“Pardon one offence
And you encourage the commission of many”.
- Publilius Syrus, Great Thinker.
|Alamieyeseigha, Former Governor of Bayelsa State,|
The dust is yet to settle over the decision of the Federal Executive Council to grant state pardon to the former Bayelsa Governor, Alamieyeseigha, and other VIP ex- convicts.
The Government, on its part, has defended its decision, stating that it merely exercised the powers granted it by the constitution.
Honestly, I think this singular act by the government is the official endorsement of institutionalized corruption among the ruling class.
Following the outrage that greeted this state pardon, the government’s cheerleaders have risen arm in arm in defense of the government. One government’s spokesman told everyone who cares to listen that the President owes no one any apologies. The government’s supporters are intelligent people who should know better, but they are mere actors in a script of diabolical cynicism. How can a government claim to be fighting corruption and in one single act destroy the hard works of people who brought a notorious (economic) criminal to justice?
People who support the government’s pardon cite the fact that other presidents all over the world exercise the same power without any outcry. However, that is only half-truth; if there’s any thing like that. Or put another way, it’s only one side of the story.
The overwhelming majority of the people granted state pardons in other climes are people who committed what we call simple offences. Offences where people take innocent lives or shed blood, or commit serious economic crimes are never ever pardoned.
I recently saw the record of all the state pardons granted by President H. W. Bush while in office. The offences include tax evasion, stamp duty fraud etc.
How do we view economic crimes in Nigeria? We’ve become such a corrupt society that we’ve come to accept it as one of ‘those things’, or as not a serious crime at all.
I have always believed that economic crimes, especially those committed by the ruling class, i.e. presidents, governors, national assembly members and their state counterparts, ministers, civil servants e.t.c, are the worst kind of crimes against society and humanity. It is far worse than armed robbery.
In China, anyone entrusted with public office, caught embezzling public funds faces capital punishment, or life imprisonment. In the U.S.A, economic crimes are rarely pardoned.
Armed robbery and other violent crimes are bad. But even worse are economic crimes. Until, we realize this fact, I’m afraid we are headed for doom.
Violent crimes kill hundreds or maybe thousands of people every year, while economic crimes are responsible for the demise of millions. While violent crimes cause immediate and sudden death, economic crimes indirectly cause slow, painful but bloodless deaths, and at the same time render millions poor.
It is sad to observe the seeming lack of objective positive self-assessment within the ruling class. A situation where a ruling political party will roll out the drums to welcome a convicted criminal back from prison, someone who should ordinarily be ostracized, shows the abyss into which we’ve fallen.
What we are witnessing is a ruling class who are united in a commitment to shameless profligacy, and who are engaged in what Prof. Wole Soyinka has described as “a mutually-assisted corruption”.
Finally, I think that this state pardon is like adding insult to the grievous injury we are all suffering at the hands of the very people who’ve helped themselves to our commonwealth. We might as well pardon Lawrence Anini and his gang of robbers.
What do you think?