WHY THE Hulla-balloo About Bode George?

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Mr. Bode George, an old man who is clearly above seventy years feels it is now he has to pinch from the nation's wealth in order to make up for his poverty of the early years. Talk of popularity. Many people including this writer never heard of Bode George until he was sentenced to two years imprisonment for all sundry financial misdeeds, including inflation of contracts, all packed in a one hundred and sixty-three charges by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). These counts were however reduced to sixty-eight and for these, he was sentenced to serve two years imprisonment by the nation's court of competent jurisdiction. These crimes were committed (along with five others, who were also sentenced) when he was the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority.

This writer has no grudge against Bode George, who he has never met or known. My grudges are against what the ruling Nigerian Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) is making out of it. Bode George was released from prison last Saturday morning, the twenty-sixth day of February 2011, after serving his two year jail term. For him, the PDP, his party, rolled out all its drums to welcome an ex-convict who has been found guilty of various financial crimes to the tune of one hundred billions of Naira, the money which would have been used to make life comfortable for millions of poverty-stricken Nigerians who eat from the dustbins. Wake up very early in the morning and walk along some streets in Lagos today, then you will appreciate my claim to poverty in Nigeria. Many Nigerians make runs of the dustbins in public places, to pick what they can live on for the day. Yet, this is a country flowing with money-spinning crude oil, money which our leaders and politicians stuck in foreign banks for their children's children yet unborn. Where is justice in this world?

As I said earlier, there was a well planned widely televised big celebration last Saturday for the release of Bode George from prison by the ruling PDP government of Nigeria. For this reason, President Goodluck Jonathan cancelled his political rally scheduled for Lagos so as to give honor to the PDP Board of Trusty member who has just been released from the prison. The rally had been rescheduled for Tuesday 1st of March My tears go for President Jonathan who has been dragged by his advisers into committing illegality. He may be a personal friend of Bode George, I do not query that, but as the nation's President, he needed not to have shown such public support for crimes, criminals and corruption which he swore to give zero tolerance. You remember the Watergate scam in the USA which cost President Ronald Regan his job, just for having the knowledge of the Watergate Scandal. President Jonathan is not the President of PDP but of the entire Nigeria. His sympathy for a PDP stalwart coming out of prison should not have been made a national issue by him. As the President of Nigeria, his visit to Lagos is seen and looked up to, as not only a PDP affair but also a national affair, and disappointing his fans is something so incensing. For this, the President loses my one vote, and the seven votes of the members of my household.

The entire people of Nigeria were in sympathy with President Goodluck Jonathan and they were very anxious about him, until, belatedly the National House of Assembly confirmed him President applying "The doctrine of necessity", when it was crystal clear that the late President Yaradua would succumb to fate. Since then, people have been in support of President Jonathan especially when the odds of the PDP zoning system were a huddle for him to clear.

This writer is not a politician and has no particular interest for any political party. His concern is good governance, such that the very poor and down-troddened in our society could live among the rich in a secure society where no man is oppressed. That the President of an African nation, in a continent which has been rated the most corrupt continent in the world can support somebody charged of corruption and financial mismanagement, is inimical to the fight against corruption, not only in Nigeria but also in the entire continent of Africa. What are we talking about? That the ruling PDP government, including the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is observing a day to welcome one of its big-wigs from prison? Which are the lurels he brought home. Which country did he conquer so as to deserve a rousing welcome? What a shame! Have we lost our senses? The world is watching us, the most corrupt continent in the world.

We must know that it is a crime to glorify and give accolades to criminals especially when they have been found guilty by the nation's Federal High Court. We must also know that godfatherism to shelve criminals and that lack of punishment for criminals in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, leaves a breeding ground for corruption to thrive. This is not a political imprisonment which can easily be explained off. I was incensed when I watched the PDP public relations officer explaining off and trivializing the reasons for which Bode George was jailed. He should have done that in 2009 before the judge who put him behind the bars, instead of fooling Nigerians now. This is a criminal offence of sixty-eight counts, involving contract inflations and sundry other financial offences amounting to over one hundred billion naira. How do you explain this? Does the PDP PRO know better than the judge and the lawyers who defended Olabode George? If it were to be other nations outside Africa, such ex-prisoner would be banned from holding public office and his property confiscated by the state. Such can never happen in Nigeria, not even in Africa where the numerous godfathers who are ready to stall justice and would not call a spade a spade, abound at every level of defence. I understood that President Jonathan would soon grant Bode George a state pardon where he will soon function again as a public officer to deliver South-West of Nigeria to the PDP in next April general elections.

President Jonathan has the capacity, the academic qualifications to rule this country and rule it very well. My pity for him is that he is too humble, and would be easily swallowed by the PDP political lions surrounding him. They will make him bend, always to their whims and caprices and it will be very painful bringing back to governance again, such political lions and toxic wastes who are out to support financial criminals and further enhance corruption in the country and the continent. Till today, those involved in the PTDF financial scam, the Semen's scam, the Harributton and other grievous financial scandals are still being shielded by the government.Which political party in government would uncover and bring to justice the perpetrators of these financial mess which have impoverish the people of Nigeria? Will our present humble and soft, shy-looking President Jonathan be able to handle the numerous political lions, who are daily milking the nation dry? That is the question we all have to bother about.

Pat Asakome who is a broadcaster, an author, a media consultant and an analyst in public affairs writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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