Now that a former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori is back in the country after serving his term in a London prison for money laundering and related crimes, what is next? Omon-Juliu Onabu writes
The lion among humans often metaphorically depicts towering courage, ferocity, strength and dominance of the environment. It is also used to symbolise extreme societal duality, whereby the lion with its domineering prowess is contrasted with the feeble or less aggressive members of the society or the ecosystem.
Thus, the lion in a jungle must be envisioned as king of the jungle. This animal is, indeed, so regarded in traditional Africa. And, by extension of that logic, the political arena, especially in a country like Nigeria, must be likened to the jungle bestrode by a class of political juggernauts, who practically run the wild.
Power and heroic exploits are the hallmark of the lion. As the political lion is never bowed down nor intimidated even in a blaze of hostilities, he becomes a natural leader, who is held in awe and sometimes enjoys cult mage loyalty among the people. Even so is James Onanefe Ibori, the second democratic governor of Delta State, whose return to Nigeria, Delta State and his kith-and-quiet hometown of Oghara drew variegated but widespread reaction across the world and Nigeria in particular.
His seeming indomitable spirit is akin to the lion, the king of the jungle who is always conscious of the basic rule of engagement: survival of the fittest. His has been a chequered political career which saw him emerge as the governor of one of Nigeria’s most powerful oil producing states in the Niger-Delta in 1999 and being re-elected for another term of four years.
Even while in prison in London, the United Kingdom, several tales abound of his legendary political influence and sagacious – practically all elections into major democratic positions in Delta State bore the stamp of authority of Ibori since 2007 till date.
Among his numerous admirers and foes alike, the apparently pent-up anticipation of Ibori’s return to the country after several years in jail in the United Kingdom was first let loose following the announcement of his release from prison by a London Court on Wednesday, December 21, 2016.
Despite the attempt to reduce the public attention his homecoming was bound to attract by abandoning earlier plans to come through Lagos Airport and Osubi Airstrip near Warri, the crowds of frenzied supporters could not be put down or discouraged.
In only a few days of return, his country home of Oghara, the administrative headquarters of Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State, has regained its status as the largely suburban but influential political Mecca that it had been since 1999.
Although he had arrived the country on board a British Airways flight that touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, as a deportee and an ex-convict, the reception for Ibori has been nothing short of a rousing heroic welcome for a man with the heart of a lion.
With the rousing reception extended to him home by close family members, kinsmen, friends, political associates and ordinary citizens, who admire the ex-governor and dogged “fighter for resource control”, signs of revival of the political atmosphere in Delta State, nay Nigeria, has emerged.
The state governor and well-known member of the Ibori political family, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa is among the numerous politicians, who thronged the Oghara country home of Chief Ibori. Okowa paid a courtesy visit to the former governor on Sunday, barely 24 hours after his return from London.
Earlier, shortly after arriving Abuja, he had a brief meeting with the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Musa Daura, with hints that talks were already on to get Ibori to jettison his PDP, under whose canopy he governed Delta State for eight years, for the APC, the party in control at the centre in Nigeria.
Amid the deep factional crisis in the PDP in the state and country, some PDP leaders in Delta State have hinted on their readiness to move to any political party Ibori decides to go other than the PDP.
A member of the House of Representatives representing the Ethiope East and Ethiope West national constituency, Mr Lovett Idisi, said this much while speaking with newsmen when Ibori arrived Oghara on Saturday, February 4, 2017 after landing at the Benin Airport from Abuja.
Chief Edwin Clark, who led the group of elders in the state in the protracted onslaught against Ibori after he succeeded somehow to get Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan to succeed him in 2007, appears stunned at the earth-shaking reception for Ibori particularly in Delta State.
Although he has reportedly said he would not comment on the heroic welcome for Ibori, the former Nigerian information minister and erstwhile respected South-south leader in the PDP, seems to be disappointed that years of incarceration in faraway UK over corruption and money laundering charges has obviously ailed to diminish Ibori’s towering political image or clipped his wings of leadership clout nationwide.
The handwriting appears too clear for every discerning political observer that the lion has returned to rule over the actors in the political jungle or arena. The expectation is that, against the backdrop of the consensus among his political associates, including those that had left the PDP, embattled Ibori has come back to take his rightful position as their number one political leader in the state and even the South-south region.
Ibori has already stated clearly, even before leaving London that he intends to remain a key player in the political affairs not only in Delta State but Nigeria as a whole, albeit without seeking any elective position.
Obviously, the Lion of Oghara, popularly called the Odidigborigbo (big masquerade) of Africa and the “James Bond” of Nigerian politics is poised to put behind him his adversities and forge ahead to exploit the political frontiers as a formidable kingmaker within the Nigerian democratic space.
The handwriting appears too clear for every discerning political observer that the lion has returned to rule over the actors in the political jungle or arena. The expectation is that, against the backdrop of the consensus among his political associates, including those that had left the PDP, embattled Ibori has come back to take his rightful position as their number one political leader in the state and even the South-south region