The National Council of State headed by President Goodluck Jonathan has granted a state pardon to the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreiye Alamieyeseigha. While he was the state governor, Alamieyeseigha embezzled state funds, a crime which he was convicted for. In July 2007, he pleaded guilty to a six- count corruption charge before a Nigerian court and was sentenced to two years in prison on each count. He also once jumped bail in the UK in December 2005 and absconded by allegedly disguising as a woman. He was also charged with money laundering when the London Metropolitan Police found about N253 million in cash in his London home. He is still a wanted man in the UK.
The council also granted a state pardon to another ex-convict and former head of the Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama. At the meeting attended by three former heads of states and some state governors, pardon was also granted to some of those convicted for coup plotting by the Sani Abacha administration.
Others that were granted pardon include the former Chief of General Staff, Major General Oladipo Diya (rtd); former Chief of Staff Supreme Military Council, and brother of the late President, Major General Shehu Musa Yar’adua (Post Humous); ex-Major Bello Magaji NA/6604, Mohammed Lima Biu; Major General Abdulkareem Adisa (Post Humous) and former Major Segun Fadipe.
The Council of State comprises of the President, Vice President, all state governors, former Presidents, the Chief Justice of the Federation, the Senate President and Speaker amongst others.
In 2005, Reuben Abati wrote the following article titled ‘Alami should go: It’s over’ in The Guardian (25 November 2005). We only wonder what he now thinks of this decision by his boss. Read the article below;
If DSP Alamiyeseigha, the embattled Governor of Bayelsa state knows what is good for him, he should call his lawyers and advisers and draft a sober, apologetic letter of resignation, and give up the fight. He has lost whatever moral ground he may have occupied before now, the conspiracy theory that was contrived around his travails has been watered down. If he receives any support from any quarters at this moment, such support ought to be taken with a pinch of salt: all because Alami himself has chosen to ruin his chances, destroy his own moral base if he ever had any, by conducting himself in a manner that is unbecoming of a leader and a gentleman. By running away from England under the cover of the night, away from the British judiciary which was probing him on charges of money laundering, by taking evasive action from the law and communicating with his feet, Alamiyeseigha, a man who until now was known and addressed as His Excellency, has shown himself to be a dishonourable fellow, unfit to rule, unfit to sit among men and women of honour and integrity, unfit to preach to the people that he leads about ideals and values…
The drama that he has organised around his return as a fugitive from England is so comical that it merely shows him in worse light. He has managed to entertain Nigerians with the mystery of his escape from London, his smart salute before a guard of (dis)honour and the histrionics that he has put up in the last few days, but all he has done in reality is to raise questions and concerns about the quality of leadership in Nigeria, about the Ijaw nation and the values of its people, and the future of Bayelsa state. I am told that he acted out of desperation: what desperation could that possibly be? Is it desperation borne out of guilt? Or desperation borne out of simple criminality? Alami has told his audience that nobody should pity him, because he is merely paying the price for leadership.
What leadership? He did not explain. Faced with a charge of money laundering in British courts, Alamiyeseigha, and his sponsored agents had argued ad nauseam that he Alamiyeseigha being an important man in Nigeria, leader of a “sovereign state within a federal system” was entitled to immunity within the purview of Section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution, which in their reckoning, is transportable across boundaries, and that by arresting Alami for being in possession of an odious amount of foreign currency, the British was just acting illegally and as a neo-colonial entity. This was a futile argument as the British courts determined that Alami had a case to answer. He was remanded in prison, and later granted bail with conditions, while his case continued to be heard in court. This is the same process which Alamiyeseigha truncated by running away from England. He was required not to travel near any English port. But he did. He jumped bail and escaped. It has been said that he left England as a drag queen, dressed as a pregnant woman using forged documents. He insists that his escape is “an act of God”.
All told, by conducting himself after the fashion of a common felon, Alamiyeseigha has brought the people of Bayelsa state and all Ijaws to great ridicule. If he was so supremely sure of his innocence in the matter, he should have stayed back in London to prove his innocence. If he had won victory through due process, he would have been a great hero and his points about conspiracy and the President of Nigeria not liking his face would have deserved more than a closer attention. But to jump bail, subvert the judicial process, only to show up in Yenagoa like a thief in the night, and then turn himself into a major means of measuring the moral fibre of the Nigerian society, Alami suffers a defeat in what he may think is a victory over the British and Aso Villa. When he showed up in Yenagoa, he was celebrated by a group of uninformed youths who insisted on identifying him as a hero. But what we are dealing with is what J P Clark another Ijaw man, has described as “the hero as a villain”. This particular hero, anti-hero in fact, has a character flaw which in spite of him confirms his guilt, and the emptiness of his strivings. Leaders are supposed to be men of honour who are socially aware and imbued with a strong sense of ideals and values. In Nigeria, there is so much dissonance in leadership. Alamiyeseigha has proven to be a master of dissonance. He has brought great embarrassment to the Ijaw people, who in their reaction to his travails have shown an ambiguity that is most unimpressive. Nigeria’s stature has also been further diminished.
