By Henry Umoru & Ozioruva Aliu
The news of the presidential pardon granted to late foremost Nationalist, Chief Anthony Enahoro, and former Governor of old Bendel State (now Edo and Delta), Professor Ambrose Alli has been received with mixed feelings by their families, the government of Edo State and Elder Statesman, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark.
The families though lauded the pardon said the gesture was long overdue considering the fact that the two did not deserve the treatment they got from the Nigerian government when they were convicted at different times.
Andrew Alli, first son of Alli, said his father did not anything requiring presidential pardon other adding value to his state and country.
His words: “We have never believed that he was guilty of anything, other than giving his all to improve the lot of the people of the former Bendel State and, indeed, Nigeria. This is demonstrated by the enduring legacies that he left. We thank his Excellency, President Buhari, as well as his Excellency Governor Obaseki, and all those who have supported the process inside and outside government, for their recognition of this fact.
Although we are yet to receive any direct official communication on this matter, we are pleased to hear that our father, uncle, brother, and grandfather has received a presidential pardon.’’
In like, the family of Enahoro in a statement by Otunba Eugene Enahoro said: “A State Pardon is an act of the Executive to set right some wrongs of the past. It is an acceptance that some things need to be rectified. Therefore, we want to appreciate President Buhari for addressing the issue. All sons of former Bendel in general and Edoland in particular should appreciate this gesture as a formal recognition of the public service rendered by these two distinguished sons of Esanland”
On his part, Governor Godwin Obaseki expressed appreciation to President Buhari for the presidential pardon granted the two Edo sons.
A statement by the Special Adviser to Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said the governor deeply appreciates that the presidential pardon, which he had championed in the past few months, has finally been granted.
He said the state government would continue to sustain the legacies of late Professor Alli and the noble ideals of Chief Enahoro, noting: “With Prof. Alli’s legacies serving as indelible examples of the kind of policies and programmes we are enacting in Edo State, the Obaseki-led administration is going to continue to place the common man at the centre of its policies.
Chief Enahoro, on his part, also espoused ideals which we have anchored a number of our programmes, especially on the need for Edo people to chart the path of their destinies on their own terms.
“The president’s gesture gives fillip to our desire to restore the golden age of development in the state and truly drive development that would better the life of the people in the state.”
It’s a welcome development – Clark
Former Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, described the presidential pardon for Enahoro and Alli as a welcome development, adding that the late governor would be remembered for taking the government of late President Shehu Shagari to task over derivation for the people of the Niger Delta.
The pardon for Ambrose Ali came 37 years after he was sentenced to 100 years in prison by the military regime of General Buhari in 1984 for allegedly misappropriating the sum of ¦ 983, 000 meant for a road project.
With the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians and the reported payment of a N1 million fine by a Benin chief, Prof. Alli was released and he died not long after.
Speaking with Vanguard on the development, Clark who noted that he took over as Minister from the late Enahoro, said that Nigerians and especially the people of South-South are very happy with the pardon extended to Enahoro.
The Elder statesman also hailed the granting of presidential pardon and clemency to 2, 600 inmates of the Custodial Centres of the Nigeria Correctional Service NCoS as part of measures to control the spread of the Coronavirus in the country.
Chief Clark said: “On Chief Enahoro, I am not sure if he was not granted pardon by General Yakubu Gowon before he made him a Federal Commissioner of Information. I was with him throughout and I remember when Chief Obafemi Awolowo became the Vice Chairman of the Council, Enahoro was a Minister and I took over from him. I am not very sure if he was not pardoned by General Gowon.
“When he took over as the Head of State, he freed Awolowo and Enahoro. If the present government feels that they have not been pardoned, and decided to pardon him, we are very happy. Chief Anthony Enahoro was a leader, he was our leader and was the leader of Midwest region to the Constitutional Conference organised by General Yakubu Gowon. We salute the President and congratulate Nigerians, Nigeria and South-South in particular.”
On Professor Ali, Chief Clark, who described his detention as political, said that the late former governor was a lecturer at the University of Benin and he (Clark) was responsible for his appointment, then as the Pro-chancellor of the ivory tower.
According to him, Ambrose Ali performed very well as governor of the defunct Bendel State and was instrumental to the establishment of Bendel State University, now Ambrose Ali University and Delta State University, Abraka, Delta State.
Chief Clark said that though they were friends, he dragged Ali to court to challenge why Bendel State University should be cited where it is now and not Delta when there was an already existing one, University of Benin in Benin.
Clark said that Ambrose Ali fought for derivation for the Niger Delta region when he dragged President Shehu Shagari to court, adding that one interesting thing about the case was that the then Governor of Rivers State, late Melford Okilo even though belonged to the ruling party, joined Ali who was in the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN.
According to Clark, prior to Ali dragging the Federal Government to Court, the constitution provided for 50 percent derivation to regions with the resources, but the military came and abrogated it, adding that at the advent of democracy in 1979, Ambrose Ali fought for its return and he won. One percent derivation was granted and it has risen the present 13 percent.