Posted by By Jide Ajani, Political Editor on
Even as some people continue to confuse their dislike for President Olusegun Obasanjo with a shameful acquiescence to criminality, some unanticipated events
Even as some people continue to confuse their dislike for President Olusegun Obasanjo with a shameful acquiescence to criminality, some unanticipated events, events never thought possible by the framers of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the latest being what is now known as the Alamieyeseigha saga, Nigerians have had to grapple with a plethora of confusing moments occasioned by the individual and collective conduct of Governor Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, members of his state house of assembly as well as the presidency, ably represented by President Olusegun Obasanjo. This report brings to light some of these events even as the state assembly members attempt to impeach the embattled governor.
Misleading as it may be, it is still very tempting to be explored.
It is playing out like a home video, where you have the protagonists and the antagonists.
Nigerians are being treated to a whole lot of phantasmagoria, all in the name of democracy.
It started in the most comic of ways.
First, Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, governor of Bayelsa State and Governor General of the Ijaw nation was arrested even before he alighted from the plane.
The officers and men of the Metropolitan Police in London were waiting for the plane conveying him to land. They made their way in and requested for the person bearing his names. This was how he was arrested. It was after that arrest that searches on his residence yielded One million pounds.
But he challenged that mode of arrest in court, got a favourable judgement but was immediately re-arrested.
After the legal see-saw which ensued, the presidency did not pretend to be favourably disposed to being of assistance to the governor. That was in itself alarming as some Nigerians argued that it was not meet and proper for a serving governor to be allowed to face the ignominy of a court process in a foreign land.
But even while all these were going on and it appeared Alamieyeseigha may get his bail, Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Bayo Ojo, SAN, flew into London to address the court, insisting that the governor, if granted unconditional bail, would not return to London to face trial. Whereas Nigerians were taken aback by the presence of the AG, the Bayelsa State Attorney General, Hon. Taford Ongolo, had put himself on the line for Alamieyeseigha.
Ojo punctured his position thus: “It is my belief that the Hon. Taford Ongolo who is the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Bayelsa State, is also an accomplice in the case against the governor. I can confirm that he is being investigated with other prominent Bayelsa State officials by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of Nigeria for money laundering activities. I can also confirm that this is a current on-going investigation within Nigeria being conducted by the EFCC.
“Further to my statement dated the 3rd November 2005, I would like to add that I have traveled to the United Kingdom and arrived on the 2nd November 2005. I have traveled here specifically to deal with the current case concerning Chief D. S. P. Alamieyeseigha.
“As an appointed officer of the Nigerian government, I would like to state that the government of Nigeria confirms that it is not imperative for the governor to return to Nigeria and we would wish for him to remain in the United Kingdom and stand trial.”
But even while all this was going on, it was a bewildered nation which woke up three weeks ago to learn that Alamieyeseigha had appeared in Yenegoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
His appearance came at a time when the leadership of the state house of assembly had been changed, shoving aside Alamieyeseigha’s stooges in the person of the Speaker and his deputy, the previous week.
It was at a time when Nigerians were still trying to make sense of the entire saga that the governor ventured into Nigeria under very controversial circumstances. Even the presidency was alarmed at the return of Alamieyeseigha.
As if all these were not enough, the new leadership of the assembly were spirited to Lagos and were to make public statements from the haranguing atmosphere of the offices of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. This did not go down well with many Nigerians who saw in this move an over-bearing attempt to just get rid of Alamieyeseigha.
But if you think the circle of alarming events would stop at that, it did not.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria was given the go ahead to look into the indictment papers prepared by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, on Alamieyeseigha.
Then came the invasion by federal troops last Monday. And to go with that two days later, was the shutting down of Bayelsa radio.
With this litany of alarming developments, is anybody still asking why Bayelsa State is under the gun?
For instance, the Federal Government’s decision to send troops to Bayelsa State might not be unconnected with the reports submitted to it by the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), fearing an imminent breakdown of law and order in the state.
The security reports submitted to the President were the result of several days of investigation by operatives of the DMI and Police.
