My fellow compatriots, let’s sheathe the sword and give peace a chance because to err is human and to forgive is divine. Since the presidential pardon was granted to Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, hell has been let loose for no just reason. Come to think of it, Alams is a good man, who honestly deserves a state pardon. He is a much more useful person to the Nigerian state, than most people who are currently condemning the pardon granted him. He is also better and kind hearted person than most of this people. Anyone who has had course to meet Alamieyeseigha, will no doubt attest to his humane qualities.
In the course of my journalism practice, I have come to realise that people that cry the most when incidences like this happen, are mostly the hypocrites in our society. Most of these people unfortunately are the once moralising for our society even though they are never honest. What they say and do in public is quite different from their real person. Often times they are like sepulchre, beautiful outside but full of maggots inside. I am therefore, hardly ever persuaded by their public commentaries whenever issue like this arises. The people crying blue murder over the state pardon granted Diepreye Alams are known to be people with little or no milk of human kindness; they are not liked by their people because they never care a hoot about their wellbeing. People never get to say good things about them, in their immediate neighbourhood because they do not bother about the condition of life of the people that live around their vicinity. These groups of people are known to even unashamedly make some of their family members a disposable commodity. This attitude Alamieyesigha does not have or portrayed. Any surprise then, why the Ijaw people like, cherish and accept him as their leader?
Available evidence has shown that some of the people who today dictate the political direction of our much raped country, were more corrupt and more inhuman in all their dealings while in office. Well, it is the man caught that is a thief. Today, it is the turn of Alams, tomorrow it may be you or someone close. I must state here, that I am not in anyway, in support of criminality, but there are exceptions to every rule.
I am proud to be a friend of Diepreye while undergoing his travails; I could hardly do anything to help him, but I kept praying for him. I first met Diepreye Alams in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State in year 2001, when he was still the sitting governor of the State. I was privileged to later accompany him in a speed boat to his country home in Amassoma where I spent a night.
As a journalist, I decided without letting him know, to use the opportunity of the visit to find out for myself the possible reasons for his rising profile then, not only among his Amassoma people but among the Ijaw nation as a whole. I sneaked out of my guest room later that night to have an untainted encounter with the ordinary people of Amassoma. After about two hours of moving round the village, and discussing with people, what became clear was the fact, that Alams was a leader that cared much about the plight and the general wellbeing of the Ijaw people. The respect Ijaw people have for him, to be blunt was not stage managed as it came out of deep and genuine likeness for his efforts to improve their lot.
Alamieyesigha’s house unlike the homes of most well placed Nigerians is accessible to everyone, poor or rich, especially the sick who need urgent medical care. It is never too late in the day to approach Alams, it could be as late as 2 a.m. in the early morning, Alams was always available for his people.
It was therefore no surprise, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo and other people who saw Alamieyesigha as a threat to their ambition conspired to checkmate the “Governor-General of Ijaw Nations”, whose popularity and profile was beginning to give them sleepless night. According to them, “He needed to be caught to size”. What followed is now history, Alams, was not discreet like most crooks who are today celebrities in our country. He was set up, humiliated and convicted. In spite of this fact, the popularity and acceptability of Alams among the Ijaw youths and elders has never in any way diminished. The Governor –General himself is about the only Ijaw leader alive today that can truly call any of the militant group to order whenever the need arises. They respect and cherish him because of the way and manner he had fought their course in the past.
Can we in all honesty say that former President Obasanjo who presided over the humiliation of Alams and some of the former governors, who conspired with him, are saints who left office without dipping their hands into government till? Can we also beat our chest to depose that the enormous wealth, they now flaunt all over the places was got from their meagre salaries and allowances while in office?
Whether some people like it or not, “Alamieyeseigha is a foremost leader of the Ijaw Nation, and his political and stabilising influence in that region is never in doubt.
President Jonathan, who is presently benefiting from Alams goodwill has come out to say, that he had impacted positively on the overall economy of the nation, by helping to checkmate the boys in the Creeks, so that the business of mining our crude oil could be done peacefully, thus bringing crude oil exports from the abysmally low level of 700,000bpd to over 2.4 million bpd.”
Another President after Jonathan would have completed his tenure will also benefit from the assistance and goodwill of the Governor-General of Ijaw nations. I am sure, if we have leaders like Alamieyeseigha in areas where Boko Haram insurgence, is currently on going, the government would have made a head way, in its efforts to bring the aggrieved Nigerians to the negotiating table. The only way Alams would continue to be of use to our nation, is when the albatross hanging on his neck is removed. This is exactly what President Jonathan and other members of the National Council of State have done.
The present administration has came out to say, that part of the reasons why Alams was granted state pardon is due to the fact, that the former governor had become remorseful since he came out of prison. He was also described as a prominent player in the stabilisation of Federal Government’s amnesty programme.
