Dear President Jonathan,
I write this as a Nigerian parent. Together with mom, we are raising our children as Nigerians with integrity and strong work ethics in the small town we live. But something very disturbing happened on Friday March 15. One of our children wrote an email to me. The email contained picture of Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha dressed as a woman. Apparently, a friend of his in school had emailed the picture to him with the question: did any Nigerian male governor dress like a woman to escape being arrested for corruption charges? The caption of the picture is not flattering. The caption has it that you the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; President Jonathan has granted pardon to a thief in the person of Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha - who once allegedly dressed like a woman to escape arrest. The kids who sent the mail to my child even added a mischievous dimension to what they emailed. They asked my child if Mr. Alamieyeseigha - a former governor in his original country-Nigeria- is a hermaphrodite. These children are between ages 13-17. They are middle/high school kids. That would pass as our junior and senior secondary high school.
My child was sad and depressed. He forwarded it to me, and the rest of his siblings and asked me pointedly "Papa what has Nigeria turned to? Is this the same country you proudly tell us about? Yes you asked us to be proud Nigerians, proud Africans, but why will President Jonathan do this-pardon a common criminal who dressed like a woman in order to escape arrest? And what will I tell my friends in school about Nigeria, about President Jonathan when other kids in my class talk about their countries ..." Cornered by my child, I looked for a way out. I was lucky he was finishing his mathematics homework, so inert and defeated I asked tepidly but very weakly and humbly "have you finished your mathematics homework. I can help..? When you finish we will go to the store and we will discuss..." Of course my child is smart enough to know that I was dodging, and he was kind enough to give me a safe passage. He let me pass out of respect.
But President Jonathan, as a parent, I think we have the moral obligation to let you know what our children are thinking globally. So Mr. president as a Nigerian Diaspora parent, I bring forward to you the questions Nigerian middle school and high school children in the American Diaspora are thinking about your decision to grant pardon to Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha-the criminal.
Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was convicted for stealing public money as Governor of Bayelsa state. While he was on the run he allegedly dressed himself as a woman to jump bail in Britain. Nigerian Diaspora children believe that it is a disgrace to Nigeria and the black race that a governor of an African country should jump bail and dress like a woman to escape. The children are not yet able to talk law for they are presently growing their knowledge, but they are able to talk basic morals and ethics for those are natural with any well nurtured kid. So they ask if it is right for a governor to do that. On this, as if I am Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the penetrating, moral, innocent, critical, questioning and reflective eyes of my children follow me through our modest home since you gave this pardon for Diaspora children see their original country through the eyes of their parents. Since you gave this illicit pardon, sometimes I become uncomfortable with their penetrating eyes as they follow me around in our home for I can guess what is going on in their minds about the Nigeria I preach to them about.
While you President Jonathan were granting pardon to Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the following countries-UK, US, etc announced that the person you granted pardon is still being investigated for fraud and money laundering. This means that Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who you pardoned will be arrested anytime he steps out of Nigerian borders. That would be another embarrassment to Nigerian Diaspora children. So the children ask you their President if it is morally correct to grant pardon to an internationally wanted criminal in the person of Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. They know that they will have to again be asked by friends in school.
"Unfortunately" and "sadly" we Nigerian Diaspora parents who live in the western part of the world, live in open societies where nothing can be hidden. This is one ethic you learn the day you land here. By this I want to say that we are just unable to screen anything from our children about the debauchery going on in our country Nigeria under your presidency. Here in open societies everything is in the open, and given the morals of the society we live in here, one dares not cover up or lie to the children. We will destroy them if we do. So I mean to say that even if we parents want to, we cannot cover anything on your behalf from Nigerian Diaspora children for they discover things by themselves through the Internet.
Given the embarrassment you as President cause us Nigerian parents all the time, we tend to talk in hushed tones and in slangs before our children out of respect for our country for we know we cannot hide anything from these children. No doubt we Nigerian Diaspora parents are more sentimental about our country hence we are bit protective of Nigeria. But these children are not growing in Nigeria.
