• DSS warns ex-Delta gov against disturbing public peace
• Oghara agog, as kinsmen, associates jubilate
From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
THE Department of State Service (DSS) yesterday told former governor of Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori, to conduct himself in the most decorous manner while in the country and desist from any action capable of fuelling the Niger Delta crisis and or inciting the public against the government.
The former Delta State first citizen, who was released from the United Kingdom (UK) prison last December, was picked by the DSS on arrival at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja at 5.30am yesterday after British authorities deported him.
A former Commissioner in Delta State, Mr. Magnus Onyibe confirmed his arrival, saying, “he arrived around 5:30 am this morning.” Sunday Sun further gathered that he arrived via a British Airways Boeing 777 aircraft with registration G-VIID.
The former governor’s friends and family members were on hand to welcome him at the airport, but he was immediately whisked away to the headquarters of the DSS, where he was interrogated for several hours and discharged with stern warning to conduct himself in the most decorous manner.
Speaking with Sunday Sun in confidence, a source at the headquarters of the DSS insisted that there was nothing abnormal in the actions of security agency, stressing that every high profile ex-convict in Ibori’s category always undergo such routine interrogation.
“I cannot specifically tell you the nature of the interrogations but I know that he underwent the routine processes for every high-profile ex-convict. The interrogation lasted for some hours because the Service needed to get certain information from him especially the decision of the UK government to deport him.
“However, considering the kind of influence he has on many people especially in Delta State, there is the need to press it on him to tread with caution and desist from fuelling the Niger Delta crisis. The good thing is that he gave the Service his words that he would conduct himself in the most lawful manner.
The Service has no option than to release him with those commitments,” the source said.
In a short statement, however, the Director General of the DSS, Lawal Daura, said: “He met me for a short debriefing session and way forward. Also, to welcome him back to his fatherland. We are also meeting soon to discuss issues of interest affecting the nation,” Daura said.
A statement from the British government had read: “Having been jailed for his crimes in the UK and served his sentence, Mr. Ibori has now been returned to Nigeria.
The UK will continue to pursue, vigorously, the legal process to confiscate and return to Nigeria, Ibori’s criminal assets.
“That is why it was vital we sent a clear message to the world that James Ibori, a man who stole millions from the Nigerian Government and laundered those proceeds in the UK, has been held to account. Mr. Ibori’s return will not prevent prosecutors from pursuing confiscation proceedings against him,” it added.
Ibori had last Friday appeared before a Southwark Crown court in London for his asset forfeiture hearing. He regained his freedom in December 2016 after spending four-and-a-half years in a United Kingdom prison for money laundering.
The British Government had accused him of stealing about $250 million from the Delta State government part of which was used in buying six houses and luxury vehicles in the UK, the United States and South Africa.
…A royal welcome at Oghara
From Tony Osauzo, Paul Osuyi and Ben Dunno
FORMER Governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, yesterday arrived Benin airport at about 2.30pm on his way to his hometown, Oghara.
Ibori arrived the airport in a chartered private jet marked 5N-IZY and made straight to the VIP lounge, where he spent about 10 minutes before he was whisked away by members of his immediate family amidst tight security. The former governor, who wore a black jacket and black jean trousers on arrival at the airport, was escorted into an unmarked black Toyota Prado Jeep which sped off in a convoy of other vehicles manned by armed and fierce looking Mobile policemen and plain clothes security operatives.
Ibori’s journey to his hometown through Benin airport took everyone by surprise, as information had filtered in early in the morning that he would fly from Abuja to Osubi Airport, near Warri.
Those who planned his journey were said to have preferred Osubi Airport, from where the former governor would have been escorted by his kinsmen, friends and political associates by road to Oghara after a red carpet reception for him at the airport.
Ibori, popularly called Odidigborigbo in political circles, was, however, said to have changed his travel plan and decided to go through Benin Airport at the last minute due to poor weather condition at Osubi.
