Presidential pardons are used all over the world and I totally agree with the morale behind it. If someone is wrongfully convicted, or if they are truly repentant and have done restitution in other ways for their sins, then it is only fair to pardon.
One thing about pardons in the Nigerian political space that makes me uncomfortable though, is that they have the effect of treating a conviction as though it never happened. Pardoned criminals can no longer be referred to as ex-convicts and can run for presidential office.
Some very political Presidential pardons in Nigeria include those President Shehu Shagari granted to General Yakubu Gowon for participating in the coup that killed General Murtala Mohammed and to Col. Chukuwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu for driving the Nigerian Civil War. Gowon piped down in his politics but Ojukwu ran for president in 2003.
General Abdulsalami Abubakar in his short tenure also granted a pardon to Obasanjo for his convictions for treason and that paved the way for him to contest and become president in 1999.
Obasanjo himself granted Presidential pardons to convicted liar and forger, former Speaker of the House of Rep, Salisu Buhari, and to 13 individuals who were convicted with him for coup-plotting against Abacha.
Even though it is approved by all the sectors of government, the pardon is a prerogative of the President, who submits the names of those he wants pardoned. Yesterday, President Goodluck Jonathan decided it was time for him to flex his presidential powers and granted state pardon to former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreiye Alamieyeisegha, under whom he served as deputy governor.
In my opinion, there is nothing innocent about this move, and it has politics written all over it. This wouldn't be so bad if not for who we were talking about. Alamieyeisegha was spectacularly convicted for embezzling state funds while he was Bayelsa Governor, and now without returned all that money, he is being pardoned alongside former head of the Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama, also convicted for corruption by the EFCC. In more details from the Washington Post,
Alamieyeseigha served as governor of Bayelsa state, in the heart of Nigeria’s oil-producing southern delta, from the nation becoming a democracy in 1999 through 2005. He was arrested in London after more than $1 million in cash was found in his home there.
Alamieyeseigha escaped British authorities — Nigerian officials say he disguised himself as a woman — and fled to Nigeria, where he had immunity from prosecution while in office. He was then impeached and charged in Nigeria with illegally operating foreign accounts in London, Cyprus, Denmark and the United States. Investigators said he acquired property in Britain and Nigeria worth more than $10 million.
The disgraced governor later pleaded guilty. Alamieyeseigha’s impeachment brought Jonathan, a little-known marine biologist who served as his deputy, into power. Jonathan as recently as a few weeks ago referred to Alamieyeseigha as “my boss” during an event in Lagos.
Are you people seeing what I am seeing?
Now I don't expect that Alamieyeisegha will run for president or political office, but I won't be surprised if Goodluck believes that granting a pardon will somehow pave the way for him to be re-elected president come 2015. Is Alamieyeisegha and Bulama sitting on embezzled funds that will be used to drive the campaign?
I've never had high hopes in Jonathan, but I kind of thought there were some things he would never do. In as much as I knew he wasn't powerful enough to stand up to entrenched power systems that beleager Nigeria, I also assumed he would not stoop to some of the shenanigans those cabals were capable of.
I think he has just proved me wrong.