James Ibori who was convicted for stealing $250 million public fund, money laundering and conspiracy to defraud has been described as a unifying figure and a blessing to the Niger Delta region.
Reports stated the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Uche Secondus, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, and Ex-Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and other national and state PDP leaders on Saturday shower praises and eulogised “the sterling leadership qualities of former Governor James Ibori.”
According to a statement by the press unit of the Delta State Government House, the officials spoke at Ovwor-Olomu in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State during a grand reception in honour of Mr. Ibori.
The statement said the party leaders described the former governor, who returned to Nigeria on February 5, 2017 after serving jail term in the UK, as a unifying factor in the development of the Niger Delta region and Delta State in particular.
Mr. Ibori had on February 27, 2012, pleaded guilty in a London court to 10 counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud. Before Judge Anthony Pitts, Mr. Ibori admitted stealing $250million as alleged by the prosecution.
The Metropolitan Police accused Mr. Ibori of spending some of the stolen money buying six houses in London – paying £2.2m in cash for one Hampstead mansion – and putting his children in expensive British private schools.
After he pleaded guilty, Crown Prosecution Service lawyer, Sasha Wass, made a short submission, saying the prosecution was discontinuing Mr. Ibori’s trial because the former governor had “accepted the entirety of the prosecution’s case as it has always been set out.”
Mr. Ibori was later sentenced to 13 years in UK prison. He was however released and deported to Nigeria in February 2017.
But despite being aware of the former governor’s antecedent, the PDP National Chairman, Mr. Secondus, and his colleagues, lavishly eulogised Mr. Ibori at the occasion, saying the PDP needed his leadership acumen to wrest power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Ibori must be celebrated because he is a man of the people not just in Delta state but across the nation, today, he is a factor in this country. On behalf of the masses of our country, we salute you, we salute your courage because you are a man who believes in the struggle of the party,” he added.
“You [Delta State] have a son that has built a political structure that is envied across the nation. Delta State remains the only state in the nation that has a stability in political succession. It remains the only state where all the Governor that have ruled the state are still members of the PDP,” he added.
Governor Okowa said Mr. Ibori laid the foundation of development in the state and established a political structure which served as a bridge builder and development agent across the country.
He thanked the people of the state for their support and called for greater unity among Deltans and assured them of more democratic dividends.
Mr. Uduaghan on his part, called for an end to rumour mongering and sycophancy in the state
Responding, Mr. Ibori advised the political class especially those seeking political office not to heat up the polity, saying power belongs to God and that only He can give power.
He said he has forgiven all those who played one role or another in his incarceration.
The chief host of the reception, John Oguma, said Mr. Ibori impacted positively on the state.
Mr. Oguma described Mr. Ibori as a national leader who helped in stabilising the nation’s political terrain.
No one at the event made reference to Mr. Ibori’s corrupt past or even to the need for public officials to desist from stealing public resources.