The Meaning Of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha’s Death, By Okey Ndibe

The Meaning Of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha’s Death, By Okey Ndibe

By Okey Ndibe | Op-Ed Contributor on October 15, 2015
Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan Niger Delta Alamieyeseigha
President Goodluck Jonathan (left) and the former Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha during the President's condolence visit to Alamieyeseigha over the death of his son, Oyemuyefa in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, November 2, 2014 | Godwin Omogui

Forget what the objective facts are, former Governor Diepreye Solomon Peter (DSP) Alamieyeseigha, who died last week at 62 years, is a candidate for official veneration.

The fact is that, in September 2005, law enforcement officers in the United Kingdom arrested DSP after finding more than a million pounds sterling in cash in a home he owned in London. Early in December, 2005, the then second-term governor, somehow slipped through the hands of British law enforcement. The story of how he eluded British police remains a mystery to this day. The absence of solid facts gave birth to a legend: that the former governor had disguised himself as a woman—and was able to walk past British detectives detailed to keep watch over him. Till his death, DSP Alamieyeseigha dismissed the narrative of his disguise, but offered no account of his mystifying escape.

The irreducible fact is that DSP somehow eluded his would-be English prosecutors. He materialized in Nigeria, compelling then President Olusegun Obasanjo, a political foe, to arm-twist some Bayelsa legislators into impeaching DSP within days of his dramatic reappearance in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital. His impeachment catapulted DSP’s then deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, into Government House, and prepared him for eventual elevation, by the selfsame Obasanjo, onto the national scene—first as Vice President, then acting President, and ultimately President.

Arrested by agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the high-living former governor was tried for corruption. On July 26, 2007, he admitted to six counts of corruption and money laundering. Each count earned him a two-year sentence, but the sentences were to run concurrently. The so-called punishment was a scandal and a travesty. In fact, it did not even rise to the level of a judicial slap on the wrist. The day after his sentencing, DSP regained his freedom. The trial judge had given him credit for time served since his initial arrest.

Mr. Alamieyeseigha’s fate both defined and defied a trend. It defined the trend whereby Nigeria’s most highly placed officials hardly ever pay for their crimes, including their venal preoccupation with theft of public funds entrusted in their custody. Yet, his trial and (ridiculously lenient) sentencing also represented one of the few occasions a person of his station was ever held to account, at all, for his crimes.

The fact is, Mr. Alamieyeseigha’s conviction meant that, in the eyes of the law, he was—pardon the indelicacy of language—a certified thief! The fact is, the man betrayed the trust of the people of Bayelsa State who elected him, twice, as their governor. The fact is, the former governor abandoned the noble business of leading and embraced the nefarious business of primitive accumulation.

Of course, in March 2013, former President Goodluck Jonathan made an expedient decision to pardon DSP, his former boss in Bayelsa. The invocation of clemency was symbolically designed to rub off from the public records Mr. Alamieyeseigha’s conviction. President Jonathan did not stop there. Taking cynicism to its limits, he later appointed the pardoned former governor to a body of delegates who met for several months to design a new vision for Nigeria.

Yet, no presidential machination could ever erase from public memory the fact that Mr. Alamieyeseigha was an egregious embezzler, a man caught by the British for fiddling with public funds.

Some years ago, a retired military politician, Abdulsalam Adisa, offered an interviewer a telling anecdote that captured the mindset of the species whose mis-governance has put Nigeria in such dire condition. He said that the same white man who invented the pencil also invented the eraser. His point was simple: that any unflattering account was liable to erasure, the better to implant a manipulated, heroic narrative.

In DSP’s case, we’re about to see that ritual writ large. If former President Jonathan took the first steps in the effort to rehabilitate DSP, that enterprise is set to enter a new, hyperbolic stage with the former governor’s death. This, the occasion of his death, will be turned into a season of gushing tributes.

All manner of men and women, many of them possessed of moral funds as paltry as Mr. Alamieyeseigha’s, will line up to rewrite the fallen counterpart’s story. They will tell us he was a patriot, an elder statesman, as a man who offered selfless service to humanity. They will describe him as a Solomon come to judgment, a man who so loved his people that he was willing to lay his life down for them. They will characterize him as a man of his words, a man of peerless honesty and boundless love, an icon of leadership. They will persuade us that the man was unassuming, that he was so humble that the Webster Dictionary adopted his portrait as the image illustrating the virtue of humility.

Yet, none of the words deployed in effusive praise of DSP would have the faintest chance of changing the facts as they stand. DSP and DSP alone had the duty to define himself as a man and leader. He was a woeful failure at the task. He yielded to the easy seduction of self-aggrandizement, mistaking the size of his material possession with the scale of his human worth.

Sadly, in death, the record of his life is a closed case. What remains is the verdict of history. All the expensive cars and palatial homes and designer clothes the man owned are absolutely useless to him now. They cannot testify to his nobility of mind, to his loftiness of heart. Let DSP’s fellow travelers in Nigerian politics proclaim him the greatest human who ever walked the earth, their attempts at verbal inflation will have no real effect, no traction with history. Hagiography does no man or woman any good.

