By Kayode Ketefe
“Animal Farm”, that great satire of all times penned by the great English writer, George Orwell, has remained evergreen not only for its excellent characterisation, but also because of its uncanny, penetrative insights into the deepest recesses of human’s psychology of the rulers and the ruled.
The allegorical representations of animals as characters vividly conveying human unmistakable foibles, follies, greed, wickedness, and eccentricities were so true to nature that several societies, politically denatured, have continually re-enacted the varying gory episodes of the fictitious farm.
You can always expect our leaders to be callous in their pursuit of basest self interest. But what one finds exceedingly nauseating is the reasons they at times give for their decisions. It would appear they think they are the only beings with sentient capacity.
The news filtered in on Tuesday that the Council of State, which comprised the President, Vice President, all state governors, former Presidents, the Chief Justice of the Federation, the Senate President and Speaker, amongst others, had granted state pardon to a number of illustrious citizens, both dead and alive which included the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha.
The list is a medley of characters with Alamieseseigha palpably standing out, for if one can understand the former political prisoners tried in kangaroo military tribunals being pardoned, certainly, the questions would be asked about someone who underwent trial and was convicted before a free, fair and impartial court for perpetrating monumental corruption while entrusted with public office.
The reason given for pardoning “Alams” who confessed to looting Bayelsa State, read like something you would naturally expect Squealer to give in outlandish defence of Comrade Napoleon in the Animal Farm. Yes, Alams deserves state pardon because “apart from serving his sentence he has devoted his life to travelling amongst Niger Delta communities facilitating the peace.”
If words have meaning, then the paradigm is this, get into public office through whatever means, steal like hell, when caught, go into plea bargaining and surrender a fraction of the loot, get a slap on the wrist imprisonment term, serve it with glee and retire into your community to start promoting peace.
After some years, you get a state pardon on a platter of gold, pronto! and the blemish against your name is removed forever, with this pardon you can even come back to the public office in future. Who says corruption has not become a state policy in Nigeria?
I should have thought convicts are sent into prison for violating our collective ideals protected through penal laws and that both the expiation of the crime though punitive incarceration and the attendant stigma are inseparable part of the consequences of crime , but here in the Animal Farm, the state still owes you a pardon for sinning against it!
Let the likes of James Ibori, Shina Rambo et al be warming up for their own pardon; the dead ones like Lawrence Anini, Monday Osunbor, Ishola Oyenusi, Mighty Joe, Mufutau Oloosa Oko should also be stirring in their graves in earnest expectation of a posthumous pardon; whatever is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Another burning issue is the proposed bill to alter the 1999 Constitution to confer legislative immunity on the Nigerian legislators. With a lightning speed, the House of Representatives members, who have been known to be lethargic in addressing other more important masses-oriented bills, engaged the self-serving bill and promptly move it to the second reading stage.
Truly, under every modern democracy, the concept of parliamentary or legislative immunity is an integral part of the system as it is tends to nurture a fearless legislature whose members would be free to exercise their unfettered discretion.
But the insistence by our lawmakers that this privilege which they have been enjoying under the omnibus provisions of sections 4 and 39 should be specifically inserted into our greatest statutory document shows that there is a sinister agenda for this bill.
This is a time when agitations have reached the greatest decibels that even the executive immunity should be removed or watered down.
It would also be recalled it was this same House of Representatives that comprehensively defeated a benign bill seeking to provide monetary incentives for unemployed graduates in Nigeria when it came before them last month. They are more concerned with self-serving bills!
The legislators claimed that about ten countries in the world, including the highly civilised ones like United States and United Kingdom have provisions on legislative immunity in their constitutions.
What they failed to add is that in most of those other climes constitutionalism, due process, transparency and responsible governance have taken roots and there is hardly a room for impunity.
Already, our experience with executive immunity is nightmarish, with sitting governors looting with abandon and making jests of the anti-graft agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which are absolutely powerless in the face of immunity until governors finish their terms.
This writer sees the present legislative immunity bill as a ploy to more or less introduce the same level of immunity that is contained in section 308 of the 1999 Constitution which is already giving us problems with the executives.
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