After his impeachment and arrest, the EFCC sought to do with him what it had done with many high-powered thieves in the past: cajole him into coughing up his loot (after all, the most important thing is to retrieve the loot and return it to the people) and then slap him on the wrist for stealing. Remember the former IG, Tafa Balogun? He did not spend an eternity in jail because he agreed to give back his loot and apologize to Nigerians for betraying the trust reposed in him. Remember also Buba Marwa, former governor of Lagos State? He was gearing up to run for president. He had, in fact, set up a Marwa-For-President campaign organization when the EFCC arrested him for helping to hide some of Abacha’s loot in his bank account in Kenya. For four days, Marwa was detained in Lagos and pressured by the EFCC until he forfeited the money. Marwa was released because he fully cooperated.
But Alams was such a pathological thief, with stealing so deeply ingrained in his psyche that he fought, for over a year, to keep his ill-gotten wealth. What an effrontery! You rob a bank and you are arrested by the cops. Rather than drop the loot and try to escape with a high dose of regret and remorse, you adamantly refuse to let go of the loot! What a brazen thief you are! Alams hired top-scale lawyers to perform legal acrobatic schemes designed to spirit him out of jail; sent emissaries to officials of the EFCC to bribe them and hired magicians and voodoo practitioners to help put his guards to sleep so he could escape again. We will never know how many police officers, lawyers and court officials (and even judges) that took advantage of Alams and fed fat off his loot.
But Ribadu would not budge. Alams’ doctors eventually succeeded in getting him some reprieve, having him shipped to Dubai for medical attention. Even there, he was incarcerated, although not in a cell and not handcuffed. His freedom was curtailed and his visitors were restricted. When former VP Atiku (I hate to call him VP – indolent and roguish as he was) visited him in the hospital in violation of the conditions under which he was allowed to go to Dubai, he was bundled back home faster than he expected.
When Alams returned to Nigeria, reality finally dawned on him: he was not going to get away with his loot no matter how hard he tried. If it was true that the EFCC singled him out because he was an Obasanjo hater, Yar’ Adua was not going to grant him clemency either. He reached an accord with the EFCC, allowing him to serve only two years of incarceration in exchange for forfeiting (to the poor people of Bayelsa State) all the money and properties listed above. With credit for time served already, Alams regained his freedom almost immediately. And that has been a source of outrage for many Nigerians living abroad. “Why should he serve just two years for stealing that much money”? “He should have been thrown in jail and his cell keys flung into the lagoon.” In the 100 degrees summer heat of Baltimore, MD, USA, a friend, yesterday, almost punctured one of his veins as he argued vociferously that Alams should have had his writing hand amputated before letting him out of jail.
I tried to bring sanity to the conversation by pointing out that Chief D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha has now, (also as part of his deal with the EFCC) been “appointed” as mediator between the folks in the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta people (MEND) and the Federal Government. The MEND, you will recall, is one of the primary organizations that have been accused of carrying out all sorts of attacks against the equipment and personnel of the oil companies in the Delta areas. Alams had always been suspected of morally and financially supporting the MEND. But I was quickly shut down by one of my friends who argued that Alams’ purported support of the MEND was tantamount to an act of terrorism against the State of Nigeria, a charge that should have carried a death sentence in the first place.
I was speechless. I buried my head in shame…shame for those prominent Ijaw elders/leaders who, in 2005, chattered air-conditioned busses to Abuja to plead for the release of their son who was being “vilified by the Federal Government for doing nothing”. They held press conferences espousing the virtues of Alams and swore to his innocence at every turn. They accused government of deliberately attempting to tarnish the reputation of the Ijaw Nation. With their son now having confessed to all the charges and having forfeited his loot, who really tarnished the image and reputation of the Ijaw Nation? If Alams returns to Yenagoa tomorrow, will the Ijaw Nation role out its red carpet to welcome him as it did when he escaped from London? A thief is a thief, no matter how dear he is to you. And if you dress him as a prince, you will be embarrassed.