HISTORICALLY, the United States and Nigeria have shared cozy diplomatic relations, except during the late General Sani Abacha’s military interregnum, when the relations turned sour on account of annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election by the military and Abacha’s subsequent usurpation of power. During the period, both countries severed diplomatic relations.
The reason for the upset could obviously be traced to the annulment of that presidential election won by the late Moshood Abiola. Once it happened, America, as the custodian and bastion of liberal democracy across the globe, saw it as an affront, not only against democracy -loving Nigerians, but also a truncation of the avowed goals of its foreign policy which cornerstone is the spread of democracy globally.
Till this day, this policy has continued to dominate American world view and foreign policy from Iraq to Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and much of the Middle East, as well as Asia and Africa.
America has never been under any pretence or illusion that they want democracy and rule of law to thrive, and blossom across the world, therefore, it could easily be seen why they detested the abrupt cancellation of the June 12 election by the IBB Military junta.
Since the death of General Abacha, and subsequent restoration of democratic rule in 1999, Nigeria’s relations with America have continued to grow from strength to strength. Regrettably, there seemed to have been a set back in the relations, when recently the Jonathan administration granted pardon to some high profile ex-convicts among them the former governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Diepreiye Alamieyeseigha who was once tried and jailed under the Obasanjo administration for corruption.
Expectedly, some people were taken aback that despite the tragedy which corruption has become in our clime, with its attendant debilitating effects, that Nigeria’s government will muster sufficient courage to grant pardon to some persons who were once convicted for the same malady.
At least not at this time when the cankerworm has become the greatest obstacle to the overall development of the country, they reasoned. Yet the government stood its ground, and took in all the criticisms, especially as it affects Alamieyeseigha. In the cacophony of voices also were those who supported the pardon granted the VIPs by Mr. President.
The matter, however, took another dimension when the United States government through its embassy in Nigeria joined the fray and condemned the pardon granted the former Bayelsa State helmsman. In their view, the pardon portended a wrong signal that the fight against corruption was a fluke, and this they told the Federal Government pointblank. Of course, as should be expected, the Federal Government did not take the US intervention lightly, as it considered it as interference in Nigeria’s internal affairs and obviously it was.
As a sovereign nation, Nigeria has a set of laws that guide all her actions, including punishment and pardon for crimes against the state. At every stage, it remains the prerogative of government to mete out punishment or pardon to offenders, hence we have in our statute books opportunities for clemency, pardon, prerogative of mercy or what have you. So long as the government exercises the authority according to the laws of the land, then there should be no uproar from other quarters, least of which is a foreign country.
Therefore, when the Nigerian government accused the United States of undue interference and meddlesomeness in her internal affairs, it struck the right chord for it is not within the legal or diplomatic power of America to determine who is deserving of clemency or pardon under our laws. For them to outrightly condemn the pardon granted to Alamieyeseigha without weighing the implications or the pros and cons which informed government’s decision is to say the least an unwarranted provocation and obviously an undue interference in our internal affairs.
Granted that there are some humanitarian aids we receive from the United States from time to time, but that doesn’t presuppose that we have surrendered our sovereignty to America. Aids to countries are voluntary and they come with aims and objectives, of which the donor most times know the underpinning benefits that ultimately accrue to them.
It is indeed sufficient that the Federal Government has listed the reasons why the pardon to the ex- Bayelsa State helmsman became necessary, and prominent among these is his capacity in helping to stem the restiveness in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. Obviously, this is a plausible reason unless Nigeria is ready to manage with the sharp drop in oil production with the consequent drop in revenue, thereby crippling development activities as was the case during the upheaval.
As peace is the desire of all nations, all hands must be on deck to seek and achieve it wherever and whenever we can find it, and if by pardoning AlamieyeseIgha Nigeria will witness accelerated growth and progress, so be it, and America please let us be.