With former Delta State governor, James Ibori free and back in the country, Delta’s political turf is sure to undergo a deserving rebirth, writes Sunny Onuesoke
Early this month, on February 5 to be precise, James Onanefe Ibori, erstwhile executive Governor of Delta State returned from the United Kingdom after serving a 13-year jail term. The timing of his coming was a refreshing time out for rival politicians to exhale, deflect and divert attention from the growing upheaval of the masses over the country’s current socio-economic woes. But Ibori handled his triumphant entry as discreet as possible, and never made it some media frenzy for adversaries to latch onto and create dissonance.
Prior to his coming, the media was awash that Ibori would be deported from the UK to face further prosecution in Nigeria. But that never happened. It was all cheap propaganda and blackmail. First, Ibori was never deported from the UK. Second, he fulfilled routine protocol by immediately visiting the Director General of the Department of State Services, DSS, Mr. Lawal Daura for a brief chat on his arrival in Abuja.
Thereafter, he flew from Abuja in company of some of his trusted aides, before travelling by road to his hometown Oghara, near Benin City. However despite Ibori’s low-profile mien, many media war mongers have not stopped to ‘prosecute’ the ex-governor in their various platforms by insinuating lies and falsehood and trying to change the course of history in a most bizarre and jaundiced manner.
Of course, they could not convince themselves that a week to Ibori’s coming, one of his contemporaries, who is now a prominent member of this current administration, volunteered one of his private jets, a super expensive VP-CBT Falcon Dassault 900X triple engine jet valued at over $70m, to smuggle erstwhile Gambian strongman, Yahaya Jammeh to exile. Recall that this individual was also a two-term governor like Ibori and has had a strong political grip of his state and its environs from 1999 till date.
Of course, this politician is not alone when it comes to super rich ex-governors or leaders with private jets and expensive mansions and properties scattered all over the world. Yet the biased media never mentioned this simply because they have been compromised, or that this would not serve their ethnic and political interests. Nigeria has been rightly tagged as one of the most corrupt countries in the world on account of the greed and avarice of its leaders.
And this has also rubbed off on the populace so much so that corruption has literarily become the oxygen that keeps the average Nigerian alive. It has become our way of life. The office clerk at the government ministry will not treat your file until you part with some money. The contract will not be awarded until you build in certain percentage.
Contracts are awarded to cronies and inflated at more than 10 times the original value. Monies budgeted for projects are plundered and siphoned to private accounts. Once you are elected into public office, you instantly become a multi-millionaire by default – from local government chairmen, assembly members, commissioners to governors, legislators, ministers and president – everybody!
That is the rot and lot we are today. Therefore singling Ibori or calling him out is not only hypocritical and wicked but also sending wrong signals to the populace, who know very well that Ibori is a saint compared to the number of governors, politicians and public office holders that are billionaires today.
Between 1999 and 2015, we had not less than 70 Governors, 250 senators and over 150 ministers. Not to mention the number of legislators, both at the state and federal level, and then the state commissioners and the almighty local government chairmen.
We are talking of over 15,000 public officials. Translate that to the number of multimillionaires and billionaires and you will figure out why we have remained static and stagnant as a nation. We all know Ibori ran into turbulent waters with the Jonathan government and the PDP hierarchy at that time, shortly after the demise of President Yar’Adua.
Given his strong influence then, there were fears he could lead a break-away faction and team up with the opposition APC to cripple Jonathan’s re-election bid. Therefore, the government set him up and used the machinery of power to blackmail him. They sent the EFCC after him, haunt and hounded him from his village, and he eventually ended up in Dubai.
Not done, the Jonathan government coerced the British government into the ploy, and got Ibori extradited to the UK to face money laundering charges. He was persecuted and prosecuted for his role in the sale of Delta State’s shares of V-Mobile. He was eventually sentenced to 13 years in jail in 2012 for money laundering and related offences by Southwark Crown Court in London, after five years of trial and tribulations. Ibori pleaded guilty on the advice of his counsel, who reckoned their client would suffer unduly if they prolonged the case because they were already battling with larger than life institutions, powers and principalities.
He regained his freedom on Dec 21, 2016 after 4 ½ years in jail. Today the Odidigbodigbo is back among his people. The level of red-carpet reception he received from his people clearly attests to the fact that his political base is not only strong but that he used his position to lift his people and better their lots.
This cannot be said of his persecutors and adversaries, many of whom have gone into political oblivion and consigned to the dustbin of history. Today, we are assailed by mind-boggling corruption cases in the throes of billions of dollars committed by Ibori’s adversaries and persecutors.
And this sheer scale of sleaze has left Nigerians confounded, not the least by the realization that Nigerian politicians would do anything to cling unto power and rubbish the reputation of humane people like Ibori in order to achieve their political aims and objectives.
Now that Ibori is back, the political landscape has suddenly widened again and the kaleidoscope broad is inviting, just as hope looms large in the horizon especially for politicians and their followers in Delta State.
-Onuesoke, a chieftain of PDP, wrote from Warri, Delta State