Chris Akor in “The face of a fantastically corrupt country” (Business Day of Wednesday February 15, 2017) embraced rumour and nothing but rumour.

He also lied when he wrote: ….”was demonstrated last week at the N350 million church thanksgiving and reception packaged, according to Sahara reporters, by the Delta state government to welcome him home. Not only was the entire Delta state government machinery diverted to Oghara, all politicians of note, the who-is-who in the state, plus a massive and tumultuous crowd were on hand to rejoice with and welcome him home”. Please, is a lie repeated not still a lie? Or put differently, is a rumour rebroadcast several times not still a rumour? Which reception was he referring to? And which government machinery?

An online publication mal-reported that Delta State was bankrolling the Oghara Church Thanksgiving with a humongous amount of money, an amount so outrageous as to raise doubts in the minds of right-thinking persons, and the mal-report quoted no identifiable persons, exhibited no documents, and yet, our dear Chris Akor was ready to swear by it. And which “entire” government machinery of which Delta State did Akor claim was diverted to Oghara? This man must so love rumour that he has no need for the truth.

Next paragraph: In the service of another rumour Akor wrote: “In April 2010, when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission wanted to arrest him for crimes of corruption, fraud and money laundering, his Urhobo kinsmen quickly rallied round him in support. In fact, he escaped to his hometown in Oghara, where youths barricaded the community and successfully prevented the EFCC from having access to the community to arrest the embattled former governor”. That is a lie. The EFCC never attempted to arrest Ibori in Oghara but were turned back. Never!

James Ibori

In the very next sentence, he lied again; “The same Urhobo people organised his escape (he confessed to being ferried out of the country through a river by Oghara youths) to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates”. Sincerely, Ibori has never made such a confession. Also, he could not have gone through a river to Dubai because no river runs from the Niger Delta to Dubai!

The very next paragraph contained another rumour; “Alamieyeigha jumped or was allowed to jump bail and escaped to Nigeria dressed as a woman”. Is Chris Akor’s mind so simplistic that he actually believes that in 2005, DSP Alamieyeigha could have passed through a British Airport dressed as a woman or mermaid or goat or Chris Akor and no CCTV camera captured that image? And why has it remained impossible to verify the aircraft and airline that brought him to Lagos and Port Harcourt? I gave up on him after encountering so many rumours and outright lies. Here’s my advice to Chis Akor : “please be serious”!

Chief (Dr) Eugene Enahoro wrote in the Daily Trust of Tuesday Feb 7th, 2017: “The then Chairman of the EFCC Nuhu Ribadu alleged that Ibori tried to bribe him with $5 Million cash! Failing this Ibori then argued that since he allegedly stole N40 Billion in Delta State he should be tried there. My comment: Mr. Ikechukwu Amaechi has published in a national newspaper that Ribadu himself said at Protea Hotel, Ikeja Lagos, while campaigning as Action Congress presidential candidate, that Ibori never attempted to bribe him.

I wrote recently in the Saturday Vanguard that Mr. Steve Nwosu of the SUN newspaper and Tunde Abdulrahman, then of THISDAY and other journalists were there. None of those mentioned, including Ribadu, has so far denied that version of events. Even former President Olusegun Obasanjo gave another different version of the alleged bribe in his “My Watch” memoirs. Obasanjo said he had even opened up an account at the Central Bank of Nigeria well before the “restitution” money arrived.

It should be clear to any right-thinking person that an Ibori would not bribe a Ribadu by first working out the bribe amount with an Obasanjo. It is also clear that no governor who had not even been charged to court would have worked out a “restitution” amount to be refunded to an Obasanjo who though an imperial president, was never a court of law. The same Obasanjo even added that he told Ribadu to call the money bribe, or ‘restitution’ to Delta State or whatever he wants.

A look at the contradicting statements (which are right in the public domain) of Ribadu, Andy Uba, Ibrahim Lamorde, James Garba and Obasanjo’s book would show a stupefying amount of contradictions. Really, Obasanjo’s story shows clearly there was no bribery but a conspiracy. But why should I repeat myself by going into such details? Mr. Eugene Enahoro has demonstrated fully that he rarely reads to update his knowledge.

That must be the only reason why he wrote: “Quite ridiculously a Federal High Court was hurriedly built in Asaba and Justice Idowu Awokulehin wrote his name in infamy by disgracefully dismissing all 170 charges. When the Court of Appeal in Benin overturned Awokulehin’s ridiculous ruling and re-assigned the case to another Judge, Ibori knew the game was up. He fled to Dubai where he was arrested by Interpol and extradited to the UK”.

Really? Who did this to Chief (Dr) Eugene Enahoro? What stopped a newspaper commentator from taking himself seriously enough to verify ordinary dates? The Appeal Court judgment he referred to came in May 2014!!! Now, how does he and those who gave him a newspaper space to “mis-educate” Nigerians feel? Is this not a serial act of corruption? And if there is no truth in him, why would anybody assent to his conclusions or opinions knowing how uninformed the man himself is?

Then Eugene Enahoro wondered why Delta State people were joyous at Ibori’s return. He wrote: “They are overcome with joy at his return and the on-going celebrations are sincere and affectionate. Markets, offices and shops were closed and a carnival atmosphere prevailed. This should come as no surprise. No, it is about the people of Delta state who still see him as a hero. His popularity and acceptance by all strata of the society….” But I’ll address that towards the end of this article.

