By Nigerians Abroad staff writer
Members and supporters of Nigeria’s ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Saturday took to the street to welcome one of the party’s chieftains, Mr Bode George, after serving two years jail term for fraud.
Mr Bode George - former PDP Vice Chairman for the south-west region - was convicted of 35 counts charges over contract splitting, inflation and abuse of office , during his tenure as Chairman of the Board of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) by a Lagos High Court in October 2009 along side five other accused.
Lagos based newspaper, Vanguard, reports that Mr. George stepped out of the prison gate at 10:40am local time to the warm reception of some PDP leaders and hundreds of his supporters.
The convicted chieftain was accompanied by men of the Nigerian police through crowd of cheering party members before he was driven to the Cathedral Church of Christ in Lagos Island for a thanksgiving service.
The church service was well attended by PDP chieftains from the region, and includes former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo and his arch rival, Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel.
Other party faithful that paid visit and praised the courage of the convicted chieftain include: Raymond Dokpesi, member Goodluck Jonathan presidential campaign council; Gen. Tajudeen Olanrewaju; former Governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Agagu; former deputy governor of Osun State, Chief Olusola Obada; Senator Florence Ita-Giwa; Chief Mrs Remi Adikwu Bakare; Chairman of PDP in Lagos State, Mr Setonji Koshoedeo; Dr Ade Dosumu, PDP governorhip candidate in Lagos and Chief Deji Doherty.
Meanwhile, many Nigerians have been expressing shock and disbelief over the awful celebrations that accompanied the politician released.
“This is a shame to the nation. A man was sentenced to prison for defrauding the nation of millions of naira. Instead of the family to be quite about it, they hired crowd to dance in the street and welcome a thief . All the PDP people were celebrating. Please tell the all world that this country is doomed,” Mr. Segun Ojeolu, an eyewitness wrote from Lagos.
Mr George supporters argue that he was a victim of unfortunate administrative error that turned into political vendetta.
In a swift reaction, Nigeria’s main opposition party Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has slammed the ruling party for celebrating Mr. George.
ACN national Publicity Secretary, Mr. Lai Mohammed in a statement said, “There is nothing wrong in rehabilitating a prisoner. But turning an occasion that calls for penitence and soberness to a carnival of sorts is a disservice to Nigeria, and a clear signal that the wobbly anti-corruption war of the Goodluck Jonathan administration is finally dead. It also ridicules Nigeria in the eyes of the world”
While some PDP stalwarts believed that the released of George could help brightens the party’s chances in the State governorship poll slated for April, the public backlash from the bizarre celebration, political observers suggest, may further damage the reputation of the party across the country.