Former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, has regained his freedom.
Ibori was Governor of oil rich Delta from 1999 to 2007. It was a period of high oil prices, soaring 13 percent derivation for oil producing States and insane wealth for Nigeria and the Niger Delta.
Alongside other Governors of his era, Ibori stole from the treasury like there was no tomorrow.
Before joining politics, Ibori had been convicted of shoplifting in the UK.
He has always been a thief. He was born a thief.
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Covered by the immunity clause in the constitution as Governor, no one could touch Ibori for eight years, no matter how much he stole.
For his troubles, he was bestowed with the title of Ogidigbodigbo of Africa by friends and admirers.
However, the anti-graft agency in Nigeria moved to arrest Ibori at the expiration of his tenure.
As they made to arrest him in his home town of Oghara, a mob of supporters attacked police and spirited Ibori to Dubai.
A corrupt Nigerian judiciary couldn’t prosecute Ibori for his legendary acts of larceny. He was that powerful.
In 2010, Ibori was arrested in Dubai and extradited to the UK where he was convicted based on evidence from the metropolitan police.
In 2012, Ibori was jailed in the U.K for fraud totaling nearly 50 million pounds. By some accounts, Ibori stole USD250 million from the Nigerian people.
During his time as politician and Governor, Ibori acquired luxury homes and exotic cars at home and abroad.
Stealing was what he did best. Stealing was his middle name.
Ibori is due back in Nigeria any time soon after serving half of his 13-year sentence in a UK prison.
In saner climes, he’ll return quietly and remain under the covers for stealing from his own people.
But the same people he stole from have made elaborate plans to roll out the red carpet and drums to celebrate Ibori’s return.
In fact, the people of Delta State are disappointed that Ibori won’t be checking into town in time for the Christmas celebration.
How they would have loved to spend Christmas with their hero!
But Delta State is in celebratory mood at the time of writing. They’ve left the Champagne on ice. The party has only been delayed, not denied.
There’s a song and dance on the streets of Delta.
“I am grateful to God for his release. I was in a traditional council meeting in Asaba when one of my subjects called me that Ibori has been released. He has worked hard for us and I am hopeful that his release will open a new chapter in Oghara,” said the Ovie of Oghara, Orefe 11, Noble Eshimeton.
According to Ben Igbakpa, a former commissioner in Delta state, “Oghara is agog with celebration that our benefactor, leader, father and visionary has been let off the hook.
“His release is a lesson to all; it shows that no matter how long one’s torture or hard times last, it will one day come to an end”.
Ibori’s boys in Warri, Delta State, are making plans to prepare the convicted fraudster for a senatorial run in 2019.
Section 137 (1) of the Nigerian constitution bars people indicted for various offences (including fraud) from contesting elections. But the Senate has been hard at work as it attempts to amend the section or yank it off in its entirety.
The Nigerian Senate is also home to questionable characters like Buruji Kashamu and Joshua Dariye.
Implication: Senator James Onanefe Ibori isn’t the stuff of dreams no more. It’s now some reality, sources in the know have told
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, who represents Delta Central Senatorial District in the upper legislative chamber, is an Ibori boy.
Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, still swears by Ibori’s name, as does Emmanuel Uduaghan before him.
According to Okowa, "Ibori built the political family in Delta state in this current dispensation starting 1999. He was the first democratically elected Governor in this dispensation; he was a rallying point for everybody…even some of them that have broken out now and trying to make waves in other parties, actually grew under him.
“I do not want to mention names, I am sure that you know them. Whosoever and wherever they are, he built the political family that came up so strong in Delta State, he built most of the roads you see and nobody can take it away from him,” Okowa said.
Across social media channels, young people from Delta State are over the moon ahead of Ibori’s return.
Once, Delta had even celebrated Ibori’s birthday while he served his time in jail.
Ibori will return to Nigeria a celebrated--rather than despised--figure. And because we are a very sick country with a warped value system, we’ll prop him for a senatorial run someday soon.
We are mad like that.