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RE: Who Shall Speak For Ibori

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Chief James Ibori

With all that has been happening in the media streams across the country concerning the ‘Ibori loot’ recovery in the last couple of days, I was not surprised when I saw the subject published write up online by one Kparobo Ehvwubare, who is said to be an “Oghara indigene and a progressive,” which was carefully put together to sort of put up a defense for the former Delta State Governor, James Ibori.

One of the basic things that separates every man from another, which is the only one thing that actually outlives one, is his integrity and personal moral code, from which every of that man’s action is derived from. It is not the size of his bank account, status or the number of properties he has been able to acquire in his life time – all of that are ephemeral. But once a man has lost, or has dented his integrity, by virtue of his actions and what he stands for, such a man, especially if he was once a public figure, does not deserve the public trust once thrust upon him. As such, no right-thinking individual that is very much aware of what has been going on in Delta State politics and economy in the last two decades, would take such a man seriously, or consider going public to defend him. Sadly, this is Nigeria, where many are known for defending their own, even if that person was caught red-handed in the acts of crime.

However, to answer the question posed by Kparobo Ehvwubare, is to bluntly respond with another question: Why should Deltans speak for a man whom they had trusted, backed and elected as Governor, but he turned round to loot the State’s treasury while in office, with reckless abandon and impunity, until he was caught up by karma? Pa Edwin Clarke once said that: “Initially, I thought it was a set up against Ibori arrest in London. We Deltans are disappointed with Ibori.” So, why should Deltans speak for, praise, commend and defend a man whose actions while as Governor, contributed to making many poor, to the extent that the State’s funds he stole, which was meant to develop the State, are now being diverted by the Federal Government to execute other projects across the country? Felix Ibru designed a Master Plan for the developmental transformation of Delta State, but Ibori’s administration ignored that plan to pursue his own selfish agenda. Though, Felix Ibru was not a governor under this civilian dispensation that started from 1999 till date. But Felix Ibru was the first elected Governor of Delta State, so he designed the Delta State development Master Plan. Sadly, he didn’t stay long in office to actualize that plan due to the military intervention.

Agreed that Ibori is my Urhobo brother, and I have consistently criticized him more than any Deltan in the State, but it is apparently hinged on the fact that as patriotic Nigerians and Deltans, we cannot sit back and allow things go wrong before our eyes without condemning it in the strongest terms. All that talk by Ehvwubare claiming that the British Government and her Nigerian accomplice victimized Ibori and made him a scape goat of the corruption in the country, is all garbage and a clear diversion of the facts of events that played out concerning Ibori. It is also preposterous to claim that “Ibori pleaded guilty to the money laundering charge against him because of the emotional trauma and other inhuman treatments he was subjected to while in London.”

The fact is that the money and assets were seized from Ibori simply because he has no evidence to prove and explain how he earned the money to acquire and own such luxurious properties. And there were evidences that the money was stolen from the Delta State Govt to buy the properties. Also, why would the British Government conspire to jail ibori? What exactly do they have to gain from it? Agreed that Ibori is just one, out of the many public thieves in Nigeria. But what made Ibori’s case peculiar was the manner with which he lavished and lived in affluence, and also considering the fact that he has a case of age falsification, and another past case of theft, which the British Government had interest in unearthing the truth.

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The truth is that, people do not plead guilty for the crimes they did not commit. More so, this is the same Chief James Onanefe Ibori, the strong man of Oghara kingdom popularly known as the Odidigborigbo of Africa. To say that Ibori pleaded guilty because of “emotional trauma” does not in any way fit into the profile of the person and character of Ibori. You only plead guilty, when the evidences brought against you have overwhelmingly proved you committed the crime, and as such, the “guilty plea” becomes the next line of action. And it was evident that Ibori towed this line of action, so as to sort of reduce the jail sentence facing him then. Obviously, Ibori willingly admitted to have committed the corruption charges leveled against him because he actually did commit the crime, and even far worse. So, no matter Ibori’s ‘appeal stunts’, and no matter what those who still defend him may say, it does not in any way exonerate or suggest that Ibori’s trial and conviction was flawed or not properly conducted. It does not suggest that Ibori’s famous ‘guilty plea’ did not happen or was he coerced or forced in any way to admit he committed the crime.