People shouting that they prefer political pardon to the pardon granted a thief; need to have a rethink and more sober reflection. My question is which of the two crimes is worth defending. Treason is a violation of the allegiance own by somebody to his or her own country; if you like call it betrayal or disloyalty. Any person old enough to witness the “araba” let us separate of 1966, when very many innocent souls where lost in a very painful circumstances will not dear say that Dim Ojukwu’s pardon is better than the pardon just granted Alamieseigha. If Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu could be pardoned, there is nothing wrong with the state pardon just granted Alams. Chief Obasanjo, who set up and humiliated Alams for no just cause, was a beneficiary of a state pardon otherwise it would not have been possible for him to be a civilian president. Why the hullabaloo against the state pardon granted Alams when OBJ and others were pardoned? As far as I am concerned, crime is crime whether political, civil or criminal.
At 61 years of age, Alams can no longer afford to soil his reputation; nevertheless, he has been made to pay dearly for his past crimes. He did not only serve imprisonment, but also forfeited the money and properties he was said to have illegally acquired. Are we not aware of people who stole more than Alams, the group of people are not as useful as Alams. Their saving grace is their ability to maneuver themselves out of power uncaught; and they are today living in luxury and affluence with members of their immediate families? What is important to me is that Alams has demonstrated enough soberness after serving his sentence. For God sake, let Alams rightly be reintegrated into the Nigerian society.
For those people who have forgotten so soon about the little contributions Alams made to the development of Bayelsa State, we need to play back the tape. At the time Alamieyesigha was elected the governor of Beyelsa State, the Niger-Delta region as it were, was the poorest region in the country in terms of infrastructural development in spite of being the zone which accounts for over 95 percent of the total revenue earnings of the Nigerian Government. The region was indeed lacking in almost every basic necessities of life.
Amidst the poverty which was generally attributed to the neglect of the area by past military regimes, Alamieyesigha as a matter of fact, met a prostrate Bayelsa State. The state was rural in all sense of the word with little or no infrastructures. He deliberately set out to lay the foundation for the infrastructural development of that state today.
For example, Bayelsa state then with the highest production quota of crude oil, did not have a single petrol station. Also, imagine a state which was then virtually on top of water, yet its residents were dying of thirst. This was the summary of the reality in Bayelsa state then. Health care delivery was almost not available thus reducing the ability of the people to stay alive.
Unable to tie a link between resource endowment and want, the youths of the state resorted to violence as a way of getting the Nigerian Government to reverse the trend.
It was in the heat of this youth unrest that the Diepreye Alamieyeseigha’s administration came to power. Alams took it upon himself, to do his utmost best towards the upliftment of the standard of living of the people and the Ijaw people in general.
Just to achieve the objective of making Bayelsa a better place, Governor Alams administration began to contend with the terrain, which the then Nigerian Government had early said was partly responsible for the non existence of accessible roads in the state. In a determined effort to ensure that the state capital was given a face lift, Alams government went into several agreements with some foreign firms who assisted in the planning, designing and construction of Yenagoa, the state capital.
For people not too familiar with the terrain in Bayelsa, to construct a kilometre of road, you will have to spend about twice what it would cost to construct two kilometres of road in another state. During the construction of the General Hospital in Yenagoa for instance, the state government had to spend additional 500 million naira then, in sand filling and piling the site of that hospital.
Portable water was a major problem in Yenagoa, overwhelmed with the problem of acute shortage of drinking water, Alams government committed huge sum of money for the expansion of the Yenagoa waterworks. The first phase of the project was long completed before his crises.
Depending solely on power supply from the kolo Creek/Nun River Gas Turbine, the state, which was as at year 2001 was not connected to the national grid, suffered consistent power failure that at times lasted well over two weeks. This was as a result of the breakdown of the Gas Turbine. The state government under Alams rose to the challenge by not only reactivating the broken Turbine, but also built a new one which was commissioned by President Olusegun Obasanjo during his official visit to the state.
The achievements today recorded in the entire Niger Delta region, would not have been possible, if the youths in the area had continued in their campaign of violence. The foundation was laid by D.S.P although, details of how he was able to dissuade the youths against violence could not be ascertained, it is, however, apparent that violence is no longer the other of the day. The peaceful atmosphere contributed to achievement so far recorded.
Today, Bayelsa and the entire Niger Delta region are enjoying relative peace for economic activities to thrive. It must not be denied that Alameiyeseigha alongside other concerned leaders went beyond the call of duty in their determination to give meaning to the lives of the people of that region. It would be a very nice experience, if Nigerians and leaders of thought should take a queue and follow this wonderful example, so that we have a lasting peace, without which, no government can provide the much needed democratic dividends for the people.
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