A Senator, Peter Nwabaoshi, on Thursday, claimed that a former Governor of Delta State, Mr. James Ibori, who was released from prison in the United Kingdom on Wednesday, supported Dr. Bukola Saraki and Mr. Yakubu Dogara to emerge as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
The Southwark Crown court had, on April 17, 2012, jailed Ibori for 13 years after he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of money laundering and stealing $50m from the Delta State treasury.
Ibori, a Peoples Democratic Party chieftain, was the governor of the state between 1999 and 2007.
He was released on the order of the court on Wednesday.
According to an online medium, Sahara Reporters, Nwabaoshi (PDP, Delta North), who spoke at the UK home of the convicted ex-governor after his release, was boastful of how Ibori wielded political influence despite being in the prison.
The Senator, in a 5.18 minute-long video that went viral on Thursday, said Ibori was instrumental to the selection of his successors in Delta State, while he also ensured that one of his children became a member of the state’s House of Assembly.
He said, “My name is distinguished Senator Nwabaoshi. I left Nigeria yesterday (Wednesday) because of my boss. James Ibori is my brother, my boss and somebody I very well love.
“There are many people who have become governors and as soon as they leave the governorship seat, nobody remembers them again. There are many people, who have been governors and so many people, who served under them, can’t even remember them again.
“There are many people, by the grace of the Almighty God, who have had the opportunity to solve people’s problem people will not even come when they have this problem. But James is a good man; the man who made everybody and nobody made him. That is the truth. There are many people who have been governors who did not have the opportunity to make their successors, but James Ibori made his successors.
“There may never be a governor in Nigeria like this again, who will sit in the cell or prison and make a governor; and there may never be a governor again in the history of Nigeria who will sit in prison and make a Senator. There may never be a governor again in the country, who will sit in a cell and support the Senate President.
“There may never be a governor, who will sit in a prison, and make a Speaker (of the House of Representatives), and there may never be a governor, who will sit in a cell or prison, and make his daughter a member of the House of Assembly.
“There may never be any Nigerian man, who can pass through the tribulations you have passed through today and come out and everybody will be flying.
“When I was at the airport, a security agent came to me and said ‘I know you’re going (to the UK) because of James Ibori.’ I said ‘I am going because of James Ibori and there is nothing you can do to me. I have authority to travel. If you want crisis, we will create crisis at the airport today.”
Human rights groups, others flay Deltans for celebrating Ibori
Meanwhile, some human rights organisations in the country and individuals have condemned the wild jubilations on the streets of Delta State on Wednesday following the news that Ibori, who was convicted in the United Kingdom for looting the treasury of the state, had been freed.
Residents of Oghara, the country home of Ibori; Asaba, the state capital, and other places in the state staged wild celebration following the release of the former governor on Wednesday.
The Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said the jubilations among the people of Delta State demonstrated that stealing or fraud was a tradition among them and they did not see anything wrong about it because it was normal to them.
Adeniram said, “It is a demonstration that crime is a cultural act in that community; it shows that anything that has to do with stealing or theft doesn’t mean a disgraceful act to them; it is a welcome cultural act to them and it has become their tradition. That is what they have demonstrated; that theft is their cultural way of life.
“In other decent communities, stealing and theft and any other form of larceny are condemnable, a shameful act that nobody wants to identify with.
“What I see that Ibori has become is a king in a community of thieves.”
Also, the Chairman, Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraj, described the response of the Delta people as unfortunate and a demonstration of the low level of exposure among the people.
Suraj stated, “That response is rather unfortunate and it was unanimous in the South-South. The majority of the people there don’t see their so-called own people as the enemies of the progress of the region. This was not about a Nigerian court convicting Ibori that you can say the trial was politically-motivated. He was convicted in the international jurisdiction of stealing the resources of the people of Delta State and Deltans are now celebrating his release. It shows you the level of exposure of the people that are there.”
The Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Ibuchukwu Ezike, said the response of the people was not surprising as Nigerians were known to celebrate even the most shameful things.
Ezike said, “You know Nigerians are shameless. What don’t we celebrate here? We celebrate shameful things that nobody else would think are worthy of praise. You can imagine, a political class that ripped Nigerians off till everyone became poor, and whatever they steal from us, they give a small portion to the people and then we thank them for giving us what belongs to us.
