By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Perez Brisibe
OGHARA in Ethiope West Local Government Area, Delta State, the country home of the former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, aka Odidigborigbo of Africa, has been keyed up in the past two weeks following reports that the 59-year-old political leader jailed by Southwark Crown court in Britain for money laundering, 2012, is likely to regain his freedom, September 20.
A source close to the flamboyant politician, who remained a political force in his native Delta state throughout his years of travail, however, said it was not comprehensible whether Ibori would fly straightaway to Nigeria on his release because of legal proceedings concerning the confiscation of his assets worth tens of millions of dollars, still up in the air.
Ibori, who ruled”the Big Heart of the nation” from 1999-2007 was one of the most influential governors during his time and he established a political dynasty that produced his successor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and the incumbent governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa.
Despite the legal entanglements over his assets occasioned by allegations of police corruption and the prospect of Ibori taking his case to the Court of Appeal, the mood among his kinsmen and politicians in the state, especially People Democratic Party, PDP, faithful is that he should return to steer the affairs.
At Oghara on Thursday, Vanguard was deprived access into his country home, which is undergoing reconstruction apparently because of his anticipated return.
One of the engineers supervising renovation works at the house, said: “We have been working here for the past two months, though intense works commenced last month, our work here is almost completed, including the guest house which has received a new touch of life.”
Vanguard’s tour of the community showed an Oghara wearing new look with banners bearing pictures of the ex-governor, strategically displayed at different roundabouts within the town.
Associates and loyalists are also catching up on the event to pledge their loyalty to Chief Ibori as they adorn the banners with their pictures side by side the former governor.
Some of the banners, which were placed at the Market roundabout, Ibori roundabout and entrance of Oghara, have inscriptions such as: “Welcome back home, our national leader,” “The political messiah and his kinsmen” and “The resource control living legend.”
His ordeal, God’s plan to fortify him
Former DESOPADEC Commissioner representing Ethiope West, Sapele and Okpe, Henry Ofa, told Vanguard: “Without trying to be immodest, the world knows that Oghara is expecting him any moment from now, so the expectation is very high, especially observing that since he left, there has been a lot of misgivings, backwardness in the area to the hope that when he arrives, so many things would change positively.”
“Development that has been off the land will begin to come back again in the system and in the
state. So many things will change from the local government to the national level.
“We are prepared to follow him and we are convinced that he is going to lead us to the Promised Land depending on what and how God is directing him because we also have the belief that what he is passing through is what God has put in place for him to make him strong to accept a
higher offer. I have the belief that there is a plan for him by God,” Ofa said.
Commercial motor cycle rider, Nicholas Imonuenu, who also commented on the frenzy in the community over Ibori’s return, said”: “Ibori is like a demigod here in Oghara, we know that it was out of oppression that he was incinerated in United Kingdom. As a law-abiding citizen, he
has finished serving his time, and we are eagerly looking forward to his return home.
Roadside food vendor, Patience Ewhere, asserted: “As you can see from the banners around town (Oghara), it is going to be a carnival like celebration the day Ibori would step feet into
Oghara town. This is because as governor of Delta State, he spearheaded the development of Oghara kingdom and till date, Oghara is still a town to reckon with compared to other metropolitan towns in Delta State in terms of infrastructural development.
A student, Otefe Polytechnic, Oghara, Ighoavodha Ochuko, who is an indigene of the community, stated: “This is like schooling at my backyard and is made possible as a result of the
foresightedness of Chief James Ibori. From what I have gathered as regards the preparations here for his return, there is going to be a carnival celebration in his honour. Personally speaking, I can’t wait for that day.”
Emma Udele, NURTW, Oghara branch, is also of the opinion that Ibori was a victim of an intricately wired political game. He words: “We all know that Ibori was a victim of circumstances and this was what led him to prison in faraway United Kingdom. But God doesn’t sleep hence, there is always light at the end of every tunnel. He has finished his prison term and would be coming home before Christmas.
Best gift to Urhobo at this time
Another commercial motor cyclist, Ogheneochuko Mamuruoke, who appeared quite animated over Ibori’s return, said: “My brother, I will not lie to you. Ibori’s return would be the greatest
and best thing to have ever happened to Oghara and Urhobo nation amidst the leadership challenge facing Urhobo. We are optimistic and very ready to receive and welcome our son back home.
Spice for Christmas
Bricklayer, Becklays Afe, simply asserted: “Chief James Ibori, the political messiah and Odidigborigbo of Africa would be celebrating Christmas with us as earlier reported. Despite
the recession, this is a thing of joy to every Oghara son and daughter, as will be a wonderful Christmas celebration for every one of us all and we are looking forward to this.
The man James Ibori
James Ibori attended Baptist High School, Oghareki now called Oghareki Grammar School. Thereafter, he got admission into the University of Benin where he earned a Bachelor of Science in economics and statistics. Ibori moved to London, England in 1990, where he married his wife, Theresa Ibori who then worked as a cashier at Wickes DIY store in Ruislip, Middlesex.
Returning to Nigeria between 1994 and 1997, Ibori served as consultant to the federal government led by Gen Sani Abacha, in the areas of public policy formulation and implementation.
Ibori’s political career began in 1990 when he joined the National Republican Convention (NRC). In 1991, he was nominated to contest for the Federal House of Representatives seat to represent Ethiope federal constituency. He lost the election to the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). When the Transitin Program of Sani Abacha began, he joined the Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM). The GDM managed a number of local, state and federal offices, including one of the three senatorial seats in the state. The transition program was abruptly ended with the death of Abacha. Ibori then with the leaders of other political groups in Delta State, formed the Delta National Congress (DNC). The DNC later merged with other political parties to become the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It was on the platform of PDP that Ibori then contested and won the January 9, 1999 election. In 2003, he was re-elected as governor for another four -year term.