I don’t know if the sudden tragic twist in the health condition and subsequent death of Diepreiye Alamieyeseigha, on Saturday October 10, had any direct link with the plan to extradite him to the U.K for the continuation of a case of money laundering for which he was granted a controversial state pardon in Nigeria about two years ago. Alamieyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa State, had died of a heart-related medical condition in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Before the news of his death broke that day, there had been no reports in the public domain that he was gravely ill, a reason that his death was such a big shock to many. It was for the same reason that it is being tagged to the planned retrial of his case. In fact, he had been politically active recently. He was one of the few Bayelsa prominent political personalities supporting and campaigning for the re-election of Governor Serieke Dickson.
His death which came right on the heels of the rumoured demand for his extradition by the U.K which the Nigerian Presidency was also alleged to be favourably disposed towards granting, is an unfortunate coincidence with that development. Before his sudden death, the argument over the legality or otherwise of the demand for his return to the U.K for fresh trial of the case was already simmering on social media and an impression was being formed through the very active debate that was then going on that it would be an overkill to subject him to yet another round of trial in the U.K.
Those who supported the U.K’s demand had anchored their position on the very logical argument that he was never really tried the first time he was arrested in that country. Alamieyeseigha had actually jumped bail and fled back to Nigeria where under a special arrangement and a strange judicial contraption called “plea bargain” a court had sentenced him to just two years in prison after he had agreed to forfeit some of the stolen money and properties he acquired with part of it. The controversial court ruling secured for Alamieyeseigha was important but not good enough.
It gave him the freedom to move around unmolested but it was not an unqualified verdict of innocence. The tar of guilt for corruption remained indelibly on him and everywhere he went after that court verdict, he carried that dubious identity. He became and remained the reference point and an often cited example of a corrupt Nigerian.
He had lost his pride and honour in the eyes of the public, a situation that was bad enough to cause his blood pressure to rise abnormally and remain so. At some point he sought for a way back to relevance by returning to politics but he soon discovered that there was no room for people with the unique and resentful stain which he carried around.
His 2015 senatorial ambition became the first major casualty of the resentment he suffered in the hands of the Nigerian political public. The circumstances of Alamieyeseigha’s death make it a huge lesson for our public office holders. He was certainly not the most corrupt Nigerian former public official. He was rather unfortunate to have run into inclement weather at that point in time and in Britain of all places, a country where everybody is equal before the law and the law is allowed to run its course without any form of manipulation as we do here in Nigeria. There, judgement is never hawked and sold to the highest bidder.
He knew fully the implications of being tried in the U.K. So he tried the escape option and he was lucky. In Nigeria where he was tried in court, the sentence he got was not exactly what he deserved. The case was handled in the typically Nigerian way. It was a slap on the wrist. Even then, it added to the entire bitter experience which was very humiliating for the man who, at the peak of his political career, was popularly known as Governor General of Ijaw nation.
If he had a second chance of a public service appointment, perhaps, the experience from his baptism of fire would have defined for him a new attitude and perception of life.
Unfortunately, he never had the opportunity of a second chance and would never ever have it again. Pity! The entire Alamieyeseigha saga underscores one very critical lesson – the futility of the craze for material possessions which has turned every a public office holder in Nigeria into a thief.
Money, too much of it and the desire to have more, was part of the problems that eventually brought Alamieyeseigha to this sad and untimely pass. It got him into multiple legal and even health-related troubles which are either directly or remotely responsible for his untimely death.
He has answered the final call leaving behind all those things he acquired and laboured to retain. But will this lesson endure in the minds of the rest of us Nigerians still alive?
In death Alamieyeseigha can now rest in peace, free from the threats of the anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria and in the U.K. Death has now separated him permanently from those material things he desired so much, acquired a lot of them but which later became his nemesis .
The U.K court that was laying the foundation for the re-opening of the case against him may have to look elsewhere for another customer. Alamieyeseigha has escaped again, this time, forever and ever. Whether the U.K authorities like it or not, they will have to close the case against the late Governor General of Ijaw Nation. He’s not coming back to the U.K and that is his final answer.
– BALA DAN ABU e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org