too many. Would he have gone through that travail if he had supported that botched third term project?
Those who supported the third term project left with their loots and pretentions to integrity intact. The third term project in any case would weigh 100 times more ,on any corruption scale, than all DSP was accused of.
But does this make light of what the self acclaimed governor general did? No, but perhaps now that he is no more we can allow some emotionality to enter our considerations. Why Alams? Why only him? Joshua Dariye is still a distinguished senator. Loved by his people.
The truth is that the story of Alamieyeseigha is the story of the fight against corruption in Nigeria. Looters are the unfortunate, those for whom impunity is not ordained. Those who must fear serious repercussions are those who have interests that are in conflict with the interests of the presidency.
The most endangered of species are rebels within any ruling party. Theirs is complicated by perceived treachery and they are visited with real venom. When constitutional immunity poses a challenge, the EFCC will trample on the law and dislodge immunity. In days gone by ,they would herd state law makers into a van and hold them hostage in a secret location where in response to carrots and sticks they would enlist in the war against corruption.
If Lawrence Anini, the notorious robber, were a politician he could have contributed to the fight against corruption by settling an internecine feud within his gang by exposing some recalcitrant lieutenant and feeding him to the baying public.
He could have thrown Monday Osunbor or Ofege our way and would have acquired a reputation of incorruptibility and sainthood in return. The Halliburton and Siemens scandals’ reports have been quarantined indefinitely because saints were implicated .
Anywhere else Alams would have receded into the obscurity that ignominy and opprobrium enforces. But in Nigeria, he should be in the senate. Shame here is for the ordinary people because when a powerful politician engages in a vice he must be understood to be in it for his people.
Anyone who comes after him is witch- hunting , and must contend with the various groups whose identifications with he promotes to perpetuate perhaps an assumed messianic status.
If Anini were a politician, using pens rather than machine guns, giving to churches as he was giving to markets, some bishops would have protested against his trial as wicked and desperate attempt to persecute Christianity and deny churches of funds needed for evangelism. If it is not selective justice how is it that other robbers have not all been arrested?
But it is difficult not to pity Alamieyeseigha. In a country where former governors have mastered the art of procuring perpetual injunctions to put themselves beyond the reach of the law, how did he fall so easily?
How couldn’t he have known that governors don’t move cash themselves. A certain Anambra government house car was arrested somewhere with over two hundred million naira in cash stacked in the booth. What happened ? That somewhere is not London, so nothing happened. That former governor is awaiting sainthood .
So somehow Alamieyeseigha deserves some pity. Politicians use proxies to run their money laundering networks. They keep no bank accounts. They keep their monies with persons and companies and maintain tidy book keeping.
Once in a while a money manager may go rogue and take what he has been given to keep. But what is that compared to being wanted by the Met police for money laundering? These days politicians hide billions in housing estates they buy and leave empty.
When Jonathan his ‘boy’ and kinsman became president, Alamieyeseigha was not forgotten. He was rehabilitated. And that is typical. Some good cause was found and credited to him. “He helped to calm the restiveness of the Niger Delta”. Applause. From money laundering to image laundering, it’s all part of the general laundry business.
And before people could raise eye brows about his new found prominence and what it meant for the then flagging fight against corruption, he received a rare presidential pardon. Jonathan, for once, was bold. In your faces, the ‘go and die’ variety! How could he explain such an incestuous pardon given to the poster boy of corruption?
Perhaps presidential prerogatives exist to allow a president save a friend, in furtherance of nepotism. Since Alamieyeseigha suffered a chronic medical condition , shouldn’t he have been left alone? After all he had been stripped bare and humiliated? I think so. But the UK persisted in demanding that Alams who escaped their justice be repatriated.
He left Dubai , he had to leave. Dubai , once thought safe , after Ibori , is no longer so safe. He abandoned his treatment , we are told. I wish Amasoma and Yenogoa had a fully functional tertiary hospital like those in Dubai.
I wish Bayelsa had the sort of leaders that Dubai had, leaders who would build and equip hospitals that people crossed deserts to attend. If the ‘harassment and abandonment’ post mortem hypothesis isn’t politics then he may have lived longer had the care at the University of Port Harcourt hospital been like that of the Dubai hospital.
He started a teaching hospital . But since tokenism has become traditional, hospital wards are built but never really equipped because once the precocious commissioning takes place, plaque affixed, glory taken, and the women in asoebi ,hired to dance and sing, depart with their fees in their pockets, night falls.
The rich and powerful find it difficult to understand that their lives can easily depend on the functionality of the nearest clinic. Air ambulances and UK and UAE health facilities aren’t always available options .
Why would anyone, laying claims to sanity, stash billions of dollars in Europe and have no good health facility 200 kilometres from where she lives. Prudence , the sort that encourages wealth accumulation, will dictate otherwise. But the sort of compulsive accumulation disorder that afflicts our politicians is caused by pathological greed rather than prudence.
Perhaps the Ijaws can go ahead and celebrate their own . When shame comes we will all know. Corruption is cultural and that mitigates its immorality. All have sinned, but we won’t shut the prisons and ask thousands of poor inmates to go home.
He has not sinned more than his peers. Had he supported third term like others and managed to be in the APC he would be one of the saints. Abacha, despite all, despite the recovered billions, still has monuments named after him. DSP will be immortalized. We will remain impoverished for a while. Change I believe has come but shame will take a while.
Adieu Governor General.