Nigerians, again, on Thursday, after the Council of State meeting, had their sensibilities assaulted with the announcement of state Pardon for former Governors Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and Rev Jolly Nyame of Taraba State.
Announcing the state pardon for the two convicted former governors, whose convictions were upheld by both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, disclosed that the council approved 159 out of 162 applications presented for consideration for the prerogative of mercy for convicts and inmates in correctional facilities nationwide.
According to Malami, the council rejected a proposal to grant pardon to one of the prisoners sentenced to 120 years for theft of over N25bn. The pardon, he said, was sought on health grounds.
For many Nigerians, the 159 persons granted pardon by the Council, albeit at the request of President Muhammadu Buhari, was merely a distraction to let Dariye and Nyame off the hook, further demeaning the much hyped anti-corruption credentials of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
It will be recalled that both Dariye and Nyame were convicted by Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in 2018. Dariye, who was governor from 1999 to 2007, was jailed for laundering public funds to the tune of N1.162bn and was sentenced to 14 years in prison by Justice Banjoko.
Dariye’s prison term was however reduced to 10 years by the Court of Appeal in Abuja while his conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
For Rev Nyame, who was governor of Taraba State from 1999 to 2007, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for stealing N1.6bn from the state’s treasury, a judgment which was also upheld by the Supreme Court.
With the pardon of Dariye and Nyame, the few high profile convictions obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under the anti-corruption administration of Buhari have all been made nonsense of, including that of the former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.
What is however curious and amusing to sane and probing minds is the fact that the same high profile convictions that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its many vociferous supporters hang around the neck as testimonies to the fight against corruption, could be this brazenly and barefacedly dismantled without any sense of guilt.
Nigerians may have just been told in clear terms that there was nothing like anti-corruption credentials ab initio, but a mere deceitful and mind twisting campaign slogan never meant to be acted upon.
The APC have shown times without number that it has nothing to do with the fight against corruption and can only be bothered about it when it becomes a tool for clamping down on opposition figures. For the APC and Buhari, you are only corrupt and answerable for corrupt activities if you are on the other side of the divide. At least that much has been actively demonstrated, especially with the recent ‘appointment’ of a former Nasarawa State Governor, Senator Abdullahi Adamu as the National Chairman of the ruling party, who is being prosecuted by the EFCC on fraud related charges.
Adamu, who served as governor of Nasarawa between 1999 and 2007, was in March 2010 arraigned by the EFCC at the Federal High Court in Lafia.
The EFCC had instituted N15 billion fraud allegations against Adamu and others.
According to the EFCC, Adamu was arrested over the fraudulent award of contracts mostly on capital projects during his eight-year rule as governor of Nasarawa.
The former governor and his co-accused, however, filed a motion countering the charges on the grounds that since the funds alleged to be embezzled belonged to the state, the EFCC was out of line in its investigation. The defendants also pleaded not guilty to the charges.
But the then presiding judge, David Okorowa, ruled that Adamu would stand trial as he had a case to answer.
Similarly, at least two of the Presidential aspirants on the platform of the party, Senator Rochas Okorocha and Senator Orji Uzor Kalu have pending corruption charges hanging around their necks.
What is however disheartening is the subtle message, the APC and Muhammadu Buhari are passing to Nigerian youths and the society in general that corruption, no matter how grievous, pays, as you can always be pardoned, and become a free man.
In all of these, the much flaunted anti-corruption image of President Muhammadu Buhari has effectively been damaged, tainted beyond measure, Battered beyond repair and unattractive!