So even when half of their culture is Nigerian due to cultural inheritance from us, they do not necessarily inherit our natural sentiments for our country given the type of debauchery under your presidency. No kid wants to associate with this intense immorality and illicit acts you and your presidency are known for. So they will go to the Internet and read the embarrassment you as Mr. president causes us all the time and ask us very difficult questions. Such hard question came up again when Mr. Doyin Okupe came on air to defend you. It is bad for you Mr. President to have spoken through Mr. Doyin Okupe. Whatever merit you wanted to pass to Nigerians through Okupe was shredded completely by the immoral character of your medium-Mr. Doyin Okupe. And the reasons are factual. When they are factual one is brutal in stating the facts. Mr. Okupe himself has a corruption charge hanging over his head. He is in need of the kind of immoral pardon you gave Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. So he will enthusiastically defend the fraud you just committed in order to save and protect his own neck now and in future.
Second, please ask Dr. Junaid Mohammed. In the presence of living witnesses, Mr. Doyin Okupe is reported to have once received the angry side of a former president- your former mentor-General Obasanjo -for being a dishonest person in Aso rock while Mr. Okupe served in the Obasanjo Presidency. There are two Nigerian citizens who are witnesses to this. They are Dr. Junaid Mohammed and Major General Mohammed, General Obasanjo's Chief of staff. Please ask them. Thus to ask a known dishonest person like Doyin Okupe to represent your image says a lot of about your moral side and the message you want to pass to Nigerian citizens. Hence, on this occasion as Mr. Okupe started talking I held my breadth.
As Mr. Okupe talked Nigerian Diaspora children read what Mr. Okupe said on your behalf. To avoid spinning by your spin doctors I will quote exactly what he said:
"That is an action that has been taken by the National Council of States and I have no apology for that." Mr. Jonathan said. "We must begin to respect and honor our institutions. I don't need to defend the action that has been taken."
When reminded that the action had created the impression that the government was not serious about the war against corruption, Mr. Jonathan said, "It is not all decisions parents take that are palatable for their kids. But with time they will realize that their parents are right. "How come granting pardon to him has become an aberration? Is it because he is from Bayelsa? Is it because he is from South-South? Is it because he is connected to Mr. President?" I have checked all Nigerian newspapers to verify this. All reported the same thing verbatim.
President Jonathan, this is disturbing. You said you do not have any apology to we Nigerian parents and Nigerian children. And this is very sad and sickening, for you Mr. President asked through your Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Doyin Okupe if we Nigerians are opposed to your granting pardon to a criminal because the criminal is from Bayelsa and from South South and whether we oppose it because the criminal is close to you. Mr. President such divisive statement is unbecoming of the revered status of the President of a country. If you wish, you may want apologize to Nigerian children for being a bad example to their sense of civic image and duty. If you do not, it is also fine. We move on.
Given that my children and other Nigerian children in the Diaspora and at home read what you said through Mr. Okupe, these are my questions to you: Given what you said through Mr. Okupe, are you playing a group of Nigerian children against the other? You know what Doyin Okupe said is false. Mr. president, you know the four most derided and criticized heads of state in Nigerian history are Mr. Shehu Shagari, Generals Babangida, Abacha and Obasanjo. Given my democratic political and social vision I can never be a fan of any of these four men. For public good, for example, I am an implacable critic of General Obasanjo's administrations. But one thing you can never take away from Shagari, Babangida, Abacha, and Obasanjo is that they never for once appealed to their ethnicity in their response to criticisms. Unlike you, Mr. Shagari and Generals Babangida, Abacha and Obasanjo never for once claimed that they were being criticized by Nigerians because they were Hausa-Fulani, Nupe, Kanuri, Northerner or Yoruba. I remember clearly each year how Mr. Obafemi Awolowo who is a democrat to the core and whose only "weapon" in the public domain is rational argumentation and factual analysis would each year tear down the then President Shagari's economic policies. This is something similar to what Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili did to aspects of your economic policies recently in a critique but which unfortunately your media men failed to intellectually and morally apprehend.
