History will resonate again of the tale of Mr. James Ibori, a former Governor of Delta State, Nigerian. Ibori who served as a two-term governor of the oil rich State was found guilty, convicted and sentenced to prison in the United Kingdom for corruption bordering on money laundering, even after he was discharged and acquitted of all charges against him in Nigeria. In April 2012, the former governor was sentenced to 13 years in jail by a London Court for stealing government funds in Nigeria. The sentence brings justice to Ibori’s protracted journey to jail, leaving a historical print of being the first Nigerian politician to bag a jail sentence abroad for laundering public funds.
The sentence marked the third time Mr. Ibori, got a sentence for theft in London. The April 2012 sentence borders on a theft of public funds to the tune of no less than $250 million within the period he served as governor of the oil rich Delta state. Following evidences that the London prosecutors were able to establish all facts of his fraudulent crimes, Mr. Ibori’s, counsel, Nicholas Purnell, settled for a plea bargain – appealing to the judge to tamper judgement with mercy. Agreeing with the prosecutor, Mr Purnell admitted that Mr. Ibori stole money from his people in the V-Mobile shares deal he brokered with the Akwa Ibom state government but blamed the then Akwa Ibom state governor, Victor Attah, and Ibori’s former lawyer – and conduit for the stolen wealth – Bhaderesh Gohil, for luring him into the crime.
Mr. Ibori was apparently one in a series of his friends and family to be jailed for his thefts as governor of the oil-rich Delta state. His wife, sister and mistress were similarly convicted of money-laundering in the UK to serve various jail terms. His solicitor, Gohil, was equally jailed for 10 years for helping syphon the money Mr. Ibori stole. In addition to the prison terms, the Judge ruled then that Ibori’s sentencing is not the end of matter as his property will be confiscated and consequences may arise thereafter. In 2007, a UK court froze assets allegedly belonging to him worth $35m after he failed to justify buying the property with his annual salary as Delta state governor of less than $25,000.
However sorry was the case, in the sense that, with the magnitude of the established crime of Mr. Ibori by the UK Judicial system, the prevailing situation was manifestly a different story in Nigeria. The situation tends to project the UK judiciary as the wrong-doer. When indications of his release began to show up in late 2016, it was a celebration galore in Ibori’s home town and the State entirely. The jubilation was so intense to the extent of a young motorcyclist, a Kinsman of Ibori, losing his life. The Ancient Asaba town and its environs were literally paralysed with jubilation, following the news of Ibori’s release. Residents from various quarters, particularly Asaba youths, rolled out in their numbers with drums dancing profusely to different patterns of drumbeats in celebration of the man they described as “Odidigborigbo.” Security agents and the popular Ogbeogonogo Market Women were not left out in the jubilation.
The event of his return in February 2017 saw no less jubilation. It was more than an elaborate party celebration in the State, particularly in
Oghara, his hometown. Residents of the state, not leaving out policemen, were on ground to welcome Ibori back to Oghara after his abrupt release that left him serving just four years against 13.
This surrounding circumstances will leave every rational person in his right mind, to be baffled with why a looter of the people’s treasure is celebrated by the people themselves. The problem boils down to be the prevalence of a sickly value system. Nigerians have grown to host and celebrate criminals in disguise, all for the sake of cheap settlement. Recently, Nigerian politician and the Serving Overseer, Citadel Global Community Church, formerly known as Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, had called on Nigerians to be wary of celebrating “enemies of the Country.” Calling for a change in perception, he pointed that the coming of the new decade offers Nigeria an opportunity to turn the tide of the nation and actualise the dreams of her founding fathers.
His words read in quote: “The Nigerian Government should be ready to confront the true enemies of our nation and to free Nigerian people of the greed of our oppressors.
“We must stop referring to treasury looters as generous and noble. These are the true enemies of Nigeria no matter the title they wear.
“We must indeed, stop celebrating these enemies of our nation. The true enemies are found at every level of government from the local to the state and to the federal. They can also be found on the streets, in households and in the market places.
“The enemies of our nation are those who abduct, murder, sell their votes, partake in loots and many more.”
It is by every means no later time than now, that Nigerians begin to identify by reality who the real thieves and the enemies of the Country are; those who they have been serving but have been exploiting what belongs to them to reduce them to perpetual sufferings and littleness. The standard requirement from Leaders and holders of public offices is “service”. Those who occupy these are meant to rule for the public good.
The use of commonwealth is expected in all its totality to be channelled towards general good with the premise anchored on national outlook. Those who projected themselves forward to manage, oversee and anchor the increase, equitable and fair distribution of national wealth, are those who have given themselves to the service of humanity. They are those who have streamlined the whole of their lives to human common good. However, in any case where the prevailing circumstances have been shifted towards selfish maniac moving aggressively to pull through to the place of power to fill their pockets, there is manifestly an alteration in the right order of what should obtain.
Thus, the onus lies on the masses who at large are at the receiving end to rise up and say no to this. In this light, if Nigerians will get rid of themselves from the plague of poverty in the midst of plenty, it is high time every one awake from sleep to sense and action to kick against all forms of exploitation by socio-economic and political enemies of the Country who in disguise appears as friendly suitors but are actually devouring vultures.