By Anthony A. Kila
President Goodluck Jonathan’s pardon for Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is expectedly eliciting quite a lot of surprise, indignation and condemnation. Public commentators and individual citizens have used the media to express their disappointment and anger; there is a palpable sense of rage and frustration on the Internet. On the surface and maybe to an outsider, such anger and indignation are understandable and logical because, let’s not forget, the beneficiary of this controversial pardon was a former air force officer turned politician, convicted of stealing public funds in Nigeria, gained international fame for money laundering and jumping bail, thanks to his ability to cross-dress and disguise.
I say this general indignation is understandable only on the surface because it is based on the assumption that Nigerians were not expecting such a move from this administration. Everybody is acting like a good innocent and hard work-driven population that has just accidentally fallen victim of some sort of unpredictable injustice. Is that really so? Can we all truly in our heart of hearts say that we knew Dr. Goodluck Jonathan well enough to vouch for and count on his being in tune with the general feeling that corruption is at the root of all the evils befalling our country? If so where is the proof? What exactly has he done to fight corruption in the past? These same questions can be asked of all those in power, but it is the President that issued this pardon, so let us stick to him.
We do not spend enough time and resources to explore and embed the rights and duties each of us has as a citizen. As a country, we spend too little time on civic education, and in that little time we do not take time to explain and understand that in democracy, indignation is a privilege not a right. For one to be able to complain about the way things are going, one needs to have done everything possible to avoid such state of things. For our indignation to be legitimate we need to have done or at least be ready to do our own bit.
None of those ruling us come from Mars. Before becoming President, Dr. Jonathan went through a series of electoral processes, including a period of electioneering. We all knew that he was deputy to Alamieyeseigha. How many of those that are so surprised and angry today took time to find out what his position was on the deeds and misdeeds of his former boss?
During the 2011 electioneering period, how many people deemed it necessary to find out if this man that was to be our party’s presidential flag bearer was complacent with or ignorant of the operations of his former boss? Did we ever wonder why he did not blow the whistle on him? I am sure any employer would ask this kind of questions if they knew their prospective driver or manager had close links to a fellow suspected of stealing (never mind if convicted).
A lot of time we complain about the behaviour and misconducts of those in office, but what have we done as a people to stop them from behaving in such ways? If on any every issue we attack or defend a public figure not on the merit of the question, but with reference to his ethnic group or declared religion, why should we expect such a person to act on merit? We cannot continue to pay deference to and celebrate those that become rich by looting our commonwealth or by abusing their offices and expect them to stop their plundering and mismanagement or just hope that others will not do the same once in power.
Miracles might happen but it is not the norm; if we want those in charge of our affairs to be decent and respectful of our being and wishes then we have to compel them to do so. We have to realise that citizenship and the right to exercise it come with duties and even sacrifices. Just as we spend time and use our intelligence to find the best barbers and hairdressers for our hair and best schools for our children or discover and purchase the best electronic gadgets, we need to invest time and courage for our country to prosper, gain and give dignity. Most Nigerians are not stupid, when we see people giving out money in order to get into office we cannot seriously believe that they are doing so for the interest of Nigeria. Nobody pays to serve.
Politicians will not by their own freewill or out of pure generosity or patriotism encourage citizens to be rational and independent; it is not in their interest. Where possible they will rather have their citizens blindly divided along ethno-religious cleavages so they can go to the centre to negotiate crumbles for you whilst they share the pie amongst themselves and cohorts.
Don’t believe the hype, democracy is not an easy stroll; to make it work we all have to be vigilant and ready to do our bit. Though it was the president that granted this pardon, we as citizens must also not lose sight of those that approved it. Some opposition representatives were in that Council, some ex this, ex that were also present, let us find out what they did to stop or expose this pardon.