Before They Cast A Stone

A lot has been written about the issue of the warm embrace given by the PDP to Chief Bode George the recently released PDP chieftain after his 2 year sojourn at KiriKiri Maximum Security Prison upon his conviction for fraud. There is so much outrage against the PDP and especially from its rivals the CPC, ACN and the CNPP. Socio Cultural organisations have not been left out with the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) issuing a press release to declare its disappointment with the PDP and declaring that persons like Bode George ought not to be recognised by society.

With the bedlam that Bode George's Thanksgiving service at The Cathedral Church of Christ Marina generated and the passionate response it elicited there is the strong possibility that the public will soon lose perspective on this issue and this is particularly dangerous coming so close to an election.

Before I delve deeper into my analysis, let me establish that the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, is the Head of State of Nigeria and therefore he ought to provide not just executive leadership but moral leadership. Thankfully he has not consorted with Bode George yet though the man was present in the crowd at his rally in Lagos on the 1st of March, 2011. I believe that what is expected of Mr. President is to respect the sensibilities of Nigerians and stay above the fray and not visit or permit Bode George to visit him. Those who have his ears should appeal to Mr. President not to have anything to do with any reception, celebration or planned rehabilitation of Bode George. This is an odious act and passes a subliminal message to Nigeria's youth that crime pays in some circumstances. The days of receiving former governors, and ex-party officials on trial or convicted for crimes in Aso Rock must go forever.

Let me also establish that it is completely in order for the general public to be outraged over the incidence especially where public officials were involved. It is one thing for private citizens who are members of the PDP to celebrate George's release. It is another for public officials to join in the fray.

Having established that, let us examine the issues here very carefully. Bode George is a convict. He committed a crime and was sentenced upon conviction to about two years imprisonment. He served his time. Now the question is what was the purpose of his imprisonment?

While there may be many opinions as to the purpose of imprisonment, I believe we can narrow it down to two purposes; a. to punish and b. to reform. Now if we accept this the question then becomes has Bode George been punished and has he been reformed?

As prescribed by the no nonsense Justice Olubunmi Oyewole Bode George was denied his liberty and the comforts he was used to for two years. So yes, to some degree he has been punished. Has he been reformed? Only time will tell but the man himself did say in church that he had learnt his lessons while the officiating minister told him to "go and sin no more".

So if he has served his punishment and will live with his crime in that he is statute barred from holding political office, should he then be shunned by his peers in the PDP who are not occupying a position in government?

Let us personalise Bode George's case and see how we will fare if we were in the shoes of his friends in the PDP. How many of the people who now condemn the PDP and Bode George will shun their friends and family in similar circumstances?

Well let us examine case by case.

Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) had strong words for the PDP over its reception of Bode George and described the PDP as being immune to shame for associating with a man convicted for corruption. well here is the thing-General Sani abacha has been confirmed by several independent panels as well as courts of competent jurisdiction in Nigeria and Europe to have looted conservatively about $5 billion from the Nigerian treasury. Yet Buhari did say on the 8th of June, 2008, at the Abacha family residence that Abacha was a man who served Nigeria well and who did not loot or steal! (see http://allafrica.com/stories/200806090008.html).

When you consider the damage done to Nigeria by Abacha and that done by Bode George you will agree that though both of them behaved unconscionably the behaviour of Abacha was more reprehensible and had a greater negative impact on the economy and image of Nigeria than Bode George's behaviour yet Muhammdu Buhari still saw it fit to celebrate such a man!alt

Is it not hypocritical that Muhammdu Buhari can then today condemn the PDP for an act of which he is also guilty? Of course our politicians take Nigerians and their short memory for granted.

And that is not all. Mohammed Abacha and Atiku Bagudu were both indicted by Switzerland under Swiss legislation for money-laundering, fraud and for taking part in a criminal organisation. Mohammed Abacha also forfeited hundreds of millions to various European governments. These are monies that would have solved many a problem back home but are now swelling the treasury of already rich Western nations. Yet this same Mohammed Abacha was received with fan fare by Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) at his Kaduna residence last year. In fact the young Abacha registered as a member of the CPC in Buhari's residence.

What is the difference in the reception Bode George's friends had for him and that which Buhari gave to Mohammed Abacha who incidentally is now a gubernatorial candidate in Kano under the banner of Buhari's party? That's for Buhari. Let us talk of Bola Tinubu.

Senator Bola Tinubu condemned the reception for Bode George and blamed the media for even giving it wide coverage. Really! Can Bola Tinubu say with all conscience that he has not had runnings with law enforcement? Can Senator Tokunboh Afikuyomi say that of Bola Tinubu. Malam Nuhu Ribadu is a good and decent man and a man I love and believe is most qualified to be President of Nigeria but can anyone recollect that Tinubu himself was once the target of an investigation by the EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu? Our memory is not so short (although sometimes we have selective amnesia). Yes, Michael Aondoakaa 'cleared' Bola Tinubu of any wrong doing in the ECONET incidence but we remember quite clearly that the then Federal Government still refused a request to release evidence by the London Metropolitan Police in the case they were investigating.

Now the maxim is that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. Is Bola Tinubu on a pedestal high enough for him to condemn Bode George's friends for receiving him warmly? I have my doubts.

And then there is the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) which condemned "in strong terms" the reception for Bode George and "frowned" at a situation where "ex-convicts are glorified after looting the treasury". Really ACF!

Is this not the same ACF that elected Jeremiah Useni as its chairman in 2009? The same Jeremiah Useni who as Minister of the FCT Abuja was indicted for having multiple properties in Abuja derived from an abuse of his office. In fact as reported in the Institute for Human Rights and Criminal Justice Studies's African Security Review, "four properties in the Nigerian capital Abuja, forfeited by Jeremiah Useni one of the most powerful generals of the Abacha regime, were auctioned in May 2000 for over 2 billion Naira, or more than US $20 million" (see http://www.iss.co.za/pubs/ASR/9No5And6/Redpath.html).

So until the PDP elects Bode George as its chairman, I do not see how the ACF has the moral authority to condemn Bode George's friends for receiving him warmly.

In conclusion, let me say that I do not give a care for Bode George. The man as far as I am concerned does not represent the best amongst us and for Nigeria to make progress we need to put our best foot forward at all times. Having said that, if someone must complain that his enemy has a big head it should not be the cow.

Before Major General Buhari (Rtd) Bola Tinubu and the ACF condemn Bode George and his friends they should ponder on Jesus's statement to those who brought the woman taken in adultery to him and sought to stone her. Said Jesus to them-"If any one of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone."

The condemnation of the reception of Bode George by his friends has turned into a political show and exposes the height of hypocrisy of the Nigerian elite and in this period where we ought to be focusing on issues we have preferred to turn our season of election into a season of hypocrisy!

Reno Omokri

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