Jonathan’s centenary, independence speeches: The missing point

By Bashir Adefaka

President Goodluck Jonathan, in the last ten months, has
made two major speeches that got Nigerians glued to
television and radio sets hoping to be told new things.

Speeches of Presidents and Heads of State, in the past, had
one of such that either put smiles on the faces of the people
or did otherwise.
Of particular reference was President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s speech that cut fuel pump price from N70 to N65. They are
little, little things in a President’s speech but they matter to
the common man.

Much as many people agreed with Jonathan that he actually
won the war against the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, a
source in Lagos, speaking to Sunday Vanguard
anonymously, last week, said his centenary and 54th
independence anniversary speeches fell short of
expectation.

The respondent, who was asked about the missing point in
the speeches, said, “One expected a statement in the speech
which would lift our spirits as Nigerians like saying, ‘Fellow
Nigerians, I put it to you today that the Minister who has
been alleged to be responsible for so, so and so missing
billions of dollars from our economy is hereby not only
sacked but also has been handed over to the police with
immediate effect.’.

“We had expected a presidential speech that would say, ‘My
good people of Nigeria, it has come to my notice that
kerosene that is the common means of cooking by the
generality of Nigerian masses henceforth will not only be
available unhindered but also it will be available at N50 per
litre either at NNPC mega station or non-NNPC retail
stations’ and that ‘all those who have been frustrating
Nigerians’ ability to enjoy the subsidy on petrol have been
apprehended and will be paraded for Nigerians to see who
their enemies of progress are.”

He explained that, that sort of presidential speech was one
of hope that would to tell Nigerians why they should
embrace unity and Boko Haram members should surrender.

This aspect, he said, is the missing point that needs to be
addressed.
In a related development, a retired military officer, Colonel
Gabriel Ajayi, linked the reason
Nigeria’s problems seem unsolvable to lack of concern
about using the opportunities afforded the leadership of the
country to heal the wounds of the past.

“We had 50 years of independence anniversary. That was
golden jubilee. Do you know the meaning of that? Year of
relief! Year of re-compensation! Was there any amnesty
granted to any prisoner in Nigeria to mark the anniversary?

They did it in Ghana and that was the turning point for that
country. It was not the killing that was done all over Ghana.

What changed the life of Ghana for better was the visit to
prisons by government to do justice,”Ajayi told Sunday
Vanguard in an interview.

“So many people were there for no just cause and the
president said, ‘Okay, if you have been in prison for the past
three years, you are free from today. If you come back, that
is your own problem but you are free.’

Amnesty to all! We
couldn’t do that in Nigeria. People that had been wronged,
Nigerian government failed to seize the opportunity of the
golden jubilee to do justice and reconcile with them.”

He went on, “The basic problem is our perception of justice.
There is no justice in Nigeria. I, myself, am a victim of
injustice! And so, we say, ‘Oh, forget about the past.’ But
injury to a soul does not vanish easily. How can you move
forward when you have not been able to come to terms with
the past so that we can unchain the present and free the
future? We must come to terms with our past to unchain the
present and free the future. If we do not do that we are
going to remain like this. All we will be doing will be taking
one step forward and many steps backward.”

Such new thing is the creation of hope, assuaging of strained
nerves which was said to be missing in both centenary and
54th anniversary speeches delivered by the President in the
last 10 months.

It is not government at all levels that is guilty. Governor
Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, who is of the ruling
People’s Democratic Party, PDP, led the way by granting
state pardon to a 77-year-old man, Dickson Umukoro,
among others, as part of the activities to mark Nigeria’s 54th
independence anniversary. Jonathan had the opportunity to
do same but did not.

Uduaghan, using his power of prerogative, in line with
Section 212 of the 1999 Constitution, freed Umukoro
alongside condemned 53-year-old Monday Tom and an
unnamed adolescent, who was sentenced to death seven
years ago.

Others pardoned by the Delta State governor included Dele
Mokwunye, Ufuoma Paul Eto, Moses Orakpor, Uche Dike,
Jonathan Igbi, Chukwuemeka Igwebuike, Chijioke Edeh,
Augustine Okoroh and Joshua Musa, all sentenced to varying
prison terms. Umukoro and Tom were freed based on their
good conduct. Edeh, Okoroh and Joshua Musa however had
their death sentence commuted to life imprisonment, a
development the state Attorney-General and Commissioner
for Justice, Mr. Charles Ajuyah (SAN), commended as a kind
and rare gesture from Uduaghan, pursuant to his power of
prerogative of mercy and in the spirit of the celebration of
Nigeria’s 54th independence anniversary.
Jonathan has a backlog of pardon on his hands which, if
pronounced in any of the two speeches, would, by now,
spell for him another reason Nigerians should love him the
more.

On March 12 2013, more than a year and a half ago,
he made a pronouncement pardoning General Oladipo
Diya’s group convicted in the 1997, a former governor of
Bayelsa State, Chief Dieprieyie Alaimeseigha and few others.
Even as controversial as the list of the pardoned Diya’s
group was, being that only three of the six involved were
announced, the gazette authenticating that pardon remains
hanging between the offices of the President and the
Attorney-General of the Federation. And like the widow of
the late General AbdulKarim Adisa, Rahmat, said, the Army
Headquarters could only act to restore the status and
payment of entitlements to those affected only when the
gazette is published.

Things like this would have lifted the spirits of many
Nigerians if Mr. President had touched it in his centenary or
54th independence anniversary of Nigeria hence the missing
point that people talked about. And many eminent
Nigerians like Afenifere chieftain, Ayo Adebanjo; legal
luminary, Tunji Abayomi, SAN, and more had spoken about
the need for Mr. President to do this pardon and pay
entitlements of the officers, particularly of the Diya’s group,
without any one left out.

The spirit of presidential pardon to political offenders is
known to have paid off for Nigeria in the past and the story,
many believe, cannot be different in the modern day life of
the country. This reporter gathered that despite the fact that
a former Head of State was implicated in the Lt. Col. Buka
Suka Dimka-led coup that killed the then sitting
Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed, in February
1976, the implicated former Nigeria leader was pardoned by
the General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida’s regime.

He was not alone. Ex-Biafran warlord, Odumegwu Ojukwu, who
traumatized Nigeria with war for four years, was also
pardoned and both men were restored into normal lives as
they both separately contested to become civilian presidents
of Nigeria and they were very useful for the country
thereafter.

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