By Reuben Abati
The pity is that Alami has not been charged to any court in Nigeria. Here, if he so wishes he can steal all the money in the Bayesla treasury. If the people of Bayelsa are okay with that, so be it. But Alami has a case to answer in Britain.
By running away from England under the cover of the night, away from the British judiciary which was probing him on charges of money laundering, by taking evasive action from the law and communicating with his feet, Alamiyeseigha, a man who until now was known and addressed as His Excellency, has shown himself to be a dishonourable fellow, unfit to rule, unfit to sit among men and women of honour and integrity, unfit to preach to the people that he leads about ideals and values…
The drama that he has organised around his return as a fugitive from England is so comical that it merely shows him in worse light. He has managed to entertain Nigerians with the mystery of his escape from London, his smart salute before a guard of (dis)honour and the histrionics that he has put up in the last few days, but all he has done in reality is to raise questions and concerns about the quality of leadership in Nigeria, about the Ijaw nation and the values of its people, and the future of Bayelsa state.
I am told that he acted out of desperation: what desperation could that possibly be? Is it desperation borne out of guilt? Or desperation borne out of simple criminality? Alami has told his audience that nobody should pity him, because he is merely paying the price for leadership.
What leadership? He did not explain. Faced with a charge of money laundering in British courts, Alamiyeseigha, and his sponsored agents had argued ad nauseam that he Alamiyeseigha being an important man in Nigeria, leader of a “sovereign state within a federal system” was entitled to immunity within the purview of Section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution, which in their reckoning, is transportable across boundaries, and that by arresting Alami for being in possession of an odious amount of foreign currency, the British was just acting illegally and as a neo-colonial entity.
This was a futile argument as the British courts determined that Alami had a case to answer. He was remanded in prison, and later granted bail with conditions, while his case continued to be heard in court. This is the same process which Alamiyeseigha truncated by running away from England. He was required not to travel near any English port. But he did. He jumped bail and escaped. It has been said that he left England as a drag queen, dressed as a pregnant woman using forged documents. He insists that his escape is “an act of God”.
All told, by conducting himself after the fashion of a common felon, Alamiyeseigha has brought the people of Bayelsa state and all Ijaws to great ridicule. If he was so supremely sure of his innocence in the matter, he should have stayed back in London to prove his innocence. If he had won victory through due process, he would have been a great hero and his points about conspiracy and the President of Nigeria not liking his face would have deserved more than a closer attention.
But to jump bail, subvert the judicial process, only to show up in Yenagoa like a thief in the night, and then turn himself into a major means of measuring the moral fibre of the Nigerian society, Alami suffers a defeat in what he may think is a victory over the British and Aso Villa.
When he showed up in Yenagoa, he was celebrated by a group of uninformed youths who insisted on identifying him as a hero. But what we are dealing with is what J P Clark another Ijaw man, has described as “the hero as a villain”. This particular hero, anti-hero in fact, has a character flaw which in spite of him confirms his guilt, and the emptiness of his strivings.
Leaders are supposed to be men of honour who are socially aware and imbued with a strong sense of ideals and values. In Nigeria, there is so much dissonance in leadership. Alamiyeseigha has proven to be a master of dissonance. He has brought great embarrassment to the Ijaw people, who in their reaction to his travails have shown an ambiguity that is most unimpressive. Nigeria’s stature has also been further diminished.
It does not matter what Alamiyeseigha says, he cannot remain as Governor of Bayelsa state while he remains a prisoner of his own guilt, not knowing whether he would be abducted by the British or not. He cannot attend meetings of the Council of State, as a fugitive who is on the wanted list in Britain. He cannot remain as Governor when his tomorrow is in so much doubt. He has sounded so far as a man who is ready to drag down the whole of Bayelsa state with him if he must.
Since his mysterious return, he has been exploiting the emotions of all Ijaws and using blackmail as a shield; his agents have been trying to prove his innocence. The pity is that Alami has not been charged to any court in Nigeria. Here, if he so wishes he can steal all the money in the Bayesla treasury. If the people of Bayelsa are okay with that, so be it. But Alami has a case to answer in Britain. He is being accused of violating the laws of England. If he has anything to say, let him go and do so in the courts of England not on the streets of Yenagoa.
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