Meanwhile, most of his political associates and family members were disappointed at the Osubi airport where they had waited in vain for his arrival. As at 10:00am yesterday, Sunday Sun observed that Osubi Airport had been filled to capacity with family members and political associates of the former governor who wanted to catch a glimpse of him. Some of those at Osubi Airport to receive the former governor were council chairmen, members of the state House of Assembly, appointed office holders, traditional rulers, youths and other social bodies. They included Secretary to the State Government, Ovie Agas; Commissioner for Environment, John Nani; chairman of Sapele Local Government Area (LGA), Ejaefe Odebala; chairman of Ethiope West LGA, Solomon Golley; chairman of Okpe council area, Prince Godwin Ejinyere.
Others were the Managing Director of DESOPADEC, William Makinde; a commissioner on the board of DESOPADEC, Pius Ovbije (POC); a Senior Special Assistant to the governor, Emmanuel Ighomena; National President of the UK branch of UPU, Emmanuel Ganiga; Chairman of DSIEC, Moses Ogbe; and member representing Okpe constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori.
Nevertheless, Oghara went agog when the convoy of the former governor touched its soil about 3:20pm. Shops and markets were closed as the entire town went out to line the ever-busy Oghara Junction point of the East/West Road, waiting for the arrival of the former governor.
Explaining the mood in Oghara town, a member of the Oghara Youths Association, Kparobo Ehvwubare, said the whole town was excited over the former governor’s freedom and eventual return to his homeland. “The Oghara Youths Association is already at the express waiting for him. The palace has also sent a delegation, including His Royal Majesty, the Ovie of Oghara Kingdom, accompanied by the Onugbrogodo of Ogharefe and Ogharekhi, as well as the Iyasere, to the airport to receive him.
“The Oghara Social Media Group has also led a delegation to the express to await his arrival, mounting banners at strategic points. The council chairman has also led a delegation to the airport to receive him.
“Because of his benevolence and good antecedents in Oghara, many shops and stall owners as well as markets, on their own volition, decided to shut down today to honour him. There was no official call for businesses to be shut down today; they just decided to do it,” he said.
Ibori: Anxiety, mute anticipation over political future
By Chidi Obineche
Since the arrival of James Ibori from London in the wee hours of yesterday, intense speculations and permutations have been rife on his next political step after a close to six years lay-off. The interest on his next move is not unexpected. After a bountiful and luxuriant political career which peaked in 2007 with an eyeful role as presidential godfather, his burgeoning career came screeching to a sudden halt with the death of late president Musa Yar’Adua and the ascension to power of President Goodluck Jonathan. The crisis of fate that eventually resulted in his fleeing the country, his subsequent arrest by operatives of INTERPOL in Dubai, extradition to the United Kingdom where he faced charges of fraud and corruption while he was the governor of Delta State, and his eventual conviction to a 13 years sentence in 2012 have merely signposted a denouement in his blistering career, going by signs and body language since his release in December last year. The pomp that heralded his release from prison, the mammoth and almost vulgar visit to London by a bubbling league of his political associates, the indecorous commentaries by his die- hard supporters, and the unyielding efforts to launder his image and cast him in the mould of a hero of our time, all combine to attenuate the growing feeling of listlessness over his career. The former governor and political gladiator inflamed more passion among his twirling band of idolaters when he told Reuters in London that “What happens in African politics – You are in it until you die”. He reinforced it when he declared publicly after a court hearing in London that “ I am a politician. I will always be a politician.
I play the politics in my party, and in my country for the good of my people.” Although he acknowledged that he was barred from holding public office for 10 years because of his conviction, he vowed to appeal against it and get it quashed. He has already set his hands on the plough in realization of this dream. The appeal rests on an optimism brought about by an allegation made by one of Ibori’s former associates that a British Police Officer had taken bribes in return for inside information on the case before his conviction, and that prosecutors covered it up. British Police insist the allegation was investigated, resulting in no arrests, or charges. The State Prosecution Service in a disavowal of the leak maintains that materials supporting the allegation exist and that it initially failed to disclose that to Ibori’s defense team. Here then is an open window to anchor an appeal.
