By Fegor Oghene, Asaba
It was a mixbag of opinion in Delta State when news filtered into town that a former Governor of the state, Chief James Onanefe Ibori has regained his freedom from prison in London, UK on Wednesday.
Convicted to 13 years imprisonment for fraud amounting to nearly £50 million ($77 million at the time) by a Southwark crown court, Ibori’s trial and conviction followed a long drawn extradition procedure after he evaded arrest by Nigerian authorities.
Sensing that the dragnet of the law was closing in on him, Ibori fled to Dubai the United Emirate from where he was extradited to the UK.
Upon the completion of his term, he was released at about midday local British time on Wednesday.
His release and news of his imminent return to the country parked jubilation in his hometown of Oghara and other Urhobo communities of the state, particularly among his ardent supporters many of his political associates.
Prior to his release, giant billboards and posters celebrating him had sprung up in various parts of Oghara, where the governor invested heavily when he was governor.
There was also report of subdued joy at the Government House, Asaba and other government offices.
Commenting on the situation, a social commentator, Comrade Nikky Istamilomi, lamented that perceived shameless conduct of Ibori’s association and the show of enthusiasm about the development. He described it as sad and “reception to corruption”.
Itsamilomo lamented the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ sympathy towards Ibori and other corrupt politicians, stressing that the euphoria over his released showed how receptive the state is to corruption.
“How could a man who had dealt with the state’s fund (and used same) for personal gain now become a celebrity that people across the state, even the incumbent governor, Sen. Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa now revere in high esteem?
“This tells how receptive we are to crime. The shocking one is seeing Delta elites whom are supposed to burry their heads in shame for having a governor like Ibori, turned out to be same people celebrating him. Too bad!” he added.
But Ibori’s former aide and ex-state legislator, representing Ughelli North 1 Hon Abel Oshevire said his return will foster unity within the party and bring back within the PDP fold all those who have left the party.
His words, “First and foremost what most admirers and associates of Chief Ibori are expecting is his safe arrival. We eagerly await his return alive and healthy. That is paramount to us now.
“When Ibori returns there will be political realignments in the PDP in the State .I foresee his coming back bring PDP faithful together again. Those who are disgruntled, those feel abandoned by the party, those who are unhappy at happenings at the national level as a result of which people are now divided.
“I believe that when Ibori returns because of who Ibori is. He is a man who is able to hold people together. He has the God-given ability to hold people together. I am seeing Ibori’s return uniting the PDP.
“We have Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who is the leader of the party, I believe both of them will team up and bring the party to its rightful preeminent place in Nigerian politics. Even those politicians who have left will all come back because of James Ibori.’
Speaking in the same vein, a former commission for Water Resources and the ex-convict former governor’s political adviser, Chief Ighoyota Amori described Ibori as a demi-god in the politics of the State.
He said the Urhobos will give the ex-governor a rousing welcome, adding that with Ibori’s return the lives of Ibori’s loyalists will begin again.
“Our leader, Chief James Onanefe Ibori will soon return to Oghara. Chief James Onanefe Ibori will spend this year’s Christmas with us here. We will all gather to give him a wonderful reception here in Oghara. And our lives will begin again once he returns back to the country.”
Mixed feelings greet Ibori freedom in Delta
By Fegor Oghene, Asaba