Ololade Ajekigbe: Alamieyeseigha; When Death Confers Sainthood

The news of the death of the “Governor-General of the Ijaw Nation,” Diepreye Alamieyeseigha came out of the blue considering the fact that there was no fore knowledge or prior information of his illness from the media. The 62-year old former governor of Bayelsa State reportedly died after a protracted battle with kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure at the University of Port-Harcourt Teaching Hospital after slipping into a coma two days before.  Like almost every other subject in Nigeria, the news of his death has resulted in controversy as Nigerians have continued to elicit varying reactions to it. The revelation that the British Government had requested to have the ex-governor extradited to the UK in a bid to resurrect the inconclusive case of money laundering against him certainly added fuel to the ongoing debate.

The late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was controversial in life no doubt, and now in death he may have even become more controversial. A section of the populace have opined that no matter what a dead person did wrong while they were alive, it is absolutely wrong, inappropriate and disrespectful to speak ill of them. It doesn’t matter whether they were known to be a thief, fraudster or even a murderer during their earthly sojourn. As one who had the privilege of being alive, while the other person was six feet under, it wasn’t just in your place to say anything that was not in line with extolling the virtues of the person now that they were no more. While the second school of thought believe it is nothing but hypocrisy to manufacture virtues that are non existent in order to be seen as aligning with a popular maxim. I belong to the latter category.

In the case of Alamieyeseigha, even though he was the first civilian governor of the oil rich Bayelsa State, and appears to be well loved by his people; sadly, it is impossible to forget that the man was more popular and will be remembered more for the his brush with the law while he was alive than anything else. For how can the average Nigerian forget that the former governor was found with a whopping £1m in cash in his London home and a head spinning €1.8m in cash and bank accounts. Let alone the value of his real estate in the same country which was alleged to be worth £10m. The facts are there for anyone to verify; Former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was arrested and detained by London’s Metropolitan Police in September 2005. He also jumped bail from the UK in December 2005 by allegedly disguising himself as a woman, even though he denied this part of the story. He was also impeached on allegations of corruption upon his return to Nigeria. These are facts that cannot be distorted no matter how sentimental some people have chosen to be upon his death.

The Bayelsa State government and staunch loyalists of the late indigene of Amassoma, particularly his Ijaw kindred are positive that the federal government had a hand in his death. They posit that the government of the day were the ones who wanted and prompted the UK authorities to request that he be extradited to the Uk to answer to the outstanding case they have against him. In the first place, the British authorities have denied that there was any move to return the late ex governor back to England. Secondly, even if it were true that the Buhari led government planned to get Alamieyeseigha to answer for his “sins,” are we saying it is not within the rights of the government to do so? Especially with the ongoing fight against corruption in the country. Alamieyeseigha was granted a presidential pardon here in Nigeria. It never translated to him getting a clean bill of health outside the country!

If we decide not to speak ill of the dead, does it automatically erase the ills the dead did when they were alive? This was a man who pleaded guilty to six charges of corrupt enrichment, and was sentenced to two years imprisonment on each count. Yet, some have chosen to turn a blind eye to these obvious facts, and would rather run with trumped up tales of a perceived witch hunt. It is one of the major reasons why we are where we are today! Ethnic and tribal sentiments almost always get the better of us. “As long as he is my friend, brother or I have benefited from him at one time or the other, then he can do no wrong.” For those who feel that the people who are not sympathetic to a dead man’s plight are insensitive and must be offending God, what will they say to those who have lost loved ones due to the greed of one man. The huge amounts stolen could have been channeled into providing adequate health facilities or send some children who are wasting away hawking goods just because their poor parents cannot afford to pay for an education to school.

How does one quantify the multiplier effect the looting of our common treasury has on the general populace, particularly on the down trodden of the society? A looter may not be seen in the same light as a murderer who pulls the trigger on his hapless victim, but it is right up there with the crime of assassination when one takes a look at it critically. Anyone who has at one time or the other unashamedly stolen money that is meant for millions of people without a second thought as to what fate would befall them because of their action is tantamount to a murderer. It doesn’t matter if they are dead or alive. Death does not and should not automatically confer sainthood.

For the sake of clarity, I am not happy that Alamieyeseigha is dead, for one; it is sheer folly to wish anyone dead or rejoice at anyone’s death because it is a due that every living being is condemned to pay sooner or later. I am only unhappy that he escaped justice. Indeed, he appears to be the winner in all of these. What with the eulogies that have been pouring forth since his demise, one would have thought that he was one of our national heroes.

So, here is my submission; let those who want to mourn the former governor go ahead and do so. They are well within their rights to do so. Besides no matter how bad a person may be, they are bound to have done some good too to certain people and at one time or the other. But, those who have also decided not to mourn Alamieyeseigha for reasons best known to them should also not be begrudged or vilified for not doing so. After all it is a free country and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Ololade Ajekigbe

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of nor its associates

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