The fact is that, it is clear that no person conspired against Ibori because he used his own hands to bring shame to Delta State, and the entire Urhobo nation. No one placed a gun on Ibori’s head to make him seek to be elected as Governorship Candidate in the election leading to 1999. The reason for him to have sought to be elected, was to SERVE the state with all of his heart and mind, and this ought to have brought development to the State far beyond what he did. Agreed that Ibori did some things while as Governor of Delta State, but when we look at the enormous amount of funds that have been recovered, and still being recovered as his loot stolen from Delta State Government coffers, then we would realize that Ibori was a monumental failure as a Governor. What Ibori did in Delta State as Governor for Eight Years, can be compared to as few drops of water in the ocean of what he could have been able to achieve with the amounts of funds that were stolen under his reign in Government. Let us not even mention the monies that no one have been able to account for under Ibori’s Government.

Just look the entire Delta State and then compare it with how Ibori met it as governor. The Oil City of Warri and its environs used to be ‘bubbling places’ with commercial activities. But today, all of that is history. The Oil City of Warri and its environs are just trying to survive under their lost glory. When one is a political leader, one’s responsibility is to do one’s best and then hand over to competent hands to take after you. But in Ibori’s case, that did not happen. In fact, Ibori’s mistakes are far too many because he turned Delta State to a violent State. Youth restiveness started in Delta under Ibori’s reign, and this caused the apprehensive atmosphere and panic that left oil companies with no other choice than to relocate to neighbouring States. Big oil giants like Shell (SPDC), started leaving Delta State as soon as they noticed that Warri (which was the headquarters of their Western Division operations), and its environs were becoming restive and no longer conducive for business. Mind you, Shell (SPDC) was the one that built the Osubi-Warri Airstrip, with the intention to make it as the most appropriate settlement for the company then. Shell didn’t build such an Airstrip anywhere else in Nigeria. Till this moment, Shell (SPDC) is still in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, and in Lagos. As the end of the day, who lost – Delta State, no thanks to Ibori and his thirst for power and access to State Government money.

Ibori deliberately induced youth restiveness in Delta State to justify the increase of Security Votes in the State. From 2001 to 2003, I wrote Ibori several letters to advise him that if he should disregard the many sycophants and praise singers all around him then, he would govern the State very well. But Ibori thought I disliked him then. All I had wanted was for him to govern well, and leave a good legacy behind. But he never gave any attention to all I had to advise him. And today, Ibori is the most talked about, on the negative, amongst the former Governors in Nigeria. Ibori saw himself as then ‘Emperor of Delta State,’ hence he refused to be advised by any well-meaning Deltan. Rather, he was encouraged by the sycophancy and praise singing to continue on the wrong path.

In a public letter directed to Ibori and written by “Citizens Court, Nigeria is the nation’s conscience,” which was broadcast online recently with the title: “HOW HAPPY ARE YOU SEEING DELTA LOSE THE POUNDS YOU LOOTED?” the writer noted that: “Sir, some Deltans said you are the greatest governor that the state ever known; they said you developed the state and even went as far as defending you that you never stole Delta’s funds. Today, the entire world is seeing the greatness and legacies that you left for Delta State, the Pounds, Euros, Dollars and Nairas that you looted and laundered out of Nigeria. These are your legacies, having left Delta to continually deteriorate. Your friends, cronies and Deltans may be afraid of telling you the bitter truth but someone has to say it anyhow.