To Okey Ndibe, I’ll just ask a question: how long will it take a columnist to accept the truth? Forever? If he couldn’t accept (in his Epistle from St. James to fellow Steakholders in DAILY SUN of TuesdayFeb.7 2017) what Nasir el-Rufai, a close friend to Nuhu Ribadu wrote in a book, what else would he accept as the truth, mere rumours? So, despite the passage of almost a decade, despite the publication of several books, despite the recent developments in the Ibori London case, when the BBC, and leading British newspapers from the Times, Guardian, SUN, Mail, Telegraph, etc, championed Ibori’s interests by showcasing the deliberate injustice done to him through police corruption, misleading of the courts, serious but prosecutorial missteps and outright lies, the university lecturer in Okey Ndibe has refused to learn anything new or even admit that there has emerged any new vista of looking at the trial.

This is sad! To Ndibe’s insinuation that Ibori helped remove Ribadu from his EFCC chairman’s position and sent him to Kuru, my only reply is this relevant passage from El-Rufai’s book; The Accidental Public Servant, (a section entitled Umaru Asks Nuhu for Support: the Beginning of Our Problems). There, El-Rufai related that when the late Yar’Adua visited Ribadu and told him that Obasanjo had asked him to run for presidency, “Nuhu’s response could hardly have been less gracious: ‘Well, Obasanjo has not told me, and as far as I am concerned, I have my candidate for president and that is Nasir el-Rufai’.

Nuhu’s instinctive reaction was that of a typical policeman – dust off EFCC files and comb for petitions against Umaru…. He even arrested some local government chairmen from Katsina as part of his investigation of LGA funds by (Yar’Adua). He was clearly trying to take Yar’Adua out of the race and narrow all options to zero except for El-Rufai….By the time we realized what was going on…things have gone bad for all of us.” So, late President Yar’Adua, having tasted how Ribadu would “target people that threaten certain interests” (as El-Rufai wrote on page 360 of his book) needed no prompting from anybody to remove Ribadu as EFCC chairman.

Col Abubakar Umar (rted) once said: “When Obasanjo embarked on total genocidal war against his political and business opponents (including Ibori), the EFCC became the most useful and loyal force that was used”. He forgot to add that Ribadu even fought his own personal wars, misusing EFCC’s powers – as El-Rufai testified. And former President Yar’Adua experienced Ribadu’s hypocrisy personally.

Apart from this refusal to internalize new knowledge on the Ibori-Ribadu matter, Akin Osuntokun (in Defiant Welcome for Ibori in THISDAY newspaper) and numerous others now insult and denigrate the ordinary Nigerians – as fools. They misread, misquote and misapply a Nigerian Professor of Political Sociology, Peter Ekeh’s work. I wonder why it never occurred to those who list themselves among the “sizable proportion of the Nigerian intelligentsia and Western oriented cosmopolitan citizenry” (Akin Osuntokun’s claim), and look down on the rest as the stupid hoi-polloi, the commonality and plebeians, that they have proved incapable of noticing that Ekeh’s postulations could not have applied fully to the out-pouring of admiration inherent in the way the people welcomed Ibori.

One attentive and inquiring columnist, Josef Omorotionmwan (Vanguard of Thursday Feb. 16, 2017) proved his originality (which is the hallmark of a well-educated soul) and approached the issue differently. He wrote: “Delta is one of the most enlightened States throughout the Federation. It cannot be said that the people were unaware that they were being ripped-off. Yet, they love Ibori most passionately – to the extent that many would be willing to go to prison in his stead; and many would be willing to die so that Ibori could live.

When Ibori returned to Nigeria recently after about seven years incarceration forays abroad, he got the type of reception that no Nigerian Head of State has ever received. And this came in spite of the fact that many had written and spoken of the folly in coming out to welcome him; as it were, coming out to celebrate a criminal. If some former Governors … had to quietly return home in total infamy after service; and you have Ibori’s return being celebrated in grand style, then, Ibori must have something going for him. He, therefore, becomes a special research subject.

That’s our major point of interest”. Josef Omorotionmwan has gravitas. He has depth. He does not flow with the flotsam and jetsam in the sea of rumours. But he forgot to add that the admiration for Ibori cuts across Delta State’s ethnic divide. The Urhobo, Anioma, the Isoko, the Ijaw and the Itsekiri peoples celebrated his return with equal vigour. So where is the primordial tribal nonsense some columnists embraced in this case?

Also, the visitors who came to felicitate with Ibori were not just politicians. Gen. David Ejoor (rtd) visited him too; he was Mid-West Region’s Military Governor in 1966 when Ibori was eight years old and was Yakubu Gowon’s Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters when Ibori was a teenager. The grand old man was helped to walk from and back to his car. The remarkable inventor, Brig-Gen Otu Oviemo Ovadje (ret) a highly accredited Nigerian medical doctor who invented the Emergency Auto Transfusion System (EAT-SET) – an affordable, simpler and effective blood auto-transfusion system, also visited him. They wouldn’t have come for handouts either!

Now, who would list them among the politicians or among the hoi-polloi? That shows the genuine love Ibori enjoys in Delta and the South-South and even across the land – an admiration that has refused to fade despite all the slings and arrows Nigerian politicians, British DfID agency and self-serving but ill-informed and out rightly dubious columnists have sent against Ibori – columnists who have refused to acknowledge that Ibori had other sources of income while he was governor (according to court papers), that the first confiscation hearing ended in 2013 and no money was found anywhere to be seized, and that till today, no evidence of money Delta State lost was presented against James Onanafe Ibori before any British court and that the Ibori trial in Nigeria is self-evidently different from the London trial; while it was beyond every reasonable doubt in Nigeria, it was just on inference alone in Britain, so nothing needed to be proved at all – in a criminal case, not even the predicate case of establishing a crime before talking of money laundering.

I’ll conclude the Ibori series next Saturday with “Ibori: the Man and his Politics”.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.