Ibori: One Country’s Shameful Non-Secret By Sonala Olumhense

James Onanefe Ibori
Columnist: 
Sonala Olumhense

In the end, for James Onanefe Ibori last week, it was very simple, very quiet, and very lonely.
“Guilty,” he said, of himself.

In the sleepless hours before that moment, the former governor of Delta State must have had plenty of conversations with his high-priced lawyers, who must have had many conversations with the prosecution, who must have been holding up a sign which read: Dead End. 

Do you know why municipal administrators and road construction crews put Dead End signs on roads? 

They do so to avoid accidents.  Otherwise, most Dead Ends are pretty obvious.
In Mr. Ibori’s case, many things were quite clear that day in Dubai when he heard the words, “You are under arrest!”

He had been around British law, its lawyers and courtrooms.  He had reviewed the famous 1970s Iyabo Olurunkoya case which sent the lovely Lagosian to jail.  He knew intimate details of the case of former Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye, and even more of Governor Dipreye Alamieyeseigha.  He knew the British.

Ibori knew British lawyers: how professional and diligent they were, especially when they were being heavily paid.  He had faced them twice before, when he could not really afford to pay them, and had twice been convicted. 

Still, he knew they were the best friend a man could have if you were paying them handsomely.  And this time, Ibori had the cash and the connections to pay them. 

That was until the contracts were all signed and the lawyers were cashing the cheques.  And then, curiously, the courtroom of Southwark Crown Court kept getting smaller and growing hotter at each hearing. 

And then, one night last week, they told him, quietly, that the choice before him was not jail or no jail, but between jail for close to forever and jail for shorter than that.

What was “shorter than that,” the self-proclaimed Odidigborigbo of Africa must have wanted to know.

“Well, in all honesty, one or two decades, sir!” A robust Cockney accent. 

At which point Ibori must have emitted an admixture of a gasp and a sigh, his tongue hanging out of his mouth:  “As in 10 or 20 years?”

Of all the qualities of Time, one of the most profound is its ability to stand perfectly still when you have nowhere to go.  I imagine that when your lawyer says you can choose between forever and a couple of decades for the right to determine how long you will be able to travel only to the toilet, you must feel pretty boxed in. 

As we now know, Mr. Ibori, his focus on self-preservation, chose shorter-than-forever.
“Guilty, Your Honour.”

Let us remember that no significant money-launderer acts alone.  Not one.  They gather friends and relatives and even acquaintances to help in the ultimate hauling and trucking, for a share.  In Mr. Ibori’s own circle, at least four, who include his wife, his sister and his mistress, have already been sent to jail.

But that was not the plan.  All of his UK troubles seemingly behind him, and back in Nigeria during the Sani Abacha years, Mr. Ibori learned quickly that Nigeria was his natural terrain, a place where you could do whatever you want, if you knew how to do it, and get away with it.  A hustler’s heaven.

He learned you could purchase people and justice and position in almost the same way you paid locally for goods and services: cash.   That must have been why becoming governor of Delta State was so easy.
But once “Governor,” he knew he could have it for all of eight years, and for longer if Olusegun Obasanjo implemented his third term scheme.  But imagine: eight years in which to move from being Lord and Master of small and cramped Delta State into owning Africa and the world.

Let the records show, then, that he did rule Delta for those eight years, as he had promised himself, and then ensured he was succeeded in office by his cousin.  Let the records also show that he then bankrolled the election of the new President, his former colleague in the Governors’ Forum, Umaru Yar’Adua.   

Once that was accomplished, Ibori was set for life—our life, that is, because his was already fully assured.  He knew that he could live forever.  He owned Aso Rock and all that was within.

Recall that in a famous interview in April 2009 with The Guardian, Mr. Yar’Adua was asked if it bothered him that his government appeared soft on corruption and that some former governors who were perceived to be corrupt were so close to his government.

Answered Yar’Adua: “It is…between me and them, the ex-governors. You see, these former governors are my colleagues. We had worked together for eight years. Because I am the President, I cannot just jettison people I know…I don't know anything else about the fight against corruption that we have not done.”

That may explain why, when the time came and the EFCC outlined 170 charges of corruption against Mr. Ibori, he got exactly the trial he wanted, and at the location, courtroom, prosecutor and judge of his choosing.   Not surprisingly, all of the 170 counts were dismissed, and the Third Class graduate of the University of Benin climbed aboard a helicopter to the institute to deliver a Founder’s Day lecture.   

The trouble was that Mr. Yar’Adua’s health betrayed him and the power cabal of which Mr. Ibori was a leading member.  But being an active cabalist, regrettably, guaranteed the future only if Mr. Yar’Adua returned to power, but he did not.  His death left exposed all of those who had trampled on his would-be successor, deliberately or otherwise. 

That was why Mr. Ibori was wandering around the wilds of Dubai without a loincloth to cover his manhood.
“Guilty.”