President Shagari may have his fault, we all do. But here was a President who would take the sharp critique of his opponent Obafemi Awolowo with the finest genteel, culture and civility any human can ever crave for. President Shagari never for once said Mr. Obafemi Awolowo was criticizing him because he lost an election or because he is a "Northerner" and Awolowo is a "Yoruba" . With an introspective look and an outward genteel and civility, President Shagari would move on even when Awolowo would deliver his penetrating critique of his policies. That is the mark of personal leadership qualities -- take the critique, do not pass the buck ethnically and move on. This is a virtue you need to learn. This is a virtue your media men need to learn. Mr. President, you failed Nigerian children especially those in the Diaspora when you appealed to your ethnicity in your response to the morally legitimate rejection Nigerians gave to the unethical pardon you gave the criminal and convict -Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha
Also, Nigerian Diaspora children believe you and your media men and women crossed the line when you said you do not have any apologies to Nigerians for granting pardon to a criminal Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Again, I need to remind you about this. We parents deal with these children on behalf of the society. Presidents do not. So you do not. The Nigerian Diaspora children live in open democratic societies where unconstrained openness and dialogue are foundational norms. You need to learn this from some of your ministers who may know that a President ought not say he has no apologies to what he did to the citizens who presumably hired him electorally to do a job. Mr. President, presidents do not just say what you said. So, given the democratic ethics these Nigerian Diaspora children have imbibed they see your statement that you have acted and you have no apologies as morally irresponsible. If their teachers do not talk to them like that they do not expect their president -you-President Jonathan to talk to them like that. President Jonathan you are consistent in this crudity and rudeness to Nigerian citizens, you therefore need some instruction in elegance and civility in governance.
Presently, Nigerian Diaspora children are aware of the following Nigerians who are facing criminal charges for fraud. They are Mr. Babalakin who is accused of money laundering with Mr. Ibori, Mr. Femi Fani kayode, Mr. Ikuforiji, Mr. Tukur(son of the present chairman of your party, PDP), Mr. Arisekola, Mr. Ali(son of the former chairman of your party PDP) of oil marketing fraud. Of huge importance is Mr. Babalakin. His case is of interest to Nigerian Diaspora children for three reasons. First, he is the Pro-Chancellor of a Nigerian University, University of Maiduguri. Nigerian children wonder if they will like to take a degree from a university where a person who is accused of money laundering is a Pro-Chancellor. Second, like Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha dressed like a woman to escape arrest, Mr. Babalakin pretended to be a sick man several times to escape arrest. His "sickness" has been correctly called in folk terms "á»ÂÌÂ€ta pìàpìà" type of sickenss.
In other words it was voodoo just like Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha dressing like a woman was voodoo. Both are morally dubious before Nigerian children. Finally, given the power play behind the scenes among Nigerian elites two things may either happen in the case of Mr. Babalakin. First, Mr. Babalakin may be set free by the court. Second, if Mr. Babalakin is convicted by the court, you President Jonathan, given your questionable moral antecedents in Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha's case and your dubious antecedent of using ethnicity to fulfill an economic and political agenda, might create conditions for the immoral pardon of Mr. Babalakin. Both are morally unacceptable but they will be consistent with your unethical and illicit pardon of another criminal Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. This is because you have set a morally dangerous precedent by this immoral example.
Finally, based on my own private service to our country Nigeria, I put the moral weight of that service to my statement: Given the manner of your pardon of a criminal Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and debate you have generated with your defense of it, you will go down as the first youthful civilian Nigerian President who has all the opportunity to govern in a most civilized manner and carry all Nigerians along, but who failed to do this and ended up burning all the expectations and hopes of Nigerian parents and children.
In my last post, I put it on record that you hide under the law to commit morally heinous acts. I said that "History shows that laws hold a country together peacefully only when such laws are rested on ethics and on the idea of moral principles that glue a nation together as a social contract. And I concluded that when law is made to trump ethics as it is with your Presidency, you either lose the moral basis to prosecute youths who engage in 419 fraudulent acts or you President Jonathan and your regime by your own immorality affirm the youths' unethical 419 fraudulent acts. I submitted that post for publication a week before your sinful and sickening pardon to Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. A week later, you confirmed my proposition through your 419 pardon. Mr. President, it is not good.
I wish you the best in the rest of your Presidency as we wait with deep breadth and thought. We will take care of our children with the commitment that they will love Nigeria the way we will always enjoin them to do. We have been in this before you. We will not give up in spite of you for Nigeria was before you and will be after you.
Adeolu Ademoyo is from the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.