In this interview, former member of the House of Representatives, Honourable Independence Ogunnewe speaks on some of the dominant issues in the nation’s polity including amnesty for Boko Haram, the presidential pardon for the former governor of Bayelsa state among other national issues. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the administration?
President Goodluck Jonathan is doing his best only that a whole lot of Nigerians believe he could still do better. All over the country, infrastructure decay is still staring us in the face, our educational system is not so impressive; the state of security is something that one would love to see more action, even though the character and dynamics of the present security challenge is one that no person would have eliminated in one fell swoop.
What is your take on the pardon granted former Governor Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State?
Here is one person who was charged, convicted and sentenced and part of his loot, if not all was recovered. He also served prison term. In the old testament of the Bible, one of the conditions for granting pardon is confession of sin and if possible restituting for the extent to which you trespassed. In the case of Alamaseigha, he was not just convicted but he also went to jail which means he paid the price for his crime.
He also restituted because they collected back from him what they said he stole. n that light, you can say that scripturally and spiritually he is qualified for pardon, more so that he has conducted himself in such a dignified manner that even the government had to rely on his extensive reach to get the militants to be off the creek.
If somebody went to jail for committing a sin, they collected everything from him and he still came out to work for the interest of that state by being part of amnesty deals that got the militants to drop their arms then why wouldn’t he be pardoned? These are some of the salient issues which the emotions of today have made it difficult for people to appreciate.
I would also say that as a democrat and a firm believer in the constitution, I would want the constitution to be the winner for it. In granting this man pardon, does the president have the powers to do that? The answer is yes, because the constitution gives him such powers. In the exercise of that power, did the constitution qualify how it will be used? The answer is no. It is a discretionary thing. He decides who he wants to grant the pardon. The constitution made a demi-god out of the president as regards the granting of amnesty.
Nobody can question his discretion. Nigerians who have been criticizing the president should take an introspective and deep analysis of the issues involved because emotions cannot take them far. If the president feels that it serves the overriding public interest to grant amnesty to Alamieyeseigha, then he is supported by the constitution.
Are you also supportive of the amnesty to the members of Boko Haram?
Anybody who is opposed to granting of Amnesty to Boko Haram is an enemy of the state because if amnesty is the only thing that can guarantee peace, then they should be granted amnesty. My only concern is that you must know who you want to grant amnesty to. I support amnesty but you must know who you want to grant amnesty.
This is because you need to discuss with leaders of the group on what to agree on for amnesty and who to call when there is a breach. When Amnesty was granted to the leaders of the militants in the Niger Delta, their leaders were known and they were the ones who were interfacing between the federal government and the other ranks.
If Amnesty will solve the problems of insecurity in the north, I support it. The sultan has a duty to work hard to unveil the identity of members of the Boko Haram. Members of the Boko Haram have to show themselves and get this amnesty things wrapped up.