“You don’t know how many people Ibori has put food on the table for; that he sent their children to school; those he had given employment and all that. In Nigeria, everybody says let us fight against corruption but whatever their person does is not a crime.”
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, said, “While the rest of the country see him (Ibori) as somebody, who has looted the treasury, his people continue to worship him as a hero and that tells you something; that there is a distinction between corruption and the politics of corruption and for us, who are committed to the fight against corruption, what is playing out can be regarded as an international shame or embarrassment.”
Also, a medical practitioner, Dr. Edewede Iyamu, told NAN that the celebration over Ibori’s release was uncalled for as he also contributed to the pervasively poor and under-developed state of the Niger Delta.
“Those from the Niger Delta continue to blame the Federal Government for the challenges confronting their region, whereas, people like Ibori should be held responsible.
“It is sad that people from that region are now celebrating him,” she said
Ibori is our political father, mentor, says Delta
On Thursday, however, the Delta State Government said it had no case with a Ibori, who was jailed partly for stealing $50m from the treasury of the state.
The state also showed happiness for the ex-governor’s release and described as a political father and mentor.
The State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah, stated this in Asaba at a briefing with newsmen on some of the decisions at the last State Executive Council meeting for the year.
Ukah stated, “We are all very happy that our son, our brother, former governor has been released. So, it is a thing of joy and the only expression as a state is that we are happy.
“I think everybody, who has a personal relationship with him, will be very happy and I think that as a state, we don’t have issues with our former governor and he is somebody that everybody loves.”
A commissioner in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ex-governor would be hosted to a reception when he finally returned to the country, possibly by February next year.
“It is too early to start setting up committee for our leader, who was only released yesterday (Wednesday). Whatever hosting (to a reception) will be after the determination of the case of extradition and confiscation of properties in January next year. We will host him. He’s our political father and mentor,” he added.
One of Ibori’s classmates in secondary school, Chief Robert Eyaufe, said the release of the ex-governor signified a good thing to the people of Oghara Kingdom, noting that irrespective of the belief of other people, Ibori “remains their political messiah.”
Eyaufe also admonished politicians in the country to stop dragging the name of the ex-governor into politics, stating that while they awaited his home coming, Ibori would not immediately get involved in politics on his return.
On the reported move to arraign Ibori in Nigeria after his imprisonment in the United Kingdom, he said, “Ibori was jailed in London for reason which I considered as political victimisation. Now that he has been released, some evil-minded people in Nigeria are still warming up that he should come back and face the same charges in Nigeria.
“Any plan to try him in Nigeria amounts to political victimisation having served a jail term for the same offence. We will continue to celebrate him irrespective of what people say.”
But the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Leo Ogor, denied any knowledge of a planned reception to welcome Ibori.
Ogor, a PDP member from Delta State, said all he heard was that Ibori had been released from prison, but that he knew nothing about a reception for him.
“There is nothing like that to my knowledge; I am not aware of any reception. Why are people placing the cart before the horse?
“Is Ibori in Nigeria? We hear he has been released but I don’t know of a reception to receive him,” said the Rep.
Leave Ibori out of politics for now, kinsman tell politicians
Barely 24 hours after Ibori was released, a prominent indigene of Oghara Kingdom in the Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state, Chief Ben Ibakpa, has called on politicians in the country not to drag the ex-governor into politics.
He spoke on Thursday with one of our correspondents in Oghara, the country home of Ibori, a day after the community and other towns in the state witnessed wild celebration following the release of the former governor.
Ibakpa, a former commissioner for transport in the state, who claimed he had spoken with the convicted ex-governor several times since his release on Wednesday, said Ibori was not thinking of politics in the immediate future.
The ex-commissioner, a close associate of Ibori, added that the only thing on the mind of the former governor was to exclude himself from the public and engage in self-assessment of the events that led him into prison.
He stated, “At the moment, he is not thinking about politics. He wants to sit down and examine recent activities, especially what went wrong, backstabbing and all the betrayal he suffered in the hands of friends.
“He wants to put things into perspective and not politics. His message has always been that his followers should remain calm and leave everything for God. God has always taken control of everything.
“We, his people, are begging everyone to leave him out of politics to allow him to have a rest after the victimisation.”