When an elephant dies By Gbenga Omotosho

Diepreye-AlamieyeseighaSo many theories have been deployed to explain the fate that befell former Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke and former Bayelsa State Governor DSP Alamieyeseigha, the self-styled governor-general of the Ijaw Nation.

Mrs Alison-Madueke was arrested in London for alleged money laundering and corruption, details of which are yet to be spelt out even as many emergency analysts and theorists have gone to town with what they have sworn is the ABC of the matter. Can we blame them? As our elders say, when an elephant dies, all manner of knives show up.

The arrest generated so much hysteria because Mrs Alison-Madueke was perceived as one of the principalities and powers in former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, which elder statesman Edwin Kiagbodo Clark disrobed in the market place the other day after many years of strutting the land, proclaiming the former President as his godson in whom we all must be well pleased. Now, says Clark, Jonathan lacked the will to fight corruption. How times – and people –  change!

In a raid on Mrs Alison-Madueke’s home, 27,000 pounds cash was reportedly seized. There were also rumours that she was being held with some of her family members. Many, spurred by the feeling that the former minister was set to have her day with the law, rushed from one court to the other seeking information on the rumoured arraignment of the once powerful former minister.

As usual in cases of this nature, an army of  doubtful legal experts has sprung up, forecasting  how the case will go, the punishment (when an accused is found guilty), chances of extradition and other related issues. Some of them are even talking about a plea bargain, saying madam would be let off the hook should she agree to surrender some cash, which they derisively refer to as her “loot”.

Doctors – majority of them charlatans posing as genuine professionals – have also weighed in after the family confirmed that Mrs Alison-Madueke was suffering from cancer of the breast. How strong should an accused be to face trial? When did the ailment begin? Was that why she was not seen after Dr Jonathan lost the election?

Without any respect for the laws of defamation  and simple decency , many have hit the Internet to speculate about her peccadilloes, especially those of very intimate nature, which this paper, being a family newspaper, would never be caught enumerating –  in deference to our readers’ sensibility. They write authoritatively about the incredible wealth of her associates, who live like kings and party like Hollywood stars, cruising the world in private yachts and buying homes in the most exclusive neighbourhoods in the most expensive cities.

In Mrs Alison-Madueke’s travails, some have found a comic relief, displaying the fecundity of an average Nigerian’s mind even in a situation that demands extreme sobriety. The other day in Ibadan, an old woman was wondering why the noise about “this innocent and beautiful woman”. What they allege she has taken, said the woman in the local accent, is small (die sa ni) – a kind of onomatopoeic contraption of “Diezani”.

A commentator, apparently one of those bitter critics, scolded those who cried out that the former minister was being witch-hunted. “Let’s kill all the witches and see if we’ll be able to get the truth in these matters,” he remonstrated to the amazement of all. How do we know the witches who many of our leaders claim to be hunting them whenever they are called to account? Don’t witches hunt ordinary and poor people, including those who are nowadays referred to as extremely poor? If they do, why don’t they complain?

When the rumour mill alleged that Diezani would be in court with her mother and brothers, another commentator asked rhetorically: “What do we say when members of a family are arrested?” He quipped: “This is surely not a case of partners in crime; it must be family in crime.”

On the Internet, the portrait of the North Korean leader, Kim Jon Un, the one who reportedly fed his uncle to starving dogs for mismanaging the economy, corruption, womanising and drug taking, with his trademark deadly frown, was posted. It carried the caption: “The way other members of the Looters Academy (2011-2015) will be looking at Diezani, like don’t you have conscience?”

There was also the former minister’s beautiful portrait. She is decked out in the traditional dress, something like a Kaftan, a big headgear on her head and a blue necklace playing on her tender neck. Her face is wreathed in smiles. All her accessories are blue –to match, as they say. Then the clincher of a caption: “When they said Mrs Alakija was the richest woman in the world.”

Many were moved when the Alison-Madueke family lawyer confirmed that the former minister was indeed battling cancer. The compassion the disclosure elicited was remarkable. This, I think, may have been responsible for the reduced  negative criticisms of her tenure as 0il minister and her cancer battle. Adversity has a strange way of drawing sympathy – thanks to our common humanity and the reality that there is a leveller, after all .

Alamieyeseigha’s case was different. He answered the final call after the United Kingdom  requested for his extradition  to face  trial for alleged money laundering. It is not all new. The former governor was arrested in London on September, 2005 for carrying one million pounds cash on him. In his account, about 1.8million pounds was discovered. The gloomy prospect of being sent to jail was strong. DSP, as he was excitedly called by his associates and admirers, jumped bail and fled the United Kingdom in controversial circumstances, the mystery of which his death has deepened.

An account said he was robed like a woman in hijab, sneaked out of his home and headed for a special route where he was driven out of town before taking a flight to a West African country. He then flew home to Nigeria.

Another account spoke of how the late Alamieyeseigha simply headed for Heathrow, checked in like any other passenger and flew back home. In July 2007, he was jailed two years. He lost many assets, forfeited to the government of Bayelsa State. In the United Kingdom and the United States, he lost a fortune. Dr Jonathan pardoned him in 2013. But, like that of a really bad wound, the scar remained indelible.

Now, the myth and all the worldly affairs will be interred in a six feet grave in his home in Amasoma, Bayelsa State. The end.

The late Alamieyeseigha was said to have been devastated and shocked by the news that he was to be bundled back to the United Kingdom. He fell into a coma and died last Saturday at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital of cardiac arrest.

Some commentators, drawing from the “great escape from London”, refused to believe that Alamieyeseigha was, indeed, dead. They called for an autopsy and demanded a public display of his body because, according to them, the man could spring a surprise.

At home in Bayelsa, Alams (another nickname of his) remains a hero. The state government has declared a seven-day mourning, following the demise of “a rare gem”. Governor Seriake Dickson described his death as “a very painful and monumental loss to the entire Ijaw nation, which he has always stood firm for in all its ramifications”. He condemned “the way he was harassed and forced to abandon his treatment abroad”. Flags are to fly at half mast and the opening of Dickson’s campaign was put off in deference to a dearest leader.

From a United Kingdom prison, former Delta State Governor James Onanefe Ibori, also known asOgidigboigbo has penned a remarkable obituary, dripping with gripping emotion . A eulogy and an elegy mixed in good prose. He described  the late Alamieyeseigha as “ a victim of virulent politics” . He said the man was not corrupt, adding that he built only one house. A young fellow sneered at that tribute and asked cynically: “One house? Okay, how many did he buy?”

To Ibori, who is serving term for money laundering, Alams was “a victim of great hypocrisy masquerading as nationalism and anti-corruption fight”. He hailed him as a champion of resource control.

Many have argued that Alamieyeseigha’s death may have been unnatural, considering the timing, which coincided with the United Kingdom’s request for his extradition. Did he poison himself after concluding that death was more honourable than disgrace? Was it a case of hypertension and diabetes as claimed in unofficial medical circles? Could it all be part of his tummy tuck surgery? Why should some people think it could all be a scam? The death of a scam or the scam of death?

The lesson of it all is the reality of the futility of material acquisition as an end in itself and not as a means to an end, which is the comfort of the majority of the people and the well-being of the society. Many of such acquisitions, which are meant to be agents of comfort, often turn out to be agents of discomfort and even death. Ah! What a lethal irony.

But the big question is: do men learn?