Antics of a pampered prisoner-by Levi Obijiofor

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Ever since he was convicted and jailed by a Lagos High Court along with five of his associates, Olabode George has been behaving like an over-pampered child. In prison, he refused to wear the uniform - that symbol of infamy with which society

identifies criminals serving time in jail. The prison uniform is mandatory for all inmates but Olabode George believes his ego, even as a convict is bigger than the prison uniform. And the prison authorities consented to his naughtiness.

Even as the nation was considering how to read the daily prison antics of George, the man requested and was granted special privileges such as unlimited nocturnal visits by his People's Democratic Party (PDP) allies who do not want to be seen in daylight with their disgraced colleague. The special concessions granted to George by Kirikiri Security Prison authorities, you must remember, were not extended to other five convicts who were jailed with George two weeks ago.

Now, Daily Sun newspaper reported on Tuesday (10 November 2009) that George, the man who must be obeyed, has gone on hunger strike because his bail application was rejected by the Lagos High Court on Monday this week. This adds to previous reports of his ongoing abstention from food and water for religious reasons. If indeed he is on hunger strike, he should be encouraged to continue. He needs to lose some weight anyway.

George should be reminded that, by his conviction and imprisonment, he has forfeited the right to make unnecessary demands or to live the kind of ostentatious life that he is used to. At the moment, he is in a prison. A prison is not a pleasure island. In stable societies, a prison does not grant special privileges to inmates. But we are in a dysfunctional society. By Nigerian standards, the Kirikiri Security Prison operates different rules for different inmates. And George has taken advantage of that untidiness in the prison system.

The message must be conveyed to George in whatever language he understands - that is, it is unacceptable for him to dictate the terms of his behavior while in his prison cell. Normally, a prison should not relate with inmates based on their political designation, social status, financial profile or chieftaincy title. A prison is different from one's normal place of residence. In every prison, there are strict rules that stipulate the conduct of inmates. Without rules, a prison will not be a prison. It will be a jungle.

To be sure, Olabode George is not the first high profile public officer or politician to go to jail. Former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun, was jailed and Nigeria did not disintegrate. In life, you are either in jail or you are free. No amount of silliness or political lobbying will set George free. Justice Olubunmi Oyewole who jailed him two weeks ago is a man of integrity. He meant business when he sent George and his accomplices to jail.

There are consequences for unlawful behavior. While he remains in prison, George must reflect on the conduct that secured him admission into prison, a place reserved for iniquitous men and women.

George's behaviour in prison is a reflection of the decadent features of our society. Consider this! George was sent to jail two weeks ago. In prison, the authorities chose to treat him as a pop star. He was presented with his prison uniform and he refused to wear the uniform. The prison authorities obliged him. No one saw the contemptible side of that behaviour. Despite intense media publicity over George's shameful behaviour, no senior prison official has bothered to explain to the nation why George should be treated differently.

The undeserved special benefits granted to George by the Kirikiri Prison officers feed the noxious idea that there are different rules for different people in Nigeria. This was exactly the practice that Justice Oyewole wanted to expunge from our collective psyche when he sent George and his associates to jail. The audacious actions of Olabode George and the patronising behaviour of Kirikiri prison authorities have exposed the ugly backside of Nigeria's prison system. Nigerian prison officers still operate a culture that venerates convicted criminals. This bizarre practice is tellingly the first signs of a society in decay. A society is on the path of perdition when the people and public institutions adore criminals.

To understand why George has continued to defy prison rules and etiquette, and why prison authorities continue to gratify him, we must understand the elements that define how and why we revere "big men". In Nigeria, a "big man" will always be respected as a "big man" whether he is in jail or out of jail. George understands this. In prison, all he needed to do was to exploit his status as a high profile politician and former boss of the Nigerian Ports Authority. In prison, officials refer to him as "Oga", which translates -- metaphorically and literally - to a boss or a "big man".

In this context, we can understand why "Oga George" would bark orders at prison officers and they would compete to ingratiate him. In so short a time, he has managed to acquire so much impudence that he could now order prison officers around. Justice Oyewole must be wondering what else he could do to demonstrate that no one is above the law in Nigeria.

In every sense, we have lost our values. A society without values is terribly impaired. A society that attaches high value to men and women of ill repute is a worthless society. The guardians of our culture have lost direction. The widespread quest for money has driven men and women to a point of idiocy. Tradition has given way to inane practices. For the love of money, family members conspire to kidnap their wealthy relatives. For the sake of money, traditional rulers manufacture non-existing titles and confer them on the affluent. For the sake of money, pastors and priests organise special prayers (intercession, as they are called) for convicted criminals and murderers.

Unrestrained acquisition of wealth is the language of modern Nigeria. If you have wealth, you are a friend to everybody. If you don't have it, you will be held in contempt by everyone.

Judgment day in Anambra

Strange events continue to unfold in Anambra State. Today, the Appeal Court in Enugu will deliver judgment on the case brought by Andy Uba who is asking to be restored as the governor of Anambra State, a position he was forced to vacate by the Supreme Court in 2007. Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu has already threatened to go to war - for the second time - if the Appeal Court should accede to Andy Uba's request.

Many people have wondered why Andy Uba should run to the Appeal Court when the Supreme Court - a higher court - had ruled in June this year that his election as governor in 2007 was null and void because the current governor, Peter Obi, had not completed his tenure. Today's Appeal Court judgment will therefore have serious consequences for the nature of politics in Anambra, including whether there would be a governorship election in Anambra in February 2010.

In an earlier Supreme Court judgment on Andy Uba's case (June 2009), Chief Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi said: "I have carefully listened to the submissions and arguments canvassed by counsel to all the parties in this application and come to a conclusion that the application is a thorough abuse of the judicial process. It is trite law that there must be an end to litigation. This application therefore fails and is accordingly dismissed... The appellant has been shuttling from one court to another on a matter that the Supreme Court had already delivered judgment." Andy Uba was not persuaded by that judgment. He took his case to the Appeal Court in Enugu.

On Tuesday, 3 November 2009, the Supreme Court threw out a similar case, a request by Celestine Omehia, the former governor of Rivers State, to be reinstated as governor.

Across the world, mythologists say the number "13" symbolizes two things: good luck and bad luck. Today is November 13. No one knows whether today's Appeal Court judgment would bring sadness or joy to Andy Uba. It could produce temporary smiles on his face. Or, it may put an end to his governorship ambition, at least for now. We shall find out in the next couple of hours.

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