Again, another episode in the James Ibori saga was scripted and displayed on the global stage a few days ago: James Ibori was taken in handcuffs—I guess—and extradited from Dubai, the United Arab Emirate (UAE) to the UK, where he will no doubt, have his day in a true court of law to face justice for some of the crimes he initiated and committed as a state governor in Nigeria.
There have been several other episodes—some of them took place and still remain in the private domain—in this saga of a young man who elected to call the bluff of decency to instead live and enjoy a life of crime with unsavory impunity at the expense of society, which he claimed he would, and even took oaths to serve with honesty and integrity.
Each episode in the James Ibori saga—in fact, the entire saga itself—because of how it implicates the Nigeria project, its managers, their servants, apologists, some of its normalizers, etc., repudiates—the proper word is rubbishes—the project and all of its accompaniments and trappings in their collective and respective essence. The saga’s heuristic importance for the understanding of the Nigeria project, the social milieu in which it emanated, derives from how aptly it mirrors the latter’s profile. Where else would such anomaly take place, except in Nigeria? Yet, it is only the tip of the iceberg when the ramification of the James Ibori saga is view alongside the manner of similar things that happen in Nigeria daily.
SaharaReporters, the gold standard
I don’t know about you, but I have followed this James Ibori saga as it unfolds. I have in the process, observed the choices made by everyone, entity or party that claims interest in the Nigeria project and the issues that are involved in the saga. This is in terms of the role that individuals, entities, and organs of the mass media play in how they view, report or relate to James Ibori himself and his associates as well as the saga that he spawned vis-à-vis the validity or the lack of same, of the Nigeria project, which I must say, serves as the breeding ground of the saga, which epitomizes much of the iniquity and abuse that are inflicted on the rest of us since over the years by its rulers. In my assessment, especially of the media— and the human actors who are involved in them—that report on the Nigeria project, the gold standard is SaharaReporters, its publisher, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, and their kindred-spirit enablers and associates. They stand apart from the pack particularly because of their unapologetic commitment to what Mr. Sowore characterizes as “advocacy journalism”, which I prefer to designate as combat journalism. But for SaharaReporters, Sowore and co., the James Ibori saga could not have played out the way it has, so far. It could have at best, frizzled out like everything else similar to it in the Nigeria project.
Choices, Conscience and Integrity
That, brings me to the issue of the choices that each one of us makes when it comes to the role that we must play in, about, or on the Nigeria project. Those choices are quite extensive, but when all is said and done, they all boil down to the content and quality of our respective conscience, and integrity as individuals. I have a friend who has chosen to pitch what can be described as a confusing stance on the Nigeria project, and play a role that at best scratches its shadows, i.e. the objective problems that it embodies, from the seams. In a recent piece entitled, “Nigerian Democracy Grows Up”, which he penned and played on Project Syndicate, a webpage of opinion and ideas, this friend of mine confidently describes the events of April 9 that took place in Nigeria as “clean elections” and applauds Goodluck Jonathan for delivering such. There is another individual who used to be my colleague when I was a work-a-day journalist in Lagos, who elected to become James Ibori’s spokesman. We’ve all been witnesses to how effectively he has earned his pay serving his master irrespective of the despicable acts of crime that are being leveled against that master and virtually everyone who has been associated with him.
Still on the choices that we must make on the sort of roles we play in the Nigeria project. A couple of days ago, I learnt about two Igbomen: a “consultant” who resides in Boston, Massachusetts in the US, and a webpage publisher, who also resides in the US, from where they chose to launder Muhammadu Buhari’s image for pay. My quick investigation revealed that these two individuals are behind most if not all the person-directed attacks on writers, made online as comments on every online piece, which they consider unfavorable to their principal and paymaster, Muhammadu Buhari. I wonder how these individuals manage to sleep at night when they retire to bed.
A brief aside here: If you recall, although Muhammadu Buhari has shed tears in the market square, and all. Has anyone heard him disclose truly why he is vehemently opposed to even a discussion albeit philosophically, of the merits and demerits of convening a sovereign national conference (SNC) in Nigeria? How about the source(s) of the stupendous wealth that sustains him, funds his serial presidential bids, and the largesse he dispenses to agents who help him to launder his image all over the place?
When people make their choices on or about where they stand and the role that they play in the Nigeria project, it’ll only be proper and brave for them to declare their motive at the same time. Is it for the blood money, the paid twelve-month fellowships in certain academic or generic think tanks in North America and Western Europe, the invitations to give paid talks here and there, matrimonial affiliations, or plain altruism? Let everyone who gets involved summon the courage to be up-front on his/her motive. It is also noteworthy to remind anyone who cares to know that there are the altruists amongst us who have made choices about our roles concerning the Nigeria project. People—count me in—in this category insist that the Nigeria project is illegitimate and evil particularly because it eschews self determination for the distinct nationalities that were made to constitute Nigeria. We advocate that it must be re-structured to reflect these nationalities and their respective aspiration, which is not homogeneous. Each and every one of us in this category of people has the education and skills in abundance to make blood money, etc. on or from the Nigeria project and the elements who perpetuate it. But we chose otherwise. The difference between the non-altruists and those of us who are is that we have rock-solid conscience and integrity that individuals in the former category lack. Need we apologize to them? Tufia! I don’t think so.
As always, let the vultures descend to feast on the kill that I’ve just made and left here for them to feast on. The choice is theirs!
● E. C. Ejiogu, PhD, is a political sociologist. His recent book, The Roots of Political Instability in Nigeria was published last month by UK-based Ashgate Publishing Ltd.