An unpardonable pardon

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Unfortunately, Nigeria is a country with many of those who steal public funds and many who would steal such funds were the stars to align for them. In a country of very little honour among thieves, it is the public office that has suffered the most vicious depredations, leaving the Nigerian public devasted in the process.

Among one of vilest things many Nigerians say is that government officials can help themselves from the public purse as long as they commensurately work for the people. They call it “workchop”. That which many Nigerians have come to believe by power of repetition has hurled some unexpected consequences at the country over the years. In Nigeria`s republic of “workchop” where weasels preside, many government officials only know to help themselves from the public purse and nothing else.

In 2018, after eleven grueling years during which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission spent millions of naira and countless hours of manpower, the chickens finally came home to roost for Mr. Joshua Dariye and Mr. Jolly Nyame who between 1999 and 2007 were governors of Plateau and Taraba States respectively.

In separate judgments that swept cold draughts down the corridors of power, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory found that both men had thoroughly abused their office as governors. Mr. Dariye was found to have stolen the sum of N1.16bn while Mr. Nyame was found to have stolen the sum of N1.6bn. Mr. Dariye was sentenced to fourteen years in prison which was later reduced to ten years on appeal. While Mr. Nyame was initially sentenced to fourteen years which was later released to twelve years on appeal. Both convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court, Nigeria`s highest court.

On April 14, 2022, at a meeting of the National Council of States which was presided over by Mr. Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja, Mr. Dariye and Mr. Nyame were pardoned of their crimes after supposedly successfully scaling the strictures placed by law. Mr. Dariye and Mr. Nyame were among 159 convicts pardon was extended to.

Expectedly, the decision of the Council of States has hotly divided opinions among Nigerians. And between the wild celebrations of the supporters of Messrs. Dariye and Nyame, and the stunned horror of Nigerians who work daily to bequeath a country free of corruption to unborn generations, questions burn with incandescent fury.

At what stage do those who in any way fattened the calf of Nigeria`s corruption begin to pay for their crimes? And at what stage should such punishment be deemed sufficient if ever? Of course, there are powers and prerogatives but for whom and in whose interests are these always exercised in a country where public officers place personal convenience above public interest as a matter of course?

There can be no doubt. There can be no doubt that in spite of the watery explanation, this decision to pardon two men who reduced their states to hollow husks by sheer plunder while in power mocks everything the current administration has ever said about fighting corruption in Nigeria and Nigerians must be roundly alarmed.

Indeed, it distills a jangling irony that in these days when the rug is being pulled off the feet of the Giant of Africa by terrorists and their sponsors, those who should have their noses to the grinding stone working day and night to remedy the situation  are instead preoccupied with dangling pardons like carrots before two former governors who helped corruption find its feet in Nigeria upon the country`s return to democracy in 1999 while stealing their states blind during the eight years they spent in power.

In a country where politics suckle at the breast of corruption, there is no doubt that the general elections of 2023 loomed large in the minds of those who pardoned and those they pardoned.

Now, with the floodgates of pardon having been thrown open by the rusty keys of rotten politics, then, by all means, let what has been set before the goose as sauce also be set before the gander so that the circus started by the National Council of States can be complete. Let pardon also be extended to all those who languish in Nigerias squalid prisons having been convicted for all manner of offences so that Nigerias cast of celebrity criminals may come full circle.

In Taraba and Plateau States, some everyday Nigerians have rapturously celebrated the release of the two former governors while exultantly welcoming them home and lambasting the courts and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Those who have shown this kind of egregious excitement personify one of the gravest ironies confronting Nigeria today: that the plundered now pacify their plunderers. Of course, only wanton folly can precipitate such misguided excitement. Such conducts and the mentality which encourages such conducts can only come from a place of reprehensible folly.

As for the parrots perched high in and around Nigeria`s corridors of powers who have now come out to commend a do-nothing administration on pardons redolent of bad faith, may they live in Nigeria to eat the fruits of their own lips.

With the passing of each day and the making of each inexplicable gaffe, the certainty grows that Nigerians made a mistake in 2015 which mistake they repeated in 2019.Time has now come for Nigerians to count their teeth with their tongues for in the Igbo country, when an old woman falls a second time, it becomes imperative to take an inventory of the contents of her basket.

What a joke Nigeria! What a joke!

Kene Obiezu,

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