“You are a big disgrace to Delta State. How do you really feel being alive to witness billions upon billions of Naira that you stole from Delta State being repatriated and used for the development of Nigeria while Delta wallow in under-development? You did not just caused yourself unimaginable pains, but also brought absolute humiliation to Deltans in general. Deltans are ashamed to have had you as a Governor. Today, where did corruption lead you in your political journey? You used to be very great and was a voice in Niger Delta and indeed Nigeria. How great are you today? Where is your voice in national discourse today? You see, penny wise, pound foolish…. May Delta State receive sense as they lose these Pounds (£), so that they will not support criminals and looters like you going forward. Amen!!!”

In another broadcast online, of an old picture showing the Trio of James Ibori, Emmanuel Uduaghan and Ifeanyi Okowa, it boldly read: “Delta Covenant With The Devil!!! July 2004 – 1. Governor Ibori (Looter-In-Chief), 2. SSG Uduaghan, 3. Health Commissioner Okowa. They have run the State aground since 1999.”

That is the sad legacy and the enslavement story of Delta State in the hands of its political leaders since 1999 till date. But like what has been happening to Ibori, every man will always reap the fruits of evil he has sown in the past. It is just a matter of time. Perhaps, let Ibori’s story be a lesson that should be learnt by all elected and appointed public office holders across the country – that power is transient in one’s life. And let it also make Deltans wise up, when it comes to holding their political leaders accountable. Today, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has friends and associates who flock around him like bees. Few years ago, former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan was in-charge and all roads led to his Warri home then. But all that is no more today. In the past, all roads led to Ibori’s House in Bendel Estate Effurun near Warri, and later at his Oghara home.

I still remember when Ibori returned from his UK prison jail term, I wrote many letters to him, advising him to maintain a low profile, remain at the background as a Community leader in his Oghara home town and shun all that red carpet reception parties organized for him. But being who he is – a power-thirsty individual who is always looking for ways to influence the political landscape of the State so as to continue having access to wealth and live his exorbitant lifestyle – he ignored all my advice. If Ibori meant well for the people of Delta State, he ought to have stayed away from politics of all kinds, and just be a community leader in his home town. This was the same advice given to him by Abraham Ogbodo, former guardian editor. All Ibori needed is for him to live a low-profile life. Come to think of it, what does he want more in life? He has been Governor of Delta State for eight years, and he single-handedly made his cousin, Emmanuel Uduaghan to succeed himself as Governor of Delta State. Even while he was in the UK prison, his supporters/followers/boys were still consulting with him, and he played a major role in the making of Okowa as the present Governor of Delta State, right from his UK prison. He also made his daughter a two-time lawmaker of Delta State House of Assembly, amongst many others his influence made them appointees of the State Government.

The point here is that these Nigerian politicians should learn how to live life out of immunity. Immunity will not last for any person in Nigeria for their life time. Ibori, while as a sitting Governor of Delta State, he never thought that one day, he could be probed of his government activities then. Even then, Ibori was rated as the most powerful Governor in Nigeria. Even after he left office, he took decisions as the most powerful ex-governor under Yar’dua then as the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Ibori thought Delta State was his personal property. Without realizing that he was given the opportunity by God to govern Delta State for eight years. But he misused/abused that opportunity.

If Ibori had invested all the money looted out of Delta State into transforming the State, I am very certain that by now, all the cities in the State would have been like Dubai, Atlanta, Dallas, Paris, Manhattan in New York city, Miami, Manchester, Saint Paul, London, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Napoli, etc. THESE CITIES WERE BUILT BY PATRIOTIC LEADERS AND NOT BY SPIRITS.

Let what has been happening to Ibori, be a warning to all the Delta State politicians, both past and serving now as one thing or the other, that they will not be in government for their lifetimes, and that when the chips are down, all those surrounding them always will vanish once they are no longer in office. As noted by a famed actor and former Governor of California, USA, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger after he left office: “When I was in an important position, they always complimented me, and when I lost this position, they forgot about me and did not keep to their promise. Do not trust your position or the amount of money you have, nor your power, nor your intelligence, it will not last.”
Zik Gbemre.
March 12, 2021

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