That is not an easy word to say.  Judges throw it only at others.  What must have made it even more painful is Ibori’s knowledge of many of his accomplices who got away with a lot of “his” money; accomplices who must be drinking to British justice today as Ibori’s incarceration makes all that money theirs.
“Guilty.”

To the former governor, those words must have been surreal, like the dreams of a drunk.  Once upon another lifetime, Mr. Ibori was a shop cashier in the same neighborhood.  London, England: the object of much lust and subject of many a song. 

He found himself when he left England, to become all-powerful and all-conquering, with the world at his feet.  To return there only to face a long jail stretch must be very painful. 

The British—God bless them—have pledged to trace Ibori’s assets to the ends of the earth.  They will assemble everything, deduct their expenses, and send Nigeria the change. 

That will still be a fairly healthy return, except that the next chapter seems pre-written.  The repatriated loot, if the history and character of the current government and its sponsoring party are any guide, will either vanish or be held in trust for Mr. Ibori.  The Abacha loot has never been accounted for. 

The final regret Mr. Ibori will have a lot of time to think about, therefore, will be about all those prominent Nigerians who have got away with their “share of the national cake.” He knows them all. 

The funny part is that he could have been a Senator, in that retirement home where hypocrisy, looting, pedophilia, certificate forgery and image laundering are normal and you do not even have to read a single bill.

The tragedy, however, is that Mr. Ibori’s conviction is a denunciation of our independence and our democracy.  It underlines the shame that passes for governance in Nigeria, in all the arms of the government, and across 50 years.

•    sonala.olumhense@gmail.com
 

Comments
29 comment(s)
Post a comment

Unbelievable!

WAZZUB is another search engine company just like google, yahoo, facebook. These companies are profiting billions dollars every year because of us the users but do we get a share of those profit, NOPE!.....
This is why WAZZUB was created, to share 50% of the profit to the users and to give the users the opportunity to earn a profit every month for life but only to those users who've signed up before april 1st 2012 (locked in their position) and it is 100% free to sign up.Where do the money come from?......... Money come from millions of advertisers that pay company like facebook, google to have their business shown to the audience (the users).
Remember there's billions of users using google, facebook and the advertisers will go where the users are.
Just amazing WAZZUB getting as much users as google and facebook, WAZZUB will profit billions and will share 50% of the profit to those users that signed up before april 1st 2012.
http://signup.wazzub.info/?lrRef=9bfa7

painful,that is how a typical

painful,that is how a typical Nigerians are, Is not peculiar to Ibori!

to deal woth boko haram, we

to deal woth boko haram, we depend on the west; to drill the oil beneath our feet, the west; to refine it, the west; there's nothing except criminality that the blackman is capable of! no wonder no whiteman would consider us as equals with them. but we are quick to copy their homosexuality, their tattooing, even our Nollywood artists are twisting their tongues to speak like white people. i have never seen a people with this much inferiority complex and indolence like Nigerians.

Well Done

it's unfortunate that brilliant minds such as the author's belong to people who have to painfully endure the mediocrity that is the government of Nigeria. but as i shall always maintain, Africa's woes are the makings of Africans, not apartheid, not colonialism. we are independent yet we depend on the West for every thing to make our society work except of course getting our wives pregnant.

@MR Anonymous

@anonymous lecturing us about mr. Ibori's guilty plea, please save that lecture for your ignorant self. We are not stupid. Yes, Ibori was not charged for corruption because it was not the place of British's legal system to charge Ibori for a corrupt act commited in Nigeria. He was charged for laudering money in England where they have jurisdiction. So, please do not tell us that they dropped all corruption charges because of want of evidence. Let's get that clear.
I think we ought to change our constitution and outsource all corruption trials to the white men....USA, UK, etc......any place but Nigeria. If Ibori plead guilty to all these crimes, I can't understand how an "unlearned" judge in Nigeria acquitted him of all charges. Hopefully this serves as a lesson for others doing what Ibori did.

Nice piece. Well written.

Nice piece. Well written. Particularly liked your description of the Nigerian Senate. Spot on.

Meen na wao ..all this Ibori

Meen na wao ..all this Ibori castigation on here.. if them give you the opportunity he had you'al would do worse.. im not saying he did the right thing but come on ..why are we so happy he has been jailed by the brits? is he the only person with a stain in govt in Nigeria? Nigeria is a useless country to let other countries ridicule her citizens.. abeg ee all of una wen dey happy say dem jail am i for like do life simulation and put u'al in his shies.. na 100 trillion una for thief...signing off abeg

A TOTALLY NEW ORDER

It is time for all Nigerian patriots to participate in the demand for and the actualisation of a new order in Nigeria. The disgrace and humiliation heaped on Nigeria by the Ibori saga should energise all patriots to ensure the end of the order that continuosly elevate idiots and thieves to the helm of our national affairs.Justice marcel Awokulehin and his type in all aspects of our national life should be fished out and dealth with accordingly by a People's court that will be at liberty to decide its own procedure and pass any sentence that it deems fit including capital punishment. The judiciary should never again be allowed to judge their peers.

