Many Nigerians are still wondering why former Delta Governor, James Ibori who was recently released from prison in London after serving his jail term for fraud was given a heroic welcome in Nigeria.
A lot more Nigerians just can’t figure out why Ibori who confessed to having stolen Delta blind in court has suddenly become a King that is being worshipped in Delta.
City People can authoritatively reveal that right now Ibori is the most powerful and most respected man in Delta. And his Oghara home in Delta State has become a Mecca of sorts. Since he came back thousands of people have been trooping to see him to pay homage. His Kinsmen, supporters and political associates have been spending time with him, strategising on his next political move.
How did Ibori become this popular in Delta? It is simple. City People can authoritatively reveal that virtually all the Big Boys in Delta politics today were made by Chief Ibori. So they remain very loyal and committed to him and his course.
As Governor, he touched the lives of many people in the 3 senatorial districts in the area with Development. We discovered that majority of the giant projects in Delta were started and completed by him. When he completed his term, his cousin Dr. Emmanuel Iduaghan took over as governor.
Iduaghan spent another 8 years and after him, Ibori, from prison, single handedly chose and installed his boy, Okowa as governor. As Delta governor, Ibori took some radical political decisions and he never looked back. He carried everybody along in governance.
He was nice to people and doled out money at will. He made sure he turned his village, Oghara into a mega city with good roads. He selected the headship of the state legislature chose a sizeable chunk of the state’s legislature and the members of the states representatives at the National Assembly. They are all his men. For the past 17 years Ibori single handedly created a new political class which has been running Delta State.
Even those in opposing parties are his men too. Similarly all men and women in positions of power today in Delta were made by him and many, if not all, derive their emergence from him. So they have all remained loyal to him.
Like one of his associates put it, he is the beginning and end of Delta politics. They say he is not a tribalist.
City People got a long list of those he has made politically. Among them are Hon. Monday Ibuya, Speaker, Delta House of Senator Patrick Osakwe, Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa, Senator James Manager, Senator Peter Nwoboshi, Senator Omo Agege, Hon. Leo Ogor (Minority Leader House of Reps), ex-Gov. Uduaghan and Chief Ighoyota Amori.
The secret of his relevance in Delta politics is because he has built a political machinery that is all encompassing. It is called The Core Group. It was headed by Ighoyota Amori, (his Uncle) and former Chairman of Ethiope West LG. Amori was to later emerge Commissioner for Education, then S.A. political affairs.
When Ibori left office, he planted successors, just like Tinubu did in Lagos. Even while in prison they have always consulted with him on who to become the governor and who to occupy key positions. That is how Uduaghan emerged governor.
That is how Okowa emerged. Also unknown to many, the likes of Uduaghan, Okowa, James Manager and many more big players in Delta politics all belong to Ibori’s Core Group.
Most of them have not only become Governors, they have been Senators, House of Rep members and House of Assembly lawmakers too.
This has given Ibori the Power and Influence for them to mobilise for him.
Ibori has a rich historyin Delta That has also helped him. His father is Urhobo and mother Itsekiri, both dominant tribes in Delta. So he can navigate across board.
Many of those who love Ibori are not interested in all the allegations levelled against him. They don’t want to know whether he was found guilty or not by any London Court. They are not willing to hear whether Ibori confessed to stealing money or not. They see it as victimisation. They see it as rubbish talk.
The day he arrived Nigeria,
Markets, and shops were shut
The oil-rich Delta State came to a standstill as the people of the state shut markets, shops and offices to witness the homecoming of the erstwhile governor of the state.
Ibori’s homecoming was a carnival, as politicians from across all political divides within and outside stormed Oghara, the country home of the Delta politician, to give him a rousing welcome.
Politicians, traders, market women and civil servants, who had laid siege at the Osubi airstrip in Okpe Local Government Area, where Ibori was expected to arrive from Abuja, were, however left heartbroken when news broke that the former governor had landed in Benin, the Edo State capital, and was already on his way to Oghara.
Markets, shops and offices in Oghara were completely shut while partial activities were recorded in Sapele, Effurun, Okpe, Warri and surrounding cities over Ibori’s arrival.
Supporters and sympathisers of the former governor started trooping onto the Osubi airstrip as early as 7:30am on that Saturday, while Oghara and other surrounding towns were besieged ahead of his coming.
Ibori, whose flight was scheduled to land at the airport at 11:30am, however, did not arrive until 2:25pm when a chartered plane, IZYAIR, with registration number India Zulu Yanky (5NIzY) conveying him accompanied by prominent politicians and members of his immediate family including his daughter, Erhiatake Ibori, landed at the Benin airport.