The song of the falconer
In tune with prevailing standards in the Nigerian political circuit, most leaders with an intimidating throng of supporters, high financial net worth and adulating admirers almost always calibrate the syndrome of godfatherism and cult- followership. The excitement at the Benin Airport, the colourful welcome even with a very short notice, and the melo-dramatic hide and seek game with full disclosures of his return schedule and itinerary, all seek to put paid to the emerging new status. His former political adviser when he was in power and associate, Chief Ighoyata Amori gave vent to this strain when he said the “Ogidigborigbo,” ( the lion) is still relevant.” This sinew of thought goes far more than mere words. While in prison, the Ogidigborigbo allegedly was able to install a sitting governor and a coterie of legislators at the national and state levels. Apparently taking a cue from this setting, the Department of State Services, DSS had a close tete-a – tete with him on his arrival, which was learnt, centered on the need to maintain an agreeable political culture that will not breed tension and confusion.
The allure of honey
While bookmakers are still making postulations on his political future, a strand of thought that he may likely take the familiar bold step of the average avuncular Nigerian politician rings loud and clear. The aroma of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, may no longer be pleasing to his nose. In line with fast emerging tradition and class, he may in all truth, dump the opposition party and embrace the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
As they say in popular local parlance, the goat always follows the person with the fodder. Better put, the dog trails the man with a distended tummy, because if he does not stool, he will vomit.
Added to this is the visible protection extended to party members by the ruling party which has extracted a notion of refuge, in real and abstract terms. If this happens, disequilibrium in the political equation of the nation and the south- south may be fostered. And this will form the praxis in calculations for the 2019 general elections.
…Associates, kinsmen laud Ibori’s return
From Paul Osuyi and Ben Dunno
MANY associates of former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, who arrived Nigeria after spending four-and-a-half years in a United Kingdom prison for money laundering, told Sunday Sun yesterday that they were delighted with his return.
A former governorship aspirant in the state, Sunny Onuesoke, said he was “overwhelmed with the arrival of the doyen of Nigeria politics and Delta State in particular because he is one man who plays politics for the benefit of his people.
“And the best politicians in the world are those who play politics of development. His return to Delta State is more of interest to Deltans as a whole whether PDP or APC. I don’t ascribe Ibori’s arrival to the benefit of the Urhobos alone but the state as a whole.”
Former secretary of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Andy Asavwota, said Ibori “is the man on ground, either here or in limbo. He has affected all and takes everybody along without discrimination. With his coming around, the politics in our polity here would change. If not the ganging up at the first instance when he was looking up to the vice presidency, it would have been a different ball game entirely.” Chairman of Sapele Local Government Area, Ejaife Odebala, described Ibori as a great leader, saying that they were happy for his return. He added that the “politics and permutations of Delta State would change as he knows how to satisfy people and make them happy. We made his arrival low-key; by the time the whole of Delta knows he is in town, the entire state would erupt in jubilation.”
A member of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Alphonsus Ojo on his part said: “I feel very much elated and feel like break dancing because he is not just a former governor, but our maximum political leader. His arrival would bring lots of changes in our psych and social integration, which would be restored again, as it was when he was around. His arrival would bring unity to the politics of Delta State.”
Olorogun Taleb Tebite, Solomon Ighrakpata and Denis Omovie, said the return of Ibori would redefine the politics of the state, adding that he brought dynamism and empowerment to the politics of the state.
They said he would provide political direction to the Urhobo people, saying that wherever he goes, the Urhobos would follow him. The representative of Okpe constituency in the State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori said: “I am glad that our leader is back to the country. The good works of Chief James Onanefe Ibori still speak after leaving office almost 10 years ago. So, his return is a welcome development.”
Also, Governor of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Evangelist Quincy Tebite said: “I feel great and overwhelmed with joy having him back. Indeed, his return would certainly bring a positive change in the politics of Delta State and Urhobo nation. The long awaited relief we have over the years prayed for has now come.”