Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD
Burtonsville, MD, USA
The period between September 15, 2005, when Bayelsa State Governor and former Nigerian Air Force Squadron Leader Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha (Alams or Alami or Alamco or DSP for short, depending on your mood) was arrested at Heathrow Airport, London on suspicion of money laundering, and November 21, when he landed "mysteriously" back in his village Amassoma in Ogboin North Local Government has been an interesting one for Nigerians. It has been a period with a mixture of surprises, alarm and resignation, of sober national reflections, puerile speculations and ethnic chest-beating . What we now know, in utter dismay for a majority of Nigerians, is the shameful UK-bail-jumping, ugly-drag-queen-disguising, multiple-international-immigration-violations incident that actually preceded his eventual Houdini appearance at the capital Yenagoa of Bayelsa State.
As we consider these events anew, please come let us reason together
1. Alams jumping bail on November 18 (the last day that he failed to report to Scotland Yard and two days after his 53 rd birthday) and showing up in Yenagoa on November 21 was as ill-advised as his earlier opting for a surgical tummy-tuck operation in Germany (he should have fasted for a month, starting August 15 for example), or taking a detour to London via Heathrow Airport to convalesce (he should have flown straight to PH from Germany via Lufthansa), or having so much cash on him (he should have used a credit card Mastercard for example.) He reportedly escaped via a nocturnal trek to a train station, a Eurostar train travel from the UK to France, air travel to Cameroon and a fast boat-ride (via Bayelsa Government's official boat? http://www.bayelsagov.com/doc/govboat.jpg ) into Nigeria after allegedly dressing as a pregnant woman sometime in-between. The trimmer Alamco might have swam some distance but that could not be confirmed. Another story of a less dramatic escape swapping clothes with one of nine gaily-dressed Ijaw women who had come to visit him while under confinement orders in London, and getting on a direct British Airways flight to Port Harcourt from - yes Heathrow Airport is also out there. But BA does not fly to PH, abi ? Lagos, then ? In any case, nowhere was God's fiery "Chariot Elijah" sighted, I can assure you, despite Alam's and Information Commissioner Oronto Douglas' "God did it" claims or was it "Egbesu," or, as Prof. Soyinka speculated, "Egbe" or "Ofe" ?
2. If he had not been declared guilty before the bail jump, Alams is certainly guilty of many crimes now, including, among many others: jumping bail, forging documents, misrepresentation, and possible immigration violations in Britain, France, Cameroon and Nigeria.
3. A nagging question: Suppose he had been caught while escaping ? How foolish and ridiculous would he have looked particularly in drag (possibly in the company of those other eight gaily-dressed authentic women) which, in cartoon, has been depicted as "an elaborate headgear, sparkling silver necklace and red lipstick" and quite buxom too? (Alams is now seriously denying the cross-dressing story, now that we understand that Egbesu seriously frowns at such abominable practice for Ijaw men.) Even the most elaborate and ingenious escape plan can go awry - did he not think of that ? Was Buhari's Nigerian government not caught in its own attempt to get former minister Umaru Dikko to involuntarily "escape" the UK in a crate well, a botched kidnap attempt - in 1984? [By the way, there is nothing ingenious in jumping bail or drag disguise.]
4. What really was Alamco trying to escape from - and to what advantage ? After all, he was not facing a capital punishment in the UK. Even if he was eventually found guilty, he would have been jailed for a relatively short time after some plea bargains (white collar crime imprisonments don't usually last long anyway; Tafa Balogun just got 6 months prison service in Nigeria for N12 billion embezzlement and money laundering); he would lose his money; and eventually be deported to Nigeria, with clearly the loss of his governorship. But he had been governor already for SIX years, for crying out loud. Is the benefit of this escape worth saving a governorship that had less than eighteen months to go ? Now with his escape and its backlash, he will lose all of that anyway - his freedom, his money, his governorship, his reputation. In any case, he might even "bounce back" afterwards as former IG Tafa Balogun has vowed to do after serving his jail sentence, and as many others have "bounced back" before him. [One hopes that Tafa does not "bounce back" as IG though or Governor of Osun State.]