Information made available to Vanguard by an intelligence source suggests that the action of the Federal Government was with a view to forestalling a complete breakdown of law and order as well as averting a serious crisis.
Vanguard was informed that upon the mysterious arrival of Gov. Alamieyeseigha in Yenegoa, the Bayelsa State capital, the “operatives from the DMI and detectives from the Police were dispatched to the state capital to sniff around.”
After days of undercover intelligence gathering, the operatives were said to have discovered that 500 militants had infiltrated the state capital.
They were also said to have in their possession, new AK-47 assault riffles.
In fact, the report of the police made it clear that in the event of a shoot out, the police would be out-gunned and out manouevred.
It was based on these reports that the presidency was said to have sent in soldiers.
But for Obasanjo, who presents himself as Mr. Clean, he had one of two options before him once it was announced that Alamieyeseigha had been arrested in London by the Metropolitan Police.
First, he could have chosen to intervene on behalf of the governor. That way, he would have claimed to be saving a fellow citizen from embarrassing both himself and the nation. He would also be presenting himself as a president who has serious interests in and unalloyed commitment to the welfare of his people..
The other option, and one which those who claim to know Obasanjo say he would love to take, and is taking, is for him to abandon Alamieyeseigha to his fate. That is what an Obasanjo would do and is doing. For this, Obasanjo would claim to be doing so on solid ground. The most crucial question being asked by some people is: Did the federal government or Obasanjo put the one million pounds sterling found in his residence there? To achieve what?
At one of his private meetings with President George Bush of the United States of America, USA, Obasanjo was told in no unmistakable terms that his governors were stealing the country dry, that he, Obasanjo, was not doing enough to curtail the excesses of his governors because the funds being stolen from Nigeria kept finding their way abroad. Bush’s charge came after the Joshua Dariye episode in London. For Obasanjo, who continues to present his administration as one which is combating corruption, this was a bitter pill.
But even before this charge from Bush, and following a meeting in 2003 between Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair and Obasanjo, British and Nigerian law enforcement agencies have been cooperating more closely on investigations into embezzlement and money-laundering.
Therefore, it was no surprise when Bayo Ojo, Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice appeared at the Southwark Crown Court in London, venue of Alamieyeseigha’s trial. Some people have been talking about a political solution to the present Alamieyeseigha saga. How can a political solution be worked out in the face of the two extreme positions.
Meanwhile, Alamieyeseigha himself may have been spared this harrowing experience had political leaders from his home state of Bayelsa had their way Sunday, December 15, 2002. Then, at the height of the topsy turvy which characterised the PDP primaries, some leaders from Bayelsa State had paid a visit to Obasanjo requesting that the party should endeavour to thwart Alamieyeseigha’s every effort to seek re-election on its platform. They were aggrieved, according to them, because the governor had allegedly brought the state to ruins.
In fact, in September 2003, President Obasanjo had to order that any Irrevocable Standing Payment Order, ISPO, not sanctioned by him, should not be honoured by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation. This was one of the fallouts of the meeting of the Bayelsa leaders with Obasanjo. They had alleged that the state governors were using the ISPO to swindle their states. They alleged that one of such ISPOs had seen their state pay a whopping N12 billion. That the sum of N12 billion had been allegedly paid back to the bank was not the issue. It was that the said money which reportedly came in the form of a loan from the bank to the state was a mere N2 billion. With deductions of N750 million every month from the period stipulated in the ISPO, the deductions, as at the time the leaders met Obasanjo, had allegedly risen to N12 billion.
The following day, Monday, December 16, Obasanjo, who operates with a combination of a high sense of moral inclination but an obtuse political technique, did not mind the fact that he would be needing votes from the Bayelsa governor at his party’s presidential primaries some two weeks away, simply sent for the Accountant General of the Federation, ACF, J. Kayode Naiyeju . Obasanjo wanted to confirm whether or not there was such a thing called ISPO to which some state governors had committed their states. Naiyeju answered in the affirmative. President Obasanjo became livid with anger. He flew into a rage. Immediately, he ordered the stoppage of such deductions.
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