THEWILL EDITORIAL: Pardoning Alamieyeseigha Was Wrong

“Alams, as he is fondly called may have gotten away with a state pardon, he however remains in the black book of the people that matter, the common Nigerian citizens, suffering hopelessly in the hands of a failed, shameless and wicked political class.”

SAN FRANCISCO, March 17, (THEWILL) –  The Nigerian Constitution clearly gives President Goodluck Jonathan the power to grant clemency or pardon to those he thinks deserve such benevolence. For instance, he may grant pardon to those he believes have paid their debt to the society, are being rehabilitated and demonstrate good citizenship.

Yet, there are times when he or any other president may decide against pardon – especially if such a move has or is likely to have detrimental implications on the collective public morale, policy statements and or national agenda. The case of ex-Bayelsa State governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, clearly falls within this purview.

We do not think that Mr. Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha (DSP) should have been granted presidential pardon; hence, we adjudge the President’s action unwarranted and wrong.

While it is true that there are other public officials in Nigeria who have committed similar or more egregious harm than Alamieyeseigha, his is of a special nature: he personifies virtually all that is wrong with the country in terms of political and economic excesses and licentiousness.

Alamieyeseigha may have served his jail time; still he is yet to apologise to the people of Bayelsa State for abusing the trust they placed in him and for mismanaging their resources. In addition, public record shows that he has yet to satisfy the British authority (from where he purportedly took flight at the height of the criminal allegations against him). It is also on record that the very week he was granted state pardon, he had criminal complaints to answer to in the United States of America.

This, then, is a man with unsavoury record both at home and abroad. In view of these and other factors, therefore, we believe that the former governor should not have been granted state pardon. The reasons advanced by the presidency fall short of good and common sense.

In the days and hours since the presidential pardon was announced, many Nigerians have made their displeasure known. Furthermore, the Nigerian media and the global social network are abuzz with disbelief and displeasure. And one of Nigeria’s friends – the United States of America – through its embassy in Nigeria, has also condemned the pardon.

Such outcry is likely to grow at home and abroad – further damaging Nigeria’s fragile reputation. And because Mr. Jonathan is already seen in some quarters as a president whose government is tepid in terms of fighting corruption and corrupt practices, this saga is an added blemish on his private and public reputation.

In general, granting clemency or state pardon can be subject to abuse. And because no one knows the president’s motive for granting this pardon, we can only say that he is wrong to have granted it. It was a monumental mistake on his part. We hope that such egregious mistake does not happen again with this or future presidents.

Alams, as he is fondly called may have gotten away with a state pardon, he however remains in the black book of the people that matter, the common Nigerian citizens, suffering hopelessly in the hands of a failed, shameless and wicked political class.

Congratulations to the Catholic Church

The sudden announcement of resignation by Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger) came as a surprise to the global community. Even the non-Christian world took notice. Papal resignations are very rare, so rare that it has not happened in 600 years or so. Pope Gregory XII (November 30, 1406 — July 4 1415) stepped down in 1415 for the sake of the Church. The last pope to willingly resign was Celestine V in 1294 (July 5 1294 — December 13 1294).

In the last several decades, ascension to the Papacy has become a global affair. It was not different this time around. After the passing of Pope John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyła), there were speculations, longings evens, for a Pope with ancestry in sub-Saharan Africa. Francis Arinze, the then Cardinal-Priest of S. Giovanni della Pigna (1996–2005) was favoured by opinion and sentiment. This time around, Arinze, who is now the Cardinal-Bishop of Velletri-Segni, along with Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, were given serious consideration. But it was not to be.

But instead, on March 13, 2013 some 115 Cardinal Electors from every region of the world met at the Vatican and chose Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as the man to succeed Pope Benedict XVI. The new Pope – Pope Francis – is the first Latin American, and the 266th Pope in the 2,000 years history of the Catholic Church. Africans and the entire developing world approved, and are happy at his selection. And indeed, the global community is pleased at the election and anointment of such a man: a man with great experience, great intellectual standing, and great understanding of the Catholic universe. And so we congratulate Pope Francis.

We congratulate Pope Francis, just as we congratulate and celebrate with millions and millions of Catholics the world over. But even as we and the rest of the world rejoice with the Catholic Church, we cannot but advise the Church to put its house in order vis-à-vis the allegations of moral, ethical, and legal infractions that have come to characterise the Church in the last few years. Allegations of child-abuse have become too frequent and too grave. Frankly, the sexual and mental abuse of one child is far too many.

Between 2009 and 2011, there were numerous allegation of abuse by Dutch and Italian Priests resident in Kenya. In Tanzania, there was the St Michael’s Catholic Boarding School scandal. Sexual abuses are said to be more widespread in places like the Philippines, Malta, Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Chile, Brazil, Ireland, and the United States. These religious, mental and sexual abuses are likely to tarnish and irrevocably damage the Catholic Church.

On the social front, the Church must look for ways to be relevant in the 21st Century in terms of the use of condom by men and contraceptives by women; homosexuality and same-sex marriages; the role of women in the Church and especially in priesthood; and the role and place of government in secular societies. These issues must be genuinely and vigorously examined by the Church; and must also be given great a thought by Pope Francis.  Congratulations, Pope Francis!