5. For the rest of his life until he voluntarily gave himself up to the UK, he, an international fugitive from justice, would have been afraid of Interpol (International Police), and hence would not be able to travel openly OUT of Nigeria: not even to Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, etc, not to talk of Germany (for follow-up medical check-up, for example), etc. Is that kind of constant fear and restriction worth it ?
6. How did "Dr." Alamieyeseigha really think that he could effectively govern in Bayelsa for the next eighteen months after this escapade ? Why would he ruin the good work being done on his behalf by the loyal Deputy Governor, Acting Governor and authentic Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan particularly by showing up one day after Goodluck's 48 th birthday ? Would he or his designated representatives now be able to attend Council of State meetings in Abuja ? Or the ever-important monthly Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) meetings - to get more federal allocation and derivation money to Bayelsa (roughly N8-9 billion monthly) to embezzle ? Would an embarrassed President Obasanjo not do all within his power to financially squeeze Bayelsa State's metaphoric balls under a felon's governorship as he is reported to have started to do by instructing some Nigerian banks not to honor checks with Alam's signature on it ?
7. What about all of his family members bearing the uncommon name "Alamieyeseigha" ? Granted though that most Nigerians now pat themselves on the back for being able to spell and pronounce the name properly (less of course one syllable than one would otherwise be tempted to pronounce Allah-mee-ay-see-ya), every time his family members travel abroad now - with an APB (All-Points-Bulletin) put out for DSP - their names will ring alarum bells, and they will be asked to explain themselves and their relationships. After three-time denials and swearings in English and Ijaw of not being DSP, they will certainly be asked: "Where are you coming from ? Where are you going to ? How much money do you have on you ? Is that all? When did you last see one fugitive named DSP Alamieyeseigha ?" Was it not selfish for DSP Alams not to think of this wider implication for his extended family - including even his own friends and business associates? Voluble London businessman and reputed Alam-surety Terry Waya appears to be the first victim of this selfish attitude: he has been reportedly arrested - and hear this - granted bail ! Maybe the British are really nuts ?
8. First, Plateau Governor Joshua Dariye jumped bail more truthfully, he skipped town before a full case could be developed on him - and now Alamieyeseigha. The latter's escape puts a further blight on the reputation of Nigerians in general and elected government officials in particular. Alams' British lawyers in London must now be quite alarmed and embarrassed at his bail jump - assuming of course they did not aid and abet his escape - and will raise legal fees for some categories of high-profile Nigerians as fewer lawyers might be ready to take their cases. His previous Nigerian lawyers in the UK who he dismissed for lack of rigor, disadvantageous color and bad accent before the Queen may be thanking their lucky stars, but they are also likely to face close scrutiny about their possible implications in the matter.
9. Most annoyingly, Alams' attempts to link his plight to "Ijaw marginalization" and "minority persecution" within the Nigerian political, social and economic scheme of things also places a moral burden on the Ijaw people and some other minorities, who are forced into ambiguity either to specifically support him as a folk hero - to the opprobrium of many other citizens of Nigeria - or to strenuously oppose him as actual victims of his corrupt practices, as a majority of the members of the Bayelsa State Assembly is bravely doing. As a part-Ijaw myself from my mother's side, I feel violated by this particular ethnic antic. What is the rationale for the following display of personal wealth from reported EFCC information on Alamieyeseigha while claiming marginalization of the Ijaw people and leadership of the resource control movement of the Niger-Delta ?
Code of Conduct Assets Declaration Form for 1999 (when he became governor for the first term): total assets N68.6 million
*five buildings with a total value of N50 million;
*25 plots with a total value of N2.5 million;
*ownership of a company, Pesal Nigeria Ltd. with a capital of one million Naira;
*four vehicles acquired between 1982 and 1998 with a total value of N10 million;
* an account with Diamond Bank Plc, Trans Amadi, Port Harcourt, A/C No. 0136900013 with a balance of N5 million while cash in hand was N100,000.
[One even hopes that the above is not "anticipatory asset declaration".]
