On the eve of the just ended administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the publication of the gazette authenticating the March 12, 2013 state pardon was released. Jonathan had done the state pardon as a Federal Government’s gesture to some Nigerians including Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was governor of Bayelsa State from 1999-2005 but was impeached and later convicted for corruption.
Others extended the same gesture were the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua; former Bank of the North Managing Director, Mohammed Bulama; retired General Oladipo Diya; the late General Abdulkareem Adisa; Major Bello Magaji and Muhammad Biu. Yar’Adua was a co-traveler with Olusegun Obasanjo, who had earlier been freed and pardoned by the General Abdulsalami Abubakar regime to enable him contest for the presidency in 1999. Obasanjo, Yar’ Adua, Diya and Adisa were convicted of plotting coup against the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha, in 1995 and 1997 respectively. While Yar’Adua died in prison in December 1997, Adisa died several years after he was released from detention.
In the publication just released, only three of the six names of the officers involved in the Diya’s ‘phantom coup’ were stated to be truly pardoned. The two others, apart from Diya, a former Chief of General Staff, alleged to be the ‘phantom coup’ leader, are Adisa, a former Minister of Works and Housing, and Diya’s aide, Major Bello Fadipe.
The three names left out of the gazette were those of former Minister of Communications, Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, Colonel Jando and the late Lieutenant Colonel A. Akiyode. This was despite appeals by many eminent Nigerians, including the now late former Commandant, Nigerian Army School of Military Police, Colonel Olu Craig; a former Press Secretary to the Head of State during the Obasanjo military regime and former Chairman, Anambra State Council of Traditional of Rulers, Igwe Ezeoba Alex Nwokedi; and a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN), asking Jonathan to see the pardon of the Diya group of six officers as a mere political issue that needed to be done to calm frayed nerves.
One of the appeals went thus, “It may be pertinent to implore Mr. President to bear it in mind that it is only better for him to finish the good thing he has started with the pardon instead of allowing
somebody else to come later and complete and then take the glory. No matter what the pressure is against doing it, he should give his directive and let the whole thing rest one and for all.
This is importantly said here because, one is aware of pressure from some inside-power opposition, which perhaps has amounted to the delay in the release of the official gazette by the Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General. Ironically, this unfortunate opposition is coming from those who themselves should by now have been forgotten in the history of Nigeria if not that they too were products of a state pardon.”
Another eminent citizen put the issue this way, “This dragged pardon is one thing President Goodluck Jonathan should perfect if truly he does not want Nigerians, especially some of those, who had gone all out justifying his position on pardon for Alamieyeseigha to develop change of thought. Once he, by this delay in the release of the gazette cast doubts in people’s hearts, who then would remain for him as friends? He should do it and doing so is believed to have a way it helps him in resolving many of the issues and allegations of marginalization against his government from certain sections of the country.
“No gainsaying that the President has many battles confronting him as a person and his administration as a system. These battles, the way they look, appear to be gaining grounds in rubbishing his commitment to good governance and the best and only available missile he can deploy to strike them groundslide is to make more friends with people, the Generals: Diya, Olanrewaju and even AbdulKarim Adisa (in death) inclusive. Once again, Mr. President should listen to the voice of reason which says, a stitch in time saves nine!”
Even at a time, families of the affected military officers made fervent prayers, asking the Otuoke-born former President to temper justice with mercy and do the pardon for their breadwinners. Akiyode’s widow said she managed through contributions form her personal labour and friends of the family to see her four children through the university but that they found it difficult to get job and that they were living in penury, hoping that, if the pardon was gazetted and her husband’s outstanding salaries and entitlements paid, she would find something to sustain the family.
But on the eve of the Jonathan government, the administration reportedly gazetted the state pardon but gave out the names of the beneficiaries as Diya, Adisa and Alamieyeseigha while leaving out Olanrewaju, Jando and Akiyode.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the immediate past Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, during a Presidential Campaign Contact Committee meeting in Abuja, hinted Olanrewaju: “You are in APC working for Buhari in PDP but I have told them that your name should remain in this committee.” This comment, many have thought, might be responsible for why Jonathan went ahead to gazette the state pardon and included Diya, the man at the centre of the ‘phantom coup’, and Adisa as beneficiaries, leaving Olanrewaju and others out of the exercise.