June 22, 2024

Ibori; Niger Deltans Acknowledge Their Champion, by Tony Eluemunor

Ibori; Niger Deltans Acknowledge Their Champion, by Tony Eluemunor

Many, infantile in the approach to matters of the intellect, have for years surmised that Ibori remained relevant in Delta state, simply because his political family had been producing the Governors of Delta


Well in 2023, the then Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa tested that hypothesis and it has been found to be terribly faulty. Okowa solely produced his successor. So, what has happened to Ibori – both

the name and the man? Across the entire Niger Delta, Ibori has been enjoying an ever-increasing popularity. This trend of popularity cannot be said to have been paid for with money. Suddenly, a new set

of commentators, not weighed down and over-burdened by the politics of times long past when the Segun Adeniyis, Simeon Kolawoles, Eugene Enahoros, Dr. Chris Akors and the Abraham Ogbodos of this world were in the vanguard of the husbandry of Nigerian journalism. Times have changed. A new set of writers are emerging. They are seeing things with clear eyes untainted by a thousand prejudices to which dirty

politics might have birthed, engineered and energized.

Ibori was Delta state Governor from 1997 to 2007; so he left office 17 years ago for crying out loud! He was even jailed in Britain, too, and so stayed away from Nigeria for almost a decade. Since then, a third

set of Governors have been sworn into office, yet Ibori still remains an issue – nationwide. Since 2007, too, he has not held any public office. Yet, his popularity whether in Delta state or within the Niger

Delta, increases daily. This confounds his traducers. The more those who thought they have become the men of the moment try to belittle him, the more the REAL PEOPLE claim his as their veritable champion.

On Ibori’s return from Britain, thick waves upon even thicker waves of people fought for space as they congregated on his Oghara home town to pay him homage.  Many columnists and online commentators denounced such a public show of love as the job of hunters for crumbs of bread – in their egotist imaginations they had arrogated to themselves the sole right of being the judges of the Nigerian value system – just as the colonialists Chinua Achebe ridiculed in his novels said “I know my natives” claiming to know them more than they know themselves. Yet, among the people they denounced as crumb-hunters and bootlickers were an aged General David Ejoor who retired from the Nigerian Army as – Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters in 1975. Ibori was in secondary school then and was reading about Ejoor in history books for Ejoor became Military Governor of Mid-West Region in 1966.

Yes, with my own two eyes I saw David Ejoor, supporting himself on a walking stick, going in to say welcoming Ibori home.  The supremely gifted Col. Oviemo Ovadje (ret) the medical doctor who invented the Emergency AutoTransfusion System (EAT-SET) that now saves lives in developing countries, visited, too. Even Major Saliba Mukoro (of the Gideon Okar coup-attempt gambit, has visited Ibori. I mentioned just the three ex-soldiers none will number among crumb-seekers, or among politicians or contractors. Mukoro is a Professor in an American university.

Something I have chosen to call “Ibori’s revenge” happened at Asaba during the funeral Mass for the late Asagba of Asaba, Prof. Chike Edozien, right inside the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, as related by Dr. Leroy Edozien: The Priest was thanking the visitors, and according to the order of established protocol Ibori; the order of precedence.

“When it got to the turn of Chief James Onanefe Ibori, past Governor of Delta State, the congregation erupted spontaneously in loud applause. Further down in his presentation, the priest had cause to again mention the name of Chief Ibori, and again there was a fervid applause in a hitherto quiet church. It was like we were at a political meeting or a celebrity party, not a Catholic church. But these were not party loyalists or political acolytes, or tribesmen; they were ordinary people who had come to their king’s funeral”.

That wasn’t a one off thing; Ibori was so honoured at Amassoma mid-June. His Royal Majesty, King Oweipa Jones Ere III the Ebenanwei of Ogboin Kingdom gave Ibori a Chieftaincy title; Opu Ekei of Igboin

as he marked his kingship’s 20th year. The chieftaincy title, as important as it could be, paled beside the applause that greeted the Ibori name any time it was mentioned.

Leroy Edozien asked an important question: “How come Chief Ibori received such a fervid and spontaneous reception (in church!) while the introduction of other top dignitaries met with silence? And this

occurring 17 years after he left office? And despite adverse publicity that had trailed him for some time”.  He provides the answer: “As Governor, Chief Ibori worked his way into the hearts of the governed,

across social strata. He was a man of the people. I recognise two domains in political leadership: ‘soft’ and ‘hard’. These two are distinct but they synergise and reinforce each other.

The ‘soft’ domain is about relationships, about hearts and minds. A good leader reaches out to all, feels the pulse of the people, builds bridges, wins hearts and minds.

The ‘hard’ domain is the tangible performance of the leader, as in the building of infrastructure, creation of jobs, management of the economy and sÍ on”.

The people score Ibori highly on both the hard and soft domains of power! To Niger Deltans, Ibori fascinates, he enchants, he enthralls, simply because he championed their interests and suffered for it.