By Kparobo Ehvwubare
I draw inspiration of the above subject matter from the short remarks made by Barrister Ben Oji, who at the valedictory Court session in honor of his late colleague, rhetorically asked – who shall speak for Warri again? In the same vein, who among the Urhobo elites, political class and kinsmen spoke in favour for Ibori in the face of this gang-ups from the local to the international communities?
I was on my way driving to Warri today, and I tuned to a popular radio station, Lol and behold the issue of the #Iboriloot was been debated on the radio program, It was a phone-in program, I was shocked almost 70% of those that phone in to aired their views were against a man who transformed the new Delta State of today.
I tried to connect the radio station to air my views but unfortunately for me, I could not occasioned by poor signal, because I was driving in and out of signal of the radio station.
Before Ibori eventual incarceration in London, the media in Nigeria and international media first arrested, tried and jailed Ibori in the media before his eventual illegal conviction? And they have started again in their media hyping. Why can’t the associates of his take to the media to defend a man of the people, challenge British government hegemony of making Nigerians second citizens in their own country?
Its on record 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, they subjected the innocent man to hard inhuman treatments that force Ibori have no option than to plead guilty to save his life. The said British government and her Nigerian accomplice never found any tangible evidence (s) to prove their case, rather they have to subject Ibori to trauma so he can die why prison. But Ibori sensing their game plan, under duress pleaded guilty to save his life.
The situation surrounding Ibori case could force someone to ask, if Ibori were from the major ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, would he have been made a scape-goat over Nigerian endemic corruption and disparagingly nicknamed “thief” by a British judge? I feel more sober when Ibori’s kinsmen even join voice to call him names and asked the Ibori to be in oblivion. But thank God Ibori is very much on ground even stronger, standing tall in the policy of things.
Like a lamb to the slaughter, and a sheep before her shearer is dumb, so Ibori opens not his mouth in spite of terrifying ordeal and pain associated with lies of such height. Often, if one could not speak out possibly for surprise, there are people who could speak for the innocence of Ibori, he had a huge retinue of friends, close relations, kinsmen and acquaintances all have remained mute. Not even one Urhobo man or group, except the Oghara Development Union could boldly come out to speak for and had a legal confrontation with the British authority and Ibori perceived enemies in Nigeria fueling all these media hypes for the concocted evil lies against Ibori. One among many things that makes this world evil is that “All fishes eat human flesh; the shark alone bears a bad name”. After all, there are people out there who even did worse than Ibori if he had committed the said offense at all, yet not incarcerated and subjected to this kind of inhuman treatment and embarrassment every now and then.
We could not have forgotten so quick that in 1984, Dr. Umaro Dikko, (now diseased) a minister of transportation under Shehu Shagari’s administration, was allegedly accused of stealing $625m. The war against corrupt officials was as high then as now. Dikko and his corrupt politicians who could not withstand government hunt for corrupt politicians went on self-exile to Britain.
At the discovery about their hiding place in London, the government of Nigeria then filed a formal extradition request for Dikko and his co-corrupt Nigerian friends to be tried in Nigeria, but the same British government that cooked up concocted lies to make Ibori life miserable refused, neither was he tried by the British Government for money laundry. What a paradox of life! That Dikko could not be tried in Britain. If what is good for the gender is not good for the goose as well, then there is an aberration in the case of Ibori.
If Urhobo still remains ovo- o –ovo we must remain committed to fight this battle of this political and media gang-up against Ibori.
It was only the same embattled political Jesus has left a big gorge in the political landscape of Delta state, fight the recent suit filed against British government by Chief James Ibori on police alleged compromised with then Nigeria government that called for Ibori head life or dead. Of his weird and wonderful influence that brought much socio- political development to Delta state is now begin to be felt on the people of Delta state.
Impact of his absence is mostly administration of Dr Jonathan Goodluck that denies the Urhobos, whose interest Chief Ibori hitherto seek to protect their ministerial slot. With other many diversion of Federal presence from the people, the Urhobos could no longer have voice loud enough to be heard at the State issues, while Ibori was away. Let alone at the national level. Where are his successors? Who shall for Ibori in the saga? Did Ibori really built successors while he was a governor?
The answers to the above questions finds expression to roles played by Ibori while he was a governor. While Chief James Onanefe Ibori was the governor of the Delta State, his Medias hands were responsible for upliftment of many Urhobo sons and daughters to limelight of recognition for ministerial appointment and other juicy positions at the federal level. His noble ambition has been to free his people and the entire Niger Delta from their beggarly position.
Hence in 2003, he charted course of resource control; where he agitated for13% derivatives for oil producing areas. This singular agitation almost rendered him hors de combat in 2003 election.
Ibori is contemporary lone man that stand as pillar the Urhobo nation cohesively. His extradition to London to serve a jail term of 13years in a London prison, counting out numbers of many months of ordeal and torment he suffered in the hands of EFCC and court cases in Nigeria. The hardship of prison is borne alone by him with grit as there is no one to speak for him like this day. What a world!
He was accused of money laundry and other financial offences punishable under Nigerian constitution. Let the records be set straight before the people whose evil hands were responsible for Ibori ordeal, that before chief Ibori came out to contest for Delta state governor, he was already an influential man. With all our eyes open, the same law that governed those punishable offences, for which the Iboris was sentenced to jail in a foreign country, had also caught many Nigerians both in the past and in recent times red-handed. Yet these Alibabas were allowed to walk on Nigerian street untouched. Why Ibori case novel!
But Nigerian government claimed to abhor corruption must stand upright and be bold to spell same punishment on those that have been alleged of corruption and financial misappropriations both in past and present administration. The manner to which the issue of Ibori corruption saga was amplified in line with the bad name associated with it, made it look very surprisingly as if Ibori’s case is novel.
Let us be sobered and accept the truth that all fishes eat human flesh, why only the shark must bear a bad name Ibori incarceration in London should be considered as a pure case of Gorge Orwell, “Animal farm”.
Chief Ibori was born in an unknown Otefe village of Oghara, without a silver spoon, yet he rose to whether the storm of life and won the governorship seat of Delta State in 1999. He had no godfathers on whose tutelage he practice craftsmanship of good governance. No wonder the Holy Book says that when the ‘righteous rule the people rejoice.’ Unarguably, the few years of existence of democracy in Nigeria, Chief James Onanefe Ibori’s administration from 1999-2007 in the areas of infrastructural development has been adjudged the best among his contemporary governors in Nigeria even till today. As a good truce broker, Ibori was able to put a definite end to a prolonged Urhobo-Itsekiri; Itsekiri-Ijaw crisis, which almost gulped the entire state on inferno and would have brought about cannibalism.
He made himself a unifying factor. Today, savoring of peace, security of life and property with harmonious co-existence among the ethnic groups in Delta state must be credited to Chief Ibori’s swift response and efforts. Ibori has good legacies that cannot be forgotten in hurry.
Kparobo Ehvwubare is Oghara indigene and a progressive.