President and founder of Christ Missionaries Crusaders Church International Inc., Archbishop Goddowell Avwomakpa, has described Mr. James Ibori, the former Delta State governor convicted of money laundering, like a shining light of the Urhobo ethnic group. Avwomakpa, widely çalled "Political Archbishop " on account of his penchant for drooling over politicians, delivered his verdict on Ibori at First Baptist Church, Oghara, venue of the Delta State government- funded thanksgiving service for Mr. Ibori, who was recently released from a UK jail. Delta State governor and protege to Mr. Ibori, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa, approved the sum of N350million for the service and reception.
Archbishop Avwomakpa said Mr. Ibori and first civilian governor of the state, the late Mr. Felix Ibru, remain unsurpassed, regarding achievements, by any other Urhobo political office holder. "I termed them the only golden fish in Urhobo land," said the clergyman.
While urging Mr. Ibori to be a good ambassador of Delta State, Avwomakpa advised the ex-convict to be careful before making his next political move. The Archbishop likened Ibori's case to that of Biblical Samson, who was bounded and handed over to the Philistines by same people who cheered and hailed him when he came to their rescue. Avwomakpa advised all political office holders to always identify with the church and the traditional institution.
Responding, Mr. Ibori insisted he was innocent of the charges to which he pleaded guilty and for which he was convicted in the UK.
Speaking largely in Urhobo, he said: "Today I have decided to speak for myself, I am not a thief, I cannot be a thief. Today is the day they say I should give testimony to God, for those that know me, you know that my entire life is a testimony itself and I have said it over and over again that my life is fashioned by God, directed by God, sealed, acknowledged, blessed by God and I believe that since the day I was born."
The former governor claimed that while in prison, he missed the people of the state, adding that his return to the country was made possible by their support and solidarity.
"If I am to give testimony of my journey, you will not leave here. The only testimony that I have is the fact that I am back and alive in your midst. And again I say that I never had any doubt in my mind that I would get back home.
"Urhobo adage says it is in the river that changes clothes. It’s in the river I changed my cloth. When I looked how things were going, I discovered that they want to separate me from you people," Mr. Ibori said.
Governor Okowa was, however, conspicuous by his absence from the service. It was learnt that he shunned the event, following stinging criticism of the N350 million he approved to welcome Mr. Ibori.