Politicians are politicians. The cleanest amongst them will meddle with filth. They will protect themselves.
Once in a while, the good ones will stun their admirers. They will mouth patriotism but won’t forsake crass opportunism entirely.
They trade in high falutin slogans and funny compromises. Politicians are a unique tribe.
President Buhari has pardoned influential thieves. The message he has sent is that of moral hopelessness. When Jonathan pardoned Alamesieagha it was moral confusion. Now it’s Buhari, the Idiagnon’s boss; it has to be hopelessness.
Nigeria catches only a few amongst the thousands that have left it desolate. Many of the other respected thieves are never apprehended and, if caught, never charged.
Many of those unlucky to be brought before the courts buy their way out of the weak arms of the law. Pitiable.Nigeria has been impoverished by thieves since the days of Lord Lugard. When the colonial expropriators left, local freedom fighters and community leaders took their space.
Five years after independence, Chinua Achebe had seen enough to become a prophet. In A Man of the People, he told of the pillaging of yesterday and foretold the buccaneering of today. Gluttonous politicians have left the country prostrate.
Now, Buhari, who once had a naked disdain for inordinate accumulation and materialism, has extended unconscionable mercy to the conscienceless thieves.
When President Buhari sought power in 2015, he promised to catch and make memorable examples of public thieves.
When he won, many thieves ran away into hiding abroad. It was heartwarming to see thieves run like rats that had seen a proper cat.
They had believed that Buhari, who put Umaru Dikko in a crate, even in old age, would not sit and watch thieves dart around like statesmen.
They must have thought he would skin and disgorge them. Since 2015, some have lived abroad out of an abundance of caution. But now, they might be banging their tables; they had miscalculated.
When they hear about what Buhari has done, they will regret assuming he had come to continue the 1984 War Against Indiscipline.
If President Buhari were looking for thieves to pardon in the week Pilate released Barrabas, then Buhari could have gone to the Kirikiri prisons.
There he would have found many inmates incarcerated for pilfering peanuts. He would have found a hundred thieves who stole less than a goat, a bicycle or less than N100,000. He would have seen inmates worthy of mercy. President Buhari came to catch thieves. He hasn’t managed to catch many.
Under his nose, some are still hiding behind perpetual injunctions. A couple of weeks ago, a man who had worked for the government, caught with millions of dollars stacked in a safe in a hideaway house, slipped through the clumsy arms of the law.
Buhari should have been incensed. But he has become a politician. So he will argue that rule of law is to be blamed. And when asked about the moral lesson in setting free thieving governors, he might say that the Presidential Advisory Committee on the prerogative of mercy recommended the list. Buhari should know his reputation and know the situation and mood of the nation.
Buhari should know Nigerians can’t believe he pardoned big thieves.Those days governors took cheques belonging to their States and paid them into their private accounts. Nothing could have been more brazen.
Then they shared the stolen funds amongst their party, friends and cronies. Whatever remained would be used to purchase one or two beachfront houses abroad. Ministers stole too.
Some of them have used the funds to capture their states. These days governors use big contractors to siphon state funds. A riverine governor sent his PA to withdraw billions upon billions in cash over 100 days.
Every day his personal assistant went to the bank to draw bags of cash. Nothing has happened to him.
When it happens, a politician will pardon him.The constitution empowers the president to exercise prerogative powers of mercy on behalf of the people. Democracy is government for the people. Pardoning big rogues couldn’t have been done for the people.
It sets a wrong moral compass. The idea of pardon is to give offenders a second chance. As permissive and subjective as it is, the power to pardon is designed to be used prudently, in good faith, in service of society, and in the promotion of justice.
The drafters of the constitution perhaps knew the power could be abused, but they must have left it to the people to judge such abuse. Buhari has pardoned the poster children of corruption. Why then does he still preach?
We have no effective Probation Service and no functional parole mechanism. Many of the poor languishing in jails wouldn’t be there if we did. Politicians can’t organise a backdoor parole system for themselves. Yet parole is better than pardon. Parole is probationary. Pardon washes whiter than snow.
If a governor who stole from govt treasure despite living in affluence, despite the great trust reposed in him by the people, can be so pardoned, why are the poor thieves still in prison? From Ihiala to Eket to Gashua to Kano, paupers who stole minor items are locked away in prisons.
There is no justification for theft. But many of these inmates might not have stolen if they had a tenth of the resources available to a governor. Many of these petty thieves might not have stolen if they were sure of food and shelter for their families.
Many of these thieves might have been straight if they had access to education. So why would these thieves stay in prison while convicted former governors walk away? Buhari has pardoned celebrated rogues.
He should explain how he has chosen them. The committee didn’t compel him to approve.
Buhari should have rejected and rebuked a recommendation that would tarnish his image and perpetuate an evil precedent set by Obasanjo and Jonathan when they pardoned highly placed certificate forgers and thieves.
To restore our tattered moral fabric, we must stitch it with the thread of making good examples with the biggest offenders. Leaving elephants in treasury looters to chase ants in petty offenders won’t institute deterrence.
We must cleanse our land. The gods will not accept our offering basket if it is filled with only pickpockets and petty yahoo-yahoo boys instead of fat and roguish governors, ministers, bank CEOs, Police and Election Commissioners.
DRUGS TRAFFICKING: Brazilian Returnee Nabbed At Lagos Airport With Cocaine in Private Part, As NDLEA Arrest Two Wanted Drug Kingpins Behind Seized Tincan Port Shipments.
3 min read