In some ways, DSP’s story is akin to Mobutu Sese Seko’s, to Sani Abacha’s, to Imelda Marcos’, to Gnassingbe Eyadema. I’d propose that the central lesson of Mr. Alamieyeseigha’s exit is that it serves—ought to serve—as a rebuke to Nigerian officials who, this very moment, are singularly obsessed with the next naira they can steal, the next car they can buy, the next object they can feed to their insatiable, vainglorious appetite. The meaning of DSP’s fate is that, in the end, political chieftain or discounted peasant, stakeholder or staked to misery, rich or poor, we all die. After which, all we own—all we are ever permitted to own, really—is the name we made for ourselves, the unvarnished, un-garnished record of the life we led, the legacy we left. When a man squanders a rare opportunity to elevate the condition of his society, that man dies with little or nothing, even when—especially when—he had every manner of earthly possession.

Okey Ndibe novelist, political columnist, and essayist. He teaches fiction and African literature at Trinity College in Hartford, USA. He is the author of the novels, Arrows of Rain and Foreign Gods Inc. He tweets from @okeyndibe.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The cold-blooded views of an Ibo writer against the Ijaw Nation—Ojukwu woke up one cold morning and in pursuit of his greed–sent over 3 million Ibos to their early grave—Yet the Ibos worship the remains of Ojukwu till date at their Okija Shrine——-The former governor of Abia state Orji Kalu cut newspapers to the size of freshly minted Naira Notes—and donated same to government of Borno state in Maiduguri——Not one Ibo man or woman was able to vilify him–Rather he rose from there to become the governor of Abia state—-But when an Ijaw man was set up by a Yoruba President Obasanjo because of greed–and in pursuit of his presidential ambition-Nigeria rose up with one voice to attempt to crucify him–That is Nigeria for u and the view of an Ibo man who thinks the road to Biafra lies in a marriage with the Ijaw Nation who know what the Ibos stands for in Nigeria and with the Ijaws—whom the Ibos know are not interested in them–with their friends today enemies tomorrow mindset-

  2. We Did Not Request For Extradiction Of Alamieyeseigha From Buhari – UK Envoy
    Former Baylesa Governor, Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha died in a Port Harcourt Hospital on Saturday, October 10, 2015 after suffering a cardiac arrest.
    Pro-APC news media carried the news last week that the British Government had re-opened its case against Alamieyeseigha and extradition request had been made to President Buhari. To the extent that some of them, in announcing his death had mentioned that he died because he was fearful of being extradited to the UK where he would have been jailed.
    Sahara Reporters in an obituary for Alamieyeseigha, Saturday reported, “The former Governor returned from Dubai recently as it emerged that the government of the United Kingdom requested his extradition over an unfinished corruption and money laundering cases. The request, which had been criticized by Ijaw groups loyal to the former Governor, was seen as a political vendetta by the President Buhari Administration.”
    These reports were ignited by the unearthing of a 2013 interview granted to Sun Newspapers by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Andrew Pocock, in which he said that Alamieyeseigha had an outstanding case of money laundering to answer in the UK. “The former governor skipped bail in the UK on a charge of money laundering and returned to Nigeria. So, he has an outstanding charge in the UK, which is there for him to answer,” the envoy remarked.
    “We have already discussed it and the Nigerian government knows our views. But we would like to see him return and answer the charge in the UK,” Pocock maintained in the interview granted when former President Goodluck Jonathan was still in office.
    APC chieftain and chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, was quoted in the media saying that “President Buhari-led government is prepared to assent to the request of the British Government as the United Kingdom has every legal right to demand for the extradition of the former Bayelsa State Governor”.
    Prominent Ijaw leaders and groups in reaction to Alamieyeseigha’s death have accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari of hounding the man whom his people affectionately called, Governor General of Ijaw Nation, to death by pursuing after him to extradite him to the United Kingdom where he would face charges for crimes of which he had been convicted, jailed, and released in Nigeria.
    Upon the death of the former governor and agitations from Ijaw groups and leaders that his death is connected to these reports, United Kingdom’s High Commission in Nigeria has swiftly denied that its government had re-opened the case of money-laundering against Alamieyeseigha and that there was any request before Buhari to return the former Bayelsa Governor to the UK to face criminal charges.
    The High Commission called the reports “a rumour in its entirety” and there was “no renewed move to reopen the case” and said that the Nigerian media got carried away by the interview granted by the British Envoy to Nigeria, Andrew Pocock because there was a new government.
    A senior officer of the Commission, who spoke confidently and on anonymity on telephone in Abuja, said the information is a rumour in its entirety, adding that the Crown Prosecution has not tabled any extradition request on Alamiesyeseigha, to the High Commission.
    While responding to whether it is true that that the Crown Prosecution Service of UK, has made any formal request for Alamieyeseigha’s extradition, she said the Crown Prosecution Service more often do not often give or confirm information on such matters.
    She however disclosed that there is no renewed move to reopen the case. “As you know, the immediate past High Commissioner, Sir Andrew Pocock, before he left Nigeria, had in an interview averred that the manner in which Alamieyeseigha escaped from UK, made him a wanted a person.
    “But as you know and with the new government of President Muhammdadu Buhari, in place, the media is presenting it as if the UK has said that we need this man. There is no such thing as moves for his extradition or of anybody or organisation to recall his extradition to UK,” she said. “Like you know, the media find such issues interesting. They just jumped to and start publishing the way they like, without clarifications from the High Commission.”
    In September 2005, Alamieyeseigha (then the Bayelsa State governor) was detained by the London Metropolitan Police on charges of money-laundering. Trent

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