In a November 11, 2010 interview Great Ogboru granted the Vanguard Newspaper he was asked this opener: How do you see the Court of Appeal verdict nullifying the election of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan as Delta State governor? His take was this: “It has been a very hard fought battle. We fought against one of the most powerful governments in sub-Saharan Africa, if not in Africa for that matter. Our opponents happened to come from the school of do-or-die politics, using any means necessary, legal and illegal to vanquish their opponents. With that type of background, you can see that in a way, it is poetic justice and we are very happy. I believe that all Deltans, irrespective of which party they belong to, are also happy because justice, at last, has come.”
Recounting what his experience was like during the long legal battle, he said that as a candidate and as a person, he felt robbed. Then he beautifully came across as the wonderful democrat we already know him to be when he added that his personal loss was, however, nothing to be compared with the injustice and fraud that were perpetuated against our people and our nation. He gave depth and weight to that when he said that the experience can be equated “with crime against humanity; especially against the backdrop of the 2007 elections and the huge atrocities that went with it. When you take the right of the people to decide who to govern them, you take away from them the essence of their living. That’s why I’m saying it is a crime against humanity. For me, it is a more painful thing from a societal perspective than a personal hurt and injustice that I experienced”.
From Abacha to Ibori
You only need to share in the struggle and its attendant pains to get the full import of what really was Delta State these years of Ibori-Uduaghan. And you ask: How did we get here? The story flows down from Sani Abacha through Ibori to Uduaghan. In the dark days of the country under Abacha many things really went wrong. Who can detail them all? It was evil, darkness, confusion, terror and death all-encompassing; an overarching show of all that was menacing, dubious, callous, ridiculous and absurd. Whole society with all its institutions was put on edge. A national plunge into the precipice was obvious and imminent.
To set all that on course, Abacha needed to first erect a dangerous human structure around himself, and we refer to that clique he mentored known as the Abacha boys. These boys played the espionage on men of conscience and coerced all opposition figures. Their stranglehold on the rest of us was total just as they drove deep-seated dread into all of us. Their mandate was tough and precise. Constituting a mix of military and civilian boys it was used to settle scores. They were in the saddle. As ‘tiny-gods’, they had their ways whilst Abacha breathed. They were Abacha’s eyes, ears, hands and legs.
It was not just only brutish force that they were noted for. They were equally corruption-saddled. With them in Abacha’s corner he had all the monies he was to siphon from our treasuries. We remember the BBC News telling us that this late Nigerian dictator and his family stole $4.3 billion from public funds during his four and a half years in power. There are pointers that suggest Abacha was even much richer. And the boys also made some monies themselves too. Ibori was widely reported as one of those Abacha boys.
That is peep enough into Ibori’s antecedent. This is the antecedent that gain fortress and built up itself to Everest in Delta State; that came to rubbish our humanity, treasury, democracy, electoral process, Ogboru’s mandate more than once, the rule of law, our courts and almost any precious thing you can see in civilization. Truly, nothing could be worst. This is what Ogboru and some of us dare to confront, and which he in a capsule represented as aforesaid. Yes, it has been telling. Few of us pulled back. Some kept the forte because it is worth it. And we are grateful to Ogboru who led a focused struggle; more than that, we are grateful to the people not only for their never waning hope for freedom from the shackles of Mephistophelian elements overtly out to ruin their (people’s) collective being and bastardize their wellness, but also for their unwavering support for the struggle. And above all, we are grateful to God Almighty Who neither slumber nor sleep.
The robbery that took place in Delta State and the ordeal Deltans went through for eight years in the hands of Ibori (with his boys he has now mentored himself) was hellish. And just to fast-forward before we roll back: This is the background that railroaded Uduaghan on us and hoped to keep him here for eight years.
Synopsis of the Ibori Story
Ibori was an avowed disciple of Abacha. He was one of the Abacha boys in that dark age of our national life. That has been said already. But we make haste to say here: like Abacha, like Ibori! It was altogether not totally strange therefore that Ibori imported Abachaism into Delta State and succeeded greatly in this. Of course, that is same as saying that Deltans where horror-overwhelmed and thoroughly impoverished whereas they ought to be living like Londoners given what came from the federation account into the State under Ibori.
The weird and bizarre incidences that swept across Delta state from day one of Ibori’s hijacked governance of that state got our hackles up. We were frayed. But how do you vent yourself in a democracy when you are not a politician? So, some of us took up our pens, therefore, and started crying out. But Ibori’s many nefarious activities hardly got the echo when we shouted even loud and clear enough. Our cries didn’t resonate with those that should care. We were apparently alone for a very long time.
The way the courts were messed up in Ibori’s many cases, especially in those ‘conviction’ or ‘no conviction’ ones and the electoral ones need not take precious time here. We consider them; including the entire bribery allegations (up to Everest, true or false) just too nasty to be visited here, except to say that society was awoken to the fact or reality that a case of an individual representing a national menace was indeed in our hands.
And when, due to corruption allegations, a court in the UK froze Ibori’s assets valued at about £17 million ($35 million) in early August of 2007, many tongues joined us back home at the least. Our company swelled, so to say. Some three months later Ibori’s wife, Nkoyo, was arrested at Heathrow Airport in London in connection with the probe of his husband’s assets particularly in the United Kingdom. At that time Ibori merely accused Nuhu Ribadu and the UK Courts of playing politics in an interview with CNN. Now, no one took him seriously. Our cries were now making huge meaning.
