Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has said the President, Major General, Muhammadu Buhari (retd), squashed a putrid egg against Nigerians’ faces with the pardon granted ex-governors of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, and Taraba State, Rev. Jolly Nyame.
He noted that it was an action that the people shall not forget – or wipe off – in a hurry.
Soyinka spoke in a statement on Tuesday titled, “A putrid presidential Easter egg,” which he also addressed to the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, who recently criticised Buhari’s regime in his Easter message.
Last week, the National Council of State endorsed the pardon of Dariye, Nyame, and 157 other convicts after the recommendation of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy.
Dariye was jailed for laundering public funds to the tune of N1.162bn and sentenced to 14 years in prison. His prison term was later reduced to 10 years by the Court of Appeal in Abuja and the Supreme Court affirmed his conviction.
Nyame was sentenced to 12 years in prison for stealing N1.6bn and the Supreme Court also upheld the judgement.
Soyinka called attention to the plight of two young men – Mubarak Bala and the musician Yahaya Sharif – one serving a sentence of twenty-five years, the other sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.
He noted that no pardon has been extended towards them.
The essayist said, “Permit me to call special attention to the following from your sermon: ‘Religious leaders… must face the reality that millions of people are leaving Christianity and Islam here in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world. While we are busy building walls of division with the blocks of prejudice, our members become atheists. Still, we prefer to pretend that we do not see this. We cannot pretend not to hear the footsteps of our faithful marching away into atheism and secularism. No threats can stop this, but dialogue can open our hearts.”
Soyinka noted that he was persuaded that the recent largesse from the president had already won a few hearts and minds to the ranks, if not of outright atheism, then at least to a healthy sceptical regard of piety spouting leadership that saw nothing wrong in attempts to extinguish the life of a young man for an honest declaration of conviction.
He added that conversely, veterans of broken pledges were let loose to infect further a world they had betrayed.
The Nobel laureate stated, “No pardon has been extended toward endangered, youthful integrity. Of course, it is easy to track the trajectory of events. Nettled by increasingly scabrous comments, such as those of his predecessor in office, Olusegun Obasanjo, who declared that this incumbent had run out of ideas, that he had nothing left to offer the nation, Muhammad Buhari decided to embark on the Easter train and donate an Easter egg of truly presidential proportions to his subjects.
“Coming from a leader who had placed all his eggs in one basket, labelled Anti-Corruption, this is one egg squashed against Nigerian faces that they shall not forget – or wipe off – in a hurry. It evokes the legend of Pandora’s Box, whose contents are alleged to constitute all the ills that plague the world. Putrid to the core, allied to power provocations in numerous variations, such as catapulting a notorious player in the martyrdom of a serving Minister of Justice to the hub of governance wheel, these define the nature of bequests that have brought the nation to this moment of near dissolution.
“Precedents are no consolation, no excuses. One states the obvious in remarking that precedents either undermine or reinforce principles, and aspiring offenders, especially in the political domain, are encouraged or inhibited by the ease or difficulty of access to the fount of mercy. Officeholders, we presume, are constrained by the existence of that dangling Sword of Damocles – simply knowing that one day, the cloak of immunity will turn threadbare, and the awaited day of reckoning finds them answerable. Clearly, not any longer.”
He added, “You will forgive, though disagree with me, I know, for clambering onto the Easter wagon myself, to echo the words of the One whose passage through the world the Easter season commemorates: “It is finished!”
Pardon politically-motivated – Shehu Sani
Also, Senator Shehu Sani, who represented the Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly Senate, says that the presidential pardon extended to Dariye and Nyame were politically-motivated.
Sani said it could be a ploy by the presidency to deploy the pardoned personalities to work for the ruling party in the 2023 general election.
Sani, who is aspiring to govern Kaduna State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, said, “For me, the question is, were they convicted by the court of law? Yes, they were convicted. Have they served some years in prison? Yes, they have served. And then, doesn’t it fall within the ambit of the Council of State and the Presidency to do that? Yes, it falls within the ambit of the Council of State.
“But meaning can only be read to it because we are now moving towards an election period, and their release might not be a selfless and innocent state action.
“It could be the reasons for the elections where they can be useful to the ruling party. Well, I don’t see anything wrong with it because the law says it can be done, and it is done.
“Like I have drawn your attention earlier, were they pardoned because they deserve or the law gave them pardon? I think that’s a different issue because we are heading towards an election. Those prominent political personalities are still forces to be reckon with in their states. It could be a gesture that ‘we have released you, and you too, should be on our side.’”
When asked if the pardon was politically-motivated, Sani said, “I think the political profile of the people convicted has simply helped them, and they were released to help the ruling party.”
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