In Defence Of Bode George’s Celebrations

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Bode George finished his prison sentence on Saturday, 26 February, 2011 and moved straight from Kirikiri prison to Cathedral Church of Christ for a thanksgiving service to God Almighty who preserved him while he served the punishment meted out to him by the state for his infraction against the laws of the land. From the church, he and his well-wishers proceeded to further celebrate his happy survival. From the flurry of reactions concerning these celebrations, I am persuaded that Chief George has every reason to continue thanking God and celebrating the preservation of his life.

I am truly shocked about what I consider a mixture of righteous indignation; ‘bad belle’, envy, ignorance, wickedness, political brinkmanship, sheer hypocrisy and even ignorance by all the diverse and disparate people who for sundry reasons either condemn Bode George for going to church and/or for the partying that followed thereafter. A commentator on page 14 of Businessday of Thursday, 3 March, 2010 even attacked a church for hosting Bode George’s thanksgiving service.

Hear Mr. Ojenagbon: “What is more that a church agreed to host an elaborate thanksgiving service for an ex-convict only shows the connivance of some of our religious leaders in perpetuating corruption” – what warped logic?”

I have tried to fathom the reason both in civics and morality why people should disparage a man’s apparent reintegration into society by his peers and associates after he has paid the price for his misadventure and I cannot find one.

It is the duty of every decent society and government to ensure the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-convicts all over the world. It is trite that crimes are committed against the state and once the state exacts its punishment, the offender has paid the price and is deemed not obligated to the state or any other person thereafter to ensure non-stigmatisation (except in cases of sexual offenders or serial abusers), society indeed monitors the excon for good behaviour in order to recommend for a state pardon thereafter, a pardon totally completely wipes the slate as if no offence was ever committed.

I knew, I must write this article when even very highly placed religious leaders joined in condemning Bode George and his well wishers who joined to celebrate his survival and release from prison. I deliberately used ‘survival’ and ‘release’ to emphasise the great danger a VIP prisoner is exposed to once he is in the Nigerian gulag.

Please remember that Chief Bisis Onabanjo and Prof. Ambrose Alli barely survived their incarceration, the tragedy of Bashorun MKO Abiola and General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua is also well known.

When Bode George proceeded to the church, he rightly went to thank God, remember our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ came to save sinners like George and I, and George being a Christian knew that a priest would deliver a sermon. The Rev. Tayo Aduloju (God bless his ministry) told the congregation and George in particular the truth of life.

Hear him: “If you are involved in any shady deal, if you are found anywhere elections are rigged, and partake in any form of manipulation, it means you have not learnt anything from your experience. Real power belongs to God. It does not belong to PDP. It does not belong to any president… As from today, you are expected to represent Christ. You are an ambassador to Christ. Never again will the name of God be soiled through you… If you commit any of these sins, you will go to hell.”

Now, if Bode George did not go for the thanksgiving, who would have told him these home truths?

Now, on the issue of the religious leaders who condemned the celebrations, some of them may say that Bode George and his clique have not shown remorse or contrition for his misdeeds. I humbly declare that none of them is in a position to assert that, since the man in the moments after his prison sojourn did not evince nor declare any statement to bolster such a notion. My heart, as a Christian, goes to our Lord Jesus Christ’s parable of the Prodigal Son as recorded in the gospel according to Luke 5:11-32. I urge you to read how our Lord prescribed reception and rehabilitation for a prodigal son like Chief Olabode George.

I want to commend President Goodluck Jonathan for recognising and welcoming Chief Bode George at the PDP rally in Lagos, expectedly some who are terrified at the prospect of sharing the political space with Bode George will deprecate such presidential generosity, so many media columnists and commentators have described the events following his release as a ‘celebration of criminality’.

I beg to differ, amongst the honest commentaries I have read is that by my friend, Mr. Bamidele Aturu who said: “My view is that there is nothing at all wrong with somebody celebrating or thanking God for coming out of prison safely. I have been there and I know what it means for somebody to come out of Nigerian prison safely. However, we must show a level of humility and sobriety. For him to thank God for his life, it’s a worthy celebration.”

The irony of most of the virulent attackers of Bode George today is that they are not on a higher moral ground. Bode George is unfortunate because he broke the proverbial ‘11th Commandment,’ he got caught! Many of the traducers of George remind me of the man from your hometown who was completing a form. When he got to the column where he was asked “have you even been convicted?” he answered “NO.” The next question was “reason” (intended for those who answered “Yes”) but our man answered “Never been caught”. We remind them that as they point at Bode George, four fingers point at them. This reminds one of the great words on marble by the presidential candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu when he was EFCC chair, viz:

“Tinubu and the rest (other governors) should consider themselves as very lucky. They ought ot have been where Dariye, Fayose, Alamiesiegha are today. They cannot escape. It is a matter of time. They have the protection of the law. They enjoy immunity. We are after them because they will want to rule us again. The Constitution is against indicted people. After their tenure, they will be prosecuted. They remain indicted and are not fit to hold pubic positions.

“These people have to answer for their misdeeds instead of giving the impression that they cannot be dealt with.”

Today, George has answered for his misdeeds, tomorrow, we do not know for whom the bell tolls…

As for the commentaries and reactions of his political rivals and opponents, I say what do you expect? Ikemba Nnewi wittily stated that: “Whatever you are doing that your enemy doesn’t like is good, continue doing it!”

He also said “if somebody who has never supported you gives you an advice, do not take it.” I send the same counsel to Chief Bode George.

I understand that Bode George is a communicant at the Cathedral and he had received wise counsel in the past from that pulpit. I therefore highly recommend to him always to remember the homily by the venerable Tayo Aduloju as given on Saturday, 26 February, 2011.

If he abides by that wise and holy counsel, one day, he will appear before a judge whose judgement has no appeal and if that judge finds him guiltless, I assure him of his place in the place where his enemies will truly envy him.

•Chief Azike, lawyer/politician wrote from Lagos