By Tonye Timi
THOSEÂ who have followed closely the recent onslaught by a section of the Nigerian press will not fail to read between the lines to discern that what is at play really is an agenda to scandalise the ex-Governor of Delta State.
Chief Ibori himself identified his ordeal when he said: â€œI am aware that there is a co-ordinated network of different websites and newspapers that have vowed to sustain their campaign against me until I am destroyed.Â Some of them have packaged me as the face of corruption; others have branded me as the greatest obstacle to Nigeriaâ€™s development.Â I am certainly none of the aboveâ€.
Some believe that Chief Ibori may not be alone if as is suggested some of the bank CEOs are facing similar press war today.Â Indeed, Ibori has continued to raise alarm against all the buffeting of his name and person in the media by those who want to pull him down.Â Like any human being, he agonised that in recent times, his name was always in the negative and sensational side of the news.
But the Nigerian press has not always been like this. It has a reputation that it has built for itself over the years – one of doggedness and perseverance in the pursuit of public interest for the general good.
The founding fathers of journalism held public interest dearly with a high sense of ethical responsibility in the practice of responsible journalism.Â This trend continued through the post-colonial years to the military entrance into governance, when the press discharged itself effectively and efficiently in the service of the nation playing critical roles in securing our current democracy.
Why has reason taken flight in the case of Ibori? Why is a section of the press baying for his blood over allegations that are still undergoing judicial scrutiny, whose legal veracity remains quite far from being established? Why is Ibori denied the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty as enshrined in our Constitution? It is in reflecting on these matters that one comes to terms with the deviousness of this grand agenda and ultimately, its inevitable futility.
As governor of Delta State, Ibori won 17 of the 19 suits filed against him in court, most of them spurious.Â Out of office, his detractors are still pursuing him with wicked passion in the bid to nail him at all cost.
The EFCC arrested him for alleged corruption, slammed him with 170 count charges before a Kaduna Federal High Court, about 650 kilometres from the jurisdiction of alleged offence, and subjected him to all forms of indignities in detention for 62 days, even as his bail application suffered undue but deliberate delay.
There is no doubt that Iboriâ€™s ordeal is essentially political than factual. What galls many onlookers is the ring of wickedness wrapped around it, with a section of the press opting to play to the gallery to satisfy their hidden paymasters.
The script is clearly this: Sustain the media persecution, throw dirt at his person and make him look bad, so that the judges in Asaba and London may be persuaded to fall into their pernicious trap, by which time, his high political profile would have been curtailed. But the courts work with evidence and proven facts, not with sentiments or the fecund imaginations of political antagonists masquerading as public commentators.
The truth is that those of us who know Ibori in Delta State are proud of the ex-Governor who carved a niche for himself as a dependable political leader through his very impressive record of achievements while in office.Â When Ibori came into government, he met a Delta State which was almost milked dry by the military, and fragmented along ethnic lines.
There was a lot of blood letting and fratricidal ethnic wars in the Warri axis between the Ijaws and Itsekiris.Â Credit must go to him as the one who through deft political management brought peace to reign, not only in the strife-torn areas of Warri, but in the whole of Delta State.
He also succeeded in improving inter ethnic and inter-communal relationships.Â It was after he succeeded in building peaceÂ that he settled down into infrastructural development, the first of its kind ever witnessed in the State.
It is therefore, not for nothing that the administration of Ibori will not be forgotten in a hurry in Delta State and will be continually eulogised and praised for its infrastructural development initiatives, which he executed with diligence and passion.
Ibori delivered to the people of Delta, programmes aimed at modernising public infrastructure, boosed socio-economic recovery and integrated the riverine and upland areas of the state.Â Between May 1999 and May 2007, Ibori executed numerous projects in strategic sectors of roads, bridges, drains, transport, sports, agriculture, education, health care delivery/hospitals, water, tourism, education, among others.
The massive road construction efforts opened up communities, while ambitious but completed bridges have linked riverine areas to the upland areas.Â Impressive rehabilitation of hitherto dilapidated roads have eased vehicular movement in towns and cities.
It is expected therefore, that a man with these robust streak of achievements in the political, social and economic spheres like Ibori will have both internal and external oppositions. Ibori is, however, not one to be intimidated by any orchestrated legal attacks. After all, he successfully defended himself in similar situations not too long ago.
Mr.Â Timi, a commentator on national issues, writes from Asaba, Delta State.