Assets Declaration Form signed on 25th of April, 2003 (on the eve of beginning the second term):
*six buildings acquired between 1985 and 2002 with a total value of N70 million and annual income of N3.5 million;
*27 plots acquired between 1985 and 2001 with a total value of N5 million;
*six vehicles acquired between 1982 and 2003 with a total value of N14.8 million.
Assets Declaration Form signed on 2nd December 2003; total assets N96.8 million (excluding incomes):
*seven buildings acquired between 1985 and 2003 with a total value of N77 million and annual income of N4.5 million.
[Between 1999 and 2003, his declared asset base had increased by N31.2 million; between April and December 2003, he must have acquired a new building worth N7 million and bringing in an annual income of N1.5 million.]
Some of the properties in London, South Africa, USA and Latin America:
*247, Water Gardens, London, W2 2DG, which is the registered address of Solomon & Peters Ltd. This property was purchased for £1.75 million;
*14, Mapesbury Road, London, NW2 4JB purchased for £1.4 million;
Flat 202, Jubilee Heights, Shoot uphill, London, NW2 3LJQ, purchased for the sum of £241,000;
*68-70, Regent's Park Road, London, N3 which was purchased in July 2002 for the sum of £3 million;
*V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa worth over £1 million;
*Royal Albatross Properties 67, a company registered in September, 2005 in Cape Town, South Africa.
*504, Pleasant Drive, King Farm Estate, Maryland USA;
*15859, Aurora Crest Drive, Whither, California, USA, 90605, 22;
*a multi million US Dollar oil refinery in Ecuador said to be owned by him is currently being investigated.
[I have stopped adding now ]
And money transfers:
*almost £1.9 million in a Royal Bank of Scotland account belonging to Alam's company Santolina on request to be transferred to an account in Cyprus
*four transfers worth Euro 2.36 million made from Bayelsa State Ministry of Works Account held by Allstates Trust Bank to Germany through Commerz Bank, London in September 2005 during his tummy tuck in a German hospital.
The controversies over revenue derivation and resource control politics, and the ethnic competition inside Nigeria place a special burden on the Ijaws and Niger-Delta citizens to clearly speak against the criminality of this leader (the declared "Governor-General of the Ijaw Nation") on an occasion when it is in the public eye. This is notwithstanding the fact that corruption places a moral burden on all of us as Nigerians.
10. Finally, all of these nefarious financial activities of so many Nigerian governors are happening because of the "temptation" of Section 308 of our Constitution which protects the President, the Vice-President, all the 36 Governors and their Deputy-Governors - "The Seventy-Four Nigerian Untouchables" from civil and criminal prosecution. Alams could hide under this section both in carrying out his initial nefarious financial transactions, and carrying out his cloak-and-dagger return under the false notion that he will be further protected once he lands on Nigerian soil. That nothing has been done so far about Section 308 since 1999 is a blight on Obasanjo's executive administration and the National Legislature, and makes a mockery of its anti-corruption stance. We cannot completely outsource our fight against corruption to the UK and the international community. A coup-plotting governor cannot even be arrested or prosecuted under Section 308. Therefore, this is the emotional and teachable time for Section 308 either to be ended NOW, or else be amended to allow for criminal prosecution and limited civil prosecution This move, together with the public declaration of assets of elected and public officers, enactment of the Freedom of Information Act and Whistleblower Acts and the joint effective actions of the traditional police, ICPC and EFCC would truly help to sanitize the system rather than the current allegations of chaos-inviting attempts to amend the Constitution to extend the presidential term by a day, two years, four years, five years, six years or twelve years.
Alamieyeseigha whose name translates as "the king can do no wrong" - did immense wrong and has not been well-served at all by both his moral appetites and his close advisers. The whole episode is an individual, family, micro-national (Ijaw) and national embarrassment. Only his impeachment for gross misconduct according to Section 188 of our Constitution and removal as governor of Bayelsa, as well as constitutional amendments to address the underlying problems of corruption, can save us as a nation from further embarrassment and accusations of selective justice.
I rest my case.