Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jonathan's Presidential Pardon As Part of the Good and Bad of Democracy

Presidential Pardon, as part of the Good and Bad of Democracy

We all remember President Bill Clinton in his last day in office using his presidential power to give clemency to his half-brother, Roger Clinton, whom the President pardoned for drug charges after serving his entire sentence more than a decade earlier.

Many will remember Marc Rich, a fugitive who had bolted from the United States of America during his prosecution, and resided in Switzerland for some time. Rich owed $48 million in taxes and was charged with 51 counts of tax fraud, and Clinton pardoned of tax evasion.

In the same vein, President Goodluck Jonathan, in a country that have on the surface, modeled after the U.S politically, democratically and presidentially, used the power of pardon on the highly celebrated convict, former Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.

The Nigerian public is now being conditioned by the media to see presidential pardon like this one as a messy exercise in understanding at best, and a corrupt flexing of authority at worst, when he recently issued the contentious pardon.

Jonathan, made a presidential grant of clemency to a kinsman, thereby helping to restore Alamieyeseigha ‘s basic human dignity, and with this pardon, his right to vote and hold almost any job that would otherwise be off limits is now guaranteed.
President Jonathan, rightly took advantage of the pardon power—a virtually unique tool that allowed him to explicitly and unilaterally override the other branches of government—in order to oblige history and the true principles of Democracy.
No matter the political cost of this move to the Jonathan legacy, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha,a sensational case in Nigeria and a wanted man in U.K is a free man, at least at home.

Dr. Jonathan saw in the former governor of BayelsaState, as apparently in need of compassion, as such used his constitutional power to grant pardon to a fellow kinsman and nothing else.

May be he should do what President Clinton did in February 18, 2001, when he wrote about the intense scrutiny and criticism that followed the pardon of one Marc Rich and his partner Pincus Green.

Here is what President Clinton said: “the Constitution gives the president broad and unreviewable power to grant ''Reprieves and Pardons'' for all offenses against the United States…A president may conclude a pardon or commutation is warranted for several reasons: the desire to restore full citizenship rights, including voting, to people who have served their sentences and lived within the law since; a belief that a sentence was excessive or unjust; personal circumstances that warrant compassion; or other unique circumstances…”

Again, Jonathan did not feel that Alamieyeseigha should suffer from any more subtle bodily and emotional discomfort, experience any more agony and anguish, and in the process the President developed empathy for his fellow kinsman, no matter how his presidential judgment is viewed nationally or globally.

President Jonathan knows that with time this too shall pass into elapsed history.

~ By John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D.

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