A huge crowd of enthusiasts, including politicians and traditional rulers, who had mounted a wait for him at Osubi since about 7:30am, upon hearing that the former governor was no longer landing on the airstrip, hurriedly made their way to Oghara.
Those who came included serving Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Festus Ovie Ages; Chief Andy Osawota; GhiefPatrick Five; Chief Dennis Emonemu; and Olorogun Paul Abu.
Others were the Udu Council Chairman, Mr. Solomon Kpomah; his Sapele, Okpe and Ethiope West counterparts, Mr. Ejiafe Odebala, Mr. Godwin Edjiyere and Mr. Solomon Golley.
The Managing Director of the Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission, Mr. William Makinde; Mr. Vincent Uduaghan; and Mr. John Nani were also there.
Otherswere Pius Ovbije, a Commissioner on the board of DESOPADEC; Mr. Emmanuel Ighomena, a Senior Special Assistant to the governor; Mr. Emmanuel Ganiga, National President of the UK branch of UPU; Chairman of DSIEC, Mr. Moses Ogbe; and a member of the Delta State House of Assembly representing Okpe constituency, Sheriff Oborevwori.
At Oghara, a carnival of sorts awaiting the former governor made movement impossible. Ibori was shielded into his home by some of his close associates and security men clothed in camouflage when his flight landed Oghara at about 3:45pm.
Hundreds of people who had been keeping vigil defied all forms of protocol to catch a glimpse of the ex-governor, who is popularly referred to as the political oracle of Niger Delta, where he held sway before being jailed by a British Court.
Ibori’s strongman and close confidant, Senator Ighoyota Amori, spoke with journalists in front of Ibori’s mansion in Oghar. He said, “We are happy that Ibori is back, people are jubilating, the crowd you see here and the enthusiasm that has been displayed today showed that we really missed him.”
Olorogun Paul Abu also said, “We’re excited our brother is back hale and hearty. Today is a remarkable day and a day of joy.
“Whether you accept it or not, Ibori is a phenomenon and an institution in Nigeria’s political landscape. Our people need his contributions towards their advancement. Politics in Urhoboland will surely wear a new look.”
Ibori’s arrival two Saturday back caught many people by surprise even after he had hinted earlier in the week that he would return within days to Nigeria.
He was released from prison in December 2016 after serving half of his 13-year sentence, taking into account pre-trial detention.
Ibori plans to appeal his conviction based on an allegation made by one of Ibori’s former associates that a British police officer had taken bribes in return for inside information on the case before Ibori’s conviction and that prosecutors had covered it up.
His road to prison began in 2007 after the Metropolitan Police raided the London offices of lawyer Bhadresh Gohil where they found in a wall behind a fireplace computer hard drives containing details of a myriad off-shore companies run for Ibori by Gohil, fiduciary agent Daniel Benedict McCann and corporate financier Lambertus De Boer.
All of these men were later jailed for a total of 30 years.
Following these corruption allegations, the United Kingdom courts froze Ibori’s
assets there, valued at about £17 million in early August 2007.
Ibori’s wife, Nkoyo, was arrested at the Heathrow Airport in London on 1 November 2007, in connection with the probe of the assets of her husband, particularly in the United Kingdom.  She was released after being questioned.
Ibori himself was later arrested on December 12 2007 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Kwara State Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja.
He was subsequently slammed with charges bordering on theft of public funds, abuse of office, and money laundering.
The then EFCC Chairman, Malam Nuhu Ribadu also alleged at the time that Ibori attempted to bribe him to drop the charges with a cash gift of $15 million, which Ribadu claimed to have deposited with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as exhibit.
A Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta State, dis -charged and acquitted Ibori of all 170 charges of corruption brought agamst him by EFCC on December 17, 2009 But in April 2010, about three months after the assumption of office by the then President Goodluck Jonathan, a fresh charge of embezzlement of N40 billion was pressed against him.
He soon fled the country and headed to Dubai where he was arrested on May 10, 2010 by the International Police and extradited to the UK.
On 1st and 2 June 2010, UK jurists found James Ibori’s sister, Christine Ibie-Ibori and his associate, Udoamaka Okoronkwo, guilty on counts of money laundering, in a verdiet delivered at the Southwark Crown Court, London.
They were sentenced to 5 years in prison each on Monday 7 June 2010.
On 27 February 2012, accused of stealing US$250 million from the Nigerian public purse, Ibori pleaded guilty to ten counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud at Southwark Crown Court, London.
On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Ibori was sentenced to 13 years by the Court for his crimes.
James Ibori was released from prison in December 2016 after a court order. He served four years out of the 13 years he was sentenced to.