On December 12, 2007, Ibori was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Kwara State Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja. One document refreshes our minds this way: The charges he faced include theft of public funds, abuse of office, and money laundering; these corruption charges brought against Ibori by the government of former President Obasanjo are among many begun by anticorruption czar Nuhu Ribadu against former officials of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party PDP; that Ribadu additionally alleged that Ibori attempted to bribe him to drop the charges with a cash gift of $15 million, which he (Ribadu) immediately lodged in the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN; and that the cash remains in the CBN as an exhibit. Now the plot thickens, you would think.
On December 17, 2009, a Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta State discharged and acquitted Ibori of all 170 charges of corruption brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). That was what became of our courts: Tools of injustice. Too bad! And the Nigerian courts became the only segment of society at this point in time that was yet to
know and believe what the rest of society have come to know very thoroughly and believe without question. And so, as some put it: With this judgment, all eyes were “on the outcome of the money laundering case brought against some of Chief Ibori’s associates by the Crown prosecution service at the Southwark Crown court, London and the basis of their allegations as Chief Ibori was acquitted of the entire 170 charges leveled against him on charges which would have been a foundation for such a case in the United Kingdom”.
Then EFCC went filing a notice of appeal against the December 17, 2009 judgment and began a new round of investigations on the former governor subsequent upon a petition by members of the Delta State Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, made available to the public in March 2010. About three months later Goodluck Jonathan took over the realm of government and Ibori’s case file was reopened, ostensibly the reason why Ibori stood against Jonathan’s ascension to power and almost threw a whole nation and its 150 million people from the ship of state overboard into the sea of sharks, and even an ailing president not being spared this strange mastery of dark age exhibition and display. There is a questionable gut here. And it can throw light on what Deltans went through.
Anyhow, the allegation this time was that Ibori embezzled N40 billion ($266 million). All attempts to arrest him proved abortive. Reportedly, he fled from Abuja to Lagos and then to Oghara his homeland and or the creeks of the Niger Delta. He was reportedly guarded by armed militias who actually once had a shoot out with government security forces. A man to go up face to face against federal might! This gut is alien! Again, it can throw further light on what Deltans went through. Here, again, Ibori merely claimed that the charges were frivolous and that he was a victim of political persecution. Nobody believed him now.
And he knew he had lost the Nigerian courts now; he sensed the judiciary has risen above all lures. No Justice of any court will now be ready to bath himself with unjustly acquired lucre to perpetuate injustice. Because the Justices are becoming justices indeed, he knew any bait now dangled to entrap the judiciary and to further deaden consciences of men of the hallow chambers can now be at his peril. His billions have become cankered as far as the judiciary is now concern because consciences have come alive. He knew the courts have finally known what we long knew. No more! And it was all over!
And so, finally, it was reported April 25, 2010 that he had fled the country to evade arrest by operatives of the EFCC. Government sought the assistance of Interpol to effect his arrest once his place of abode was established. That done, the Ibori case has become arguably the most celebrated international case of corruption in history involving an African family.
While for The Telegraph of London “attempts to prosecute Mr Ibori have been some of the longest, most complex and expensive operations mounted by Scotland Yard in recent years” and prosecutors alleging “that companies owned by Mr Ibori and his family were beneficiaries from the sale of state assets, including shares in a mobile telephone operator, as well as crude oil deliveries”, the Compass of Nigeria told us, July 12, 2010, that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Malam Sanusi Lamido revealed that Chief James Onanefe Ibori used Delta State as collateral for N40 billion loan when he was governor.
Well, some convictions have been made in this Ibori unparallel saga. In a verdict delivered at the Southwark Crown Court, London on 1st and 2nd June 2010, UK juries found James Ibori’s sister, Christine Ibie-Ibori, his associate, Udoamaka Okoronkwo, and Ms Okoronkwo and Adebimpe Pogoson who were charged alongside Ibori sister guilty on counts of money laundering. Chrstine Ibie-Ibori and Udoamaka Okoronkwo were each sentenced to 5 years in prison on Monday 7th June 2010 by the UK court even as the defense counsel pleaded for mercy that the convicts were merely manipulated by James Ibori. How instructive that this came from the defense counsel of Ibori’s sister and associate! They have risen against Ibori, and reportedly even the wife too! How is the centre crumbling so soon!
But we must be thoroughly perturbed: How many political and business associates and family members of Ibori whom he has ‘merely manipulated’ that are still walking free today in Delta, Nigeria and the vast world. And how much have they been manipulated to manipulate from Delta state treasury in eight years? And that is, pretending to ignore the many Local Government treasuries that he appointed members of his clique to man. And how much has Ibori manipulated personally himself? If press reports and grapevine are anything to go by, the answer is in Oghara, Lagos, Abuja and other Nigerian cities, but worst still: the answer replicates itself across Europe, across North America, across UAE, across South Africa et cetera.
It is no more news that Mrs. Theresa Nkoyo Ibori, the wife of James Ibori, has also been convicted and sentenced to five years in prison by a Southwark Crown court in London, United Kingdom. She was convicted on two counts related to money laundering. It was gathered that the former First Lady has since been transported to Holloway Prison in north London.
It is also no longer news that James Ibori’s United Kingdom lawyer, Mr. Bhadresh Gohil, who was on trial with Mrs. Ibori, has equally been found guilty on all counts of money laundering and currently remanded in police custody; and to be sentenced after the conclusion of another trial involving the laundering of proceeds of V-Mobile shares by James Ibori, Henry Imashekka, David Edevbie and former Akwa Ibom Governor Victor Attah.
The handwriting Ibori sees on the wall is upsetting, the signals damning. So, he has been fighting extradition battle like a drowning man would. First the court of first instance and now the Appeal Court in Dubai has ruled that he be extradited to the U.K. Di tin dey close in jete by jete on dis man. His breath may well be rancid by now.