The establishment of the Presidential Amnesty Programme by President Umaru Yar’Adua was one of the most unique and characteristic consequences of that administration’s policy initiatives when it was inaugurated in 2009.
The backgrounds of the two leaders who headed the ticket, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, were profoundly humanist since they emerged from careers in education and were both regarded as relative acolytes in the game of politics. In addition to this both men were noted for their genuine modesty and personal humility.
The demographic balance of their regional origins with Yar’Adua being from the core North and Jonathan being from the heart of the Niger Delta combined to promote the public expectation that they would impose solutions to national problems that reverberated with the values of regional collaboration and local sentiment.
An integral element of the decision to grant amnesty to the youth who had carried out insurgent activities in the Niger Delta was the perception that their disenchantment was justified, which the President seemed to share. As a consequence, when the programme was formulated many of its objectives were seen as being cultivated to satisfy the objectives of the administration that put it in place.
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Among these objectives the perception that it is possible to restore the viability of economic assets, which had been compromised by dissident activities, through an alliance of government and the communities was the fundamental issue. Once this principle was found to be acceptable to the leadership as well as the generality of the populace of the affected areas the programme was designed to ensure that this alliance would form the basis for its implementation.
Although the nature and formal course of the programme might well be assumed to be based on concepts and values that represent the objectives of the founding administration those values are certainly relevant to the objectives of the nation’s welfare as a whole.
Since the major success of the programme was the restoration of economic viability of the major commercial asset of the Niger Delta the oil and gas resources it is only to be expected that subsequent administrations would wish to sustain the objectives for which the programme was inaugurated. This principle must however be brought to bear on the specific programmatic objectives of each subsequent administration, and in order for this to work the operators of the programme must manage the it in a selfless and apolitical manner.
The major mandate of all those appointed to manage the amnesty programme has been to ensure that they sustain the above-mentioned ideal. In order to assess the success of the programme objective observers will take note of the various changes in the management since the founding of the programme.
It is particularly noticeable that although the current administration has not been particularly willing to sustain programmes inherited from its predecessor in the case of the amnesty programme, it has been very committed to ensuring that it works. Given the continued dependence on revenue earned from the hydrocarbon resources of the country it is neither surprising nor unexpected that this should be so.
Although several controversial reports surrounded the various changes in the leadership of the programme, the recent appointment of retired Major General Barry T. Ndiomu suggests a high level of concern on the part of government for the maintenance of the high ideals for which the programme was inaugurated. This bodes well for the eventual success of the entire project. Ndiomu has the reputation of being a disciplinarian whose family antecedents as well as his professional career profile suggests that he was chosen to fulfill the original mandate effectively.
Coming at this stage of the Buhari administration’s life this appointment appears to be meant to ensure that the success of the amnesty programme will be counted as being more important among the legacies of the regime that inherited it rather than that which inaugurated it.
The existence of the Presidential Amnesty Programme as an integral institution for managing dissent and conflict in society has actually earned credibility from its survival as an agency of federal government over eight years of APC rule. The continued relevance of the original purpose for which it was created, and the stringent efforts made to achieve the original objectives for which the programme was established have become integral elements of the purpose of governance of the Administration.
As a consequence, the fundamental principles on which the amnesty is based have been rendered even more relevant to the maintenance of national stability and economic wellbeing by the approach to the issue of the government that inherited it than by the government that established it. As a result, the Buhari Administration’s handling of the Niger Delta Amnesty can be regarded as having been a symbol of continuity in governance.
Barrett wrote from Abuja