The Federal Government, last week, ordered the release of over 2000 inmates from prisons nationwide. While making the announcement, the Honorable Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, added that the Presidential pardon has been granted to 5 individuals. Among them, 2 were granted posthumously. At What Point Does History Absolve.
These 2 also got special mentions by the Honorable Minister. Ambrose Alli, former governor of the old Bendel State he described as “a great progressive”, while he said of Anthony Enahoro that he “was a foremost nationalist who moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence.” Very brief but admirable profiles. Such that have no place in documents meant for pardoning convicts. How then, we may ask, did they end up there?
Enahoro has indeed been a defendant in 2 different cases of treasonable felony. In the first instance, he was implicated along with the iconic Chief Obafemi Awolowo in what many have observed to be a political trial resulting from an internal struggle within the defunct AG. Along with Awolowo and some others, he was convicted. But also along with Awolowo, he was later granted pardon by the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon in 1966. But another military regime, that of General Sanni Abacha, charged Enahoro along with Wole Soyinka, Alani Akinrinade and some 8 others with treasonable felony in 1997 for their roles in pro-democracy activities. The charge was later dropped by the Abdulsalami Abubakar regime that succeeded Abacha in 1998. One may ask then, on what account is he being pardoned again? The Federal Government wouldn’t tell. And unfortunately, dead men tell no tales.
On his part, Professor Ambrose Alli, after whom the university he established while serving as Bendel State governor has been renamed, was a victim of the farce that was called trial, staged by a military tribunal set up by the then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari’s military regime to try the democratically elected officials he had overthrown. In that trial, Alli had no legal representation and no evidence to establish the corruption charge brought against him. He was however sentenced to a lengthy period of incarceration, during which his health deteriorated. Alli died on his 60th birthday after his release had been obtained with a million naira fine in 1989.
These 2, clearly victims of the unjust system of political victimization and military dictatorship, deserve more than they are getting. They, and several like them, have only woeful tales of victimization and persecution to show for their patriotism and selfless service to the Nigerian society. On the other hand, topplers of a democratically elected government are rewarded handsomely. How is it a surprise then, that our society now breeds lesser and lesser citizens committed to the progress of their society rather than their personal aggrandizment. After all, the popular Yoruba maxim that “when the land favors the wicked and spites the kind, one tires of doing good” holds so true.
Fidel Castro said during his popular 1953 trial by the Batista regime that it does not matter whether he’s condemned, as history will absolve him. One can say indeed that history has absolved Fidel Castro. But can history be trusted to absolve all that are wrongly condemned? I would say no. We can say history has absolved Castro because he definitely won and history is said to be written by winners. So, Enahoro and Alli have fought the good fight of faith, but can’t be said to have won. Their place in history, and that of others like them can only be totally secure and rescued from the whims of political opportunists when the battle between the retrogressive and the progressive elements in this country is won by the progressives. That is when history can be said to truly absolve.
15th, April 2020.