The Guardian, Monday, October 10, 2005

Politicians are not angels
By Ebere Onwudiwe

ONE of the contributions of a democratic political system is the diminution of alienation from the political community. It does this through the instrument of rule of law and reverence for the constitutional institutions that nourish it.

In our multinational, multi-religious federation, the most important national project ought to be the creation of one nation from our many peoples. This is the cure of unity for alienation. National unity should guide the decisions of those national level leaders who strive to make Nigeria one of the world's essential states.

Alienation, one of the ugly products of covetousness and power drunkenness is a disease which first divides and then destroys a society by attacking its primary cells, the politicians. And what is a politician? There are several North-American pejorative definitions; for example: "somebody whose main political motive is self-advancement" or "somebody who deviously manipulates interrelationships, especially in a workplace." Think the Obasanjo/Atiku uncivil war that is raging among us.

My point is this: Politicians are not angels and we should not take them to be so. If anything, it takes something of a sinner to rise to the level of national leadership. And this is not just true of Nigerians; it is a universal condition of political life in every country, on every continent.

Therefore, about the current Obasanjo/Atiku struggle for power in 2007, we should not become excessively dismayed. Our attitude should be: It is the nature of the political beast. Both gentlemen are political animals in a system with untested political institutions. Those institutions are being tested as we speak. No more, no less.

The two politicians, President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar are not indispensable. Nor are the invisible sycophants nudging them along to the path of mutual destruction. What cannot be dispensed with are our constitutional institutions that are designed to build one nation out of many nationalities if they are allowed to function properly. As Nigerians aspiring to be a strong nation, we must be prepared to defend our constitutional institutions with renewed determination.

This should serve as a warning to some of our military brothers and sisters who may be eying the current power struggle in Aso rock as an opportunity to descend on that power centre like predators on a fresh kill. But who among the civilian politicians can truly blame the military officers most of whom are informed by patriotism and who may be itching right now to "save" the nation once again from 'bloody civilians'? It is dZjˆ vu allover again, a painful First Republic replay in slow motion.

When under a democratic rule corruption and conspicuous consumption run wild and when the constitution is trampled upon by those sworn to defend it and political compromise is traded for riotous skirmishes in the halls of parliament, we are unwittingly casting a spine-chilling vote for the imposition of government by decrees.

Still, democratic politics is often too idealised. It can be, in fact, very rough and foreboding as we are now observing in Nigeria where the political leadership is virtually out of control with talks and denials about oaths, loyalties and other cultish terminology. Okay, this is shameful. But there are worse examples of the depravity of politics in many other lands and in many other political systems. Yet in most places, a disciplined military will remain in the barracks ready only to defend the democratic institutions of their drifting countries rather than the people in office.

We do not have to defend the people in office. They are politicians, a cast of characters out to get power and more power, sometimes at the expense of the very institutions they have sworn an oath to defend.

Oaths in our country can be over rated in their significance. One synonym for oath is "expletive" that is to say, a four letter word, which is what an oath sworn by some politicians on either the holy Bible or on the holy Koran to protect the nation and its institutions becomes to them after they have tasted power, get swollen headed, and begin to dream of endless rule and other phantoms of disaster. I can also cite many examples of this malady from around the nations of the world. In all cases, the mature democracy survives the mischief.

The current test of our constitutional institutions manifested in the president's power struggle with his deputy is not undemocratic on its face. We should not panic because tough tests are useful. What should matter to Nigerians is whether the democratic institutions being tested will hold. If they fail the test, then, we have to start all over again. It will not be the end of the world.
What must be avoided at all costs is yet another military rescue because that would surely weaken the country, and may even end its life.
Alamieyeseigha gets bail ...spends one more night in jail

Senan John Murray, London

The embattled Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, returned to the Brixton Prison for another 24 hours despite securing bail from the Southwark Crown Court, London on Tuesday.

Alamieyeseigha had to return to his prison cell because the bail processes could not be completed before close of work at the Bow Street Magistrate Court, Westminster, London where his solicitors, T A Solicitors, were supposed to have paid a bail bond of £500,000.00 to enable their client return to his London home.

It was the second time in a week that Alamieyeseigha, who is being held by the London Metropolitan Police on alleged money laundering charges, came close to regaining his freedom only to have it denied, this time as a result of the conditions attached to the bail application.

In a statement issued after the court session, which was held in chamber (behind closed doors), the British Crown Prosecution Service explains that even after payment of the £500,000.00 and three sureties of £750,000.00 as demanded by the court, the governor shall remain under house arrest while his travel documents remain confiscated by the police.

The governor is also required to “report daily to a police station known to the court” and must not go within three miles of any UK port or airport.

A crowd of sympathisers who thronged the third floor of the Southwark Crown Court complex with the hope of seeing the governor freed could not hide their disappointment when the decision of the court was conveyed to them as they filed out in groups dejected and conferring in low tones.

When the chamber court session began before His Honour Judge Rivlin, QC at the scheduled 2:00pm, the mood outside the court was upbeat as the “Bayelsans” and other Nigerians who assembled outside along the hallway laughed and joked about the situation.

About half an hour later, when news filtered out from the chamber that the bail application had been granted, the crowd became excited and began to talk louder than the permitted noise levels within the court premises.

The mood, however, changed when Alamieyeseigha’s solicitors emerged from the chamber without their client who had been led into a waiting UK prisons department van through the backdoor.

Before leaving the court premises, the governor’s solicitor, Mr. Olutayo Arowojolu, told reporters that his client would have returned to his London home that afternoon, “but because we cannot possibly pay the securities demanded by the court today.”

Asked why they couldn’t make the payment, Arowojolu replied, “Because the Bow Street Magistrate Court where we are supposed to make the payment has already closed for the day.”

When asked whether that meant another night in jail for his client, Arowojolu, looking unhappy replied, “yes.”

Unconfirmed reports said the delay in payment could also not be unconnected with demands by a Nigerian bank on one of the sureties, Mr. Terry Waya, to show proof that £500,000 which he wanted to transfer was legitimately earned.