It does not matter what Alamiyeseigha says, he cannot remain as Governor of Bayelsa state while he remains a prisoner of his own guilt, not knowing whether he would be abducted by the British or not. He cannot attend meetings of the Council of State, as a fugitive who is on the wanted list in Britain. He cannot remain as Governor when his tomorrow is in so much doubt. He has sounded so far as a man who is ready to drag down the whole of Bayelsa state with him if he must. Since his mysterious return, he has been exploiting the emotions of all Ijaws and using blackmail as a shield; his agents have been trying to prove his innocence. The pity is that Alami has not been charged to any court in Nigeria. Here, if he so wishes he can steal all the money in the Bayesla treasury. If the people of Bayelsa are okay with that, so be it. But Alami has a case to answer in Britain. He is being accused of violating the laws of England. If he has anything to say, let him go and do so in the courts of England not on the streets of Yenagoa.
As for those persons who have been packaging Alami as a victim and who have been mouthing the asinine line: “If Ijaw man thief Ijaw money, wetin concern Tony Blair inside”, may the good Lord forgive them for they do not know what they are saying. All Ijaw must feel embarrassed for this is a difficult moment for them as a nation. They are being blackmailed emotionally to defend not a principled fighter, not a spirit of Ijawland, but an Ijaw leader who danced naked in a foreign land. The questions that would be asked are: what do Ijaws stand for? Where is the ancient and modern glory of the Ijaw nation? These are difficult questions. Alami must save his own people the embarrassment by stepping aside. Let him return to England and act like a honourable man. He has ridiculed the lawyers that he employed to argue his case, and not surprisingly, his lead counsel is so embarrassed, he has refused to comment on this resort to self-help. He has also jeopardised the integrity of his sureties: they will lose money and face if they cannot produce the accused person in their care.
But where were the British? Alamiyeseigha’s escape is a bad comment on British security. Alami has demystified the British and across Nigeria, questions are already being raised about the integrity of the British security network. Did the British collect bribe like Nigerian policemen? Did they work out a deal with Alami to embarrass the Nigerian government? If there is such a deal, what are the details? What is certain is that more Nigerians have lost respect for Britain in the last few days. How could the British who prevented the “exportation” of Umaru Dikko from Britain now allow Alami to escape? Is this the cynicism of the British at work or the opportunism of free enterprise capitalism? Whatever it is, the British have been relieved of the political burden of prosecuting a leader of Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta in their courts. The Federal Government nearly ruined the case by showing an over-anxious interest in the trial: now Obasanjo has to clean up the shit in his backyard and deal with the Alami mess.
One of the points made by the embattled Governor on his return is that he has proven the “Nigerianness” in him. This may have been a slip of the tongue, but it is the truth. For indeed, there is an Alami in every Nigerian leader. We are a country of desperadoes to such an extent that when we criticise Alami and sound holier than thou particularly the sanctimonious crowd in the PDP and Aso Villa, what we are actually criticising is an aspect of our lives which has now been exposed due to a twist of fate in a foreign land. What has Alami done? One, he showed up in England with sums of money whose source he could not explain when he was asked to do so. How many big men in Nigeria can confidently explain the source of their wealth? You could be as poor as a church rat in January and become a multibillionaire in March, nobody will ask any questions. Because Nigerians love miracles, they will attribute the sudden change of fortune to a miracle made possible by a certain pastor’s intervention.
Two, Alami told the British that he is entitled to immunity. This is typical Nigerian-speak. In our country, every big man is free to do as he wishes. He is above the laws of the land and there have been celebrated cases of persons conducting themselves as if they were the law itself. Three, when Alami became convinced that the judgment of the British court may not favour him, he fled. This is also quite Nigerian. It is the standard practice around here that public persons do not respect the courts of the land. Not even the ruling Peoples Democratic Party or the President. We live in a country where individuals can overrule a court of law, as the PDP Chairman, Ahmadu Ali once did in the Anambra/Ngige case and as President Obasanjo, the Ebora of Aso Villa, has always done. Alamiyeseigha simply transported these “Nigerian” attributes to England, and placed them on display.
It is perhaps why he is being lionized in Bayelsa as the “conqueror of the British Empire”. The Nigerians who have also been defending him and placing the blame at the doorsteps of President Obasanjo are also being Nigerian. They have asked: why is Alami being persecuted when other Governors commit the same offence and they pass through London all the time? In other words, Nigerians are no longer shocked by any kind of malfeasance. If someone commits a crime, we are not moved by the nature of his crime, instead we rationalise it: he should be declared innocent because he is not the only person who commits that kind of offence, he has been caught only because he is unlucky or he is being persecuted. And thus, what we are faced with is a country without moral boundaries. But thank God for a few voices of reason who in the face of blackmail, intimidation and violence still insist on the truth. The members of the Bayelsa House of Assembly are not saints themselves; it is true that they are being pushed by Abuja, but if they succeed in removing Alamiyeseigha, they would have done Nigeria a favour: they would save us from the British who may be playing games out of self-interest.
For His Excellency, the Executive Fugitive of Bayelsa state, it is over. Resign now, get on a boat across the border, and run…