Nice one

Nice one

Ibori pleads guilty

Those of us who have followed the corruption trial of this criminal ex governor and kingmaker believe that the people of Delta do not deserve to be given back that stolen wealth.They it was,who took the case the EFCC had against him to Asaba and set him free.The youths in his home town truncated another attempt to arrest him and created a leeway for him to escape to Dubai.If the acted in this way because they felt the man had stolen nothing from them then they do not deserve it.The money should be used in completing Ajaokuta Mill, which if fully active will give jobs to thousands of Nigerians.

LET HIM DENY THIS CONVICTION AGAIN

Great write up and more grease to your writings. People should follow events as they occur before they comment. The sentencing of James Ibori is coming up on April 16th and 17th respectively. All odds was against him and he risked 25years in British prison hence the cheaper way was inevitable thereby pleading guilty. How come people and the Nigerian judiciary that has lost integrity decline prosecuting Ibori when he returns. Let him finish his jail sentence in UK and still come back to deny ever been jailed before. God will still bring out more Ibori's into judgment.

LET HIM DENY THIS CONVICTION AGAIN

Great write up and more grease to your writings. People should follow events as they occur before they comment. The sentencing of James Ibori is coming up on April 16th and 17th respectively. All odds was against him and he risked 25years in British prison hence the cheaper way was inevitable thereby pleading guilty. How come people and the Nigerian judiciary that has lost integrity decline prosecuting Ibori when he returns. Let him finish his jail sentence in UK and still come back to deny ever been jailed before. God will still bring out more Ibori's into judgment.

Dis piece deserves a golden

Dis piece deserves a golden globe nomination, my dear wrriter, dunno y u r making everytin dramatic, d only infomation or should I say positive note I take from here is dat journalism is not ur calling but script writing. Our nollywood writers would benefit largely from. All our leaders are corrupt,wot u shud do is 2 try expose dem, not tell us wot we already know.

effuru motor park

it is a good thing for the people of Delta,the government of Delta will no alonger be determined in a motor park.good if ibori can get up to 20yrs for his eveil doing in delta.

THE 14 MILLION WILL BE PAID BY IBORI OR BY DELTA STATE.

All the amount spent to prosecute Ibori will be recovered from the delta state loot stolen by Ibori.

Sad to see my brothers and sisters in the north & south suffering like animals when a select  few from north & south continue to enjoy themselves with stolen money and to deflect attention from themselves, they have managed to get poor unintelligent Nigerians into the dangerous mode of GROUPTHINK- Hausas blaming the rest and the rest blaming Hausas.

My predictions for Nigeria is that (unless there is a miracle) in 10 years time there will be war lords controlling different regions of the country with total collapse of educational and civil structures. Boko haram & MEND are already doing that in Northern Nigeria & Niger Delta Creeks with schools being blown up and Police men & Army men being killed. 

Anarchy has already befallen us and in our hour of need, there is a dearth of powerful leaders that can think beyond their noses.

what happened 2 abacha's loot dt was returned?

They will assemble everything, deduct their expenses, and send Nigeria the change.

Nigeria’s Boko Haram calls for “war” on Christians

Nigeria’s Boko Haram calls for “war” on Christians
- A string of bombings in Nigeria have terrorized the country.LAGOS: A Nigerian spokesman for the Islamic militant group Boko Haram told Bikyamasr.com on Sunday that they are planning a “war” on Chri..

Read at: http://www.StateofNigeria.com

PLUS:
1. Independence Day bombing suspect dies in prison
2. Nigeria risks coup, without national conference —Musa
3. North ready for Nigeria’s breakup – Junaid Mohammed

Go to:

http://www.StateofNigeria.com

Thank you Brother you have

Thank you Brother you have said it all again.
V.I.P. consult Fela, (VAGABONS IN POWER) Headed by JONA, MARK, THE HOUSA MAN FROM THE BOKO AREA. And their party of thieves and killers
Nigerians wake up if not all Nigerians the South west which seems to be more politically advanced

@ Anonymous

Mr anonymous,

you need not write this epistle to castigate the British or defend your master, even if they (Brits) spent £15M on the investigation and they recovered $250m then it leaves the good people of Delta state a staggering $225m (N36bn) to improve their state! please don't try to paint night as day abegi

That he didn't plead to corruption but plead to money laundering; do you need to launder legitimately earned money?

Extinction

Any one who steals billions of Naira at the clear expense of the development of his community is mentally ill. Stealing is just an outlet for a depraved mind.

No wonder these cleptocrats have sick and disfunctional families. Nigerian's pray that they will become extinct soon.

i don't know who u think you

i don't know who u think you are talking to. ibori was found guilty of corruption and money laundering whenever u are done.

Guy you be monkey abi you no

Guy you be monkey abi you no know say Ibori na thief or you like to join am for there?

@ Anonymous: I pity Ibori & his kith and kin

Mr. Anonymous, I addressed you as a male gender because your tone rightly suggested so. Your frustration is understandable: I know that you're Ibori's first-degree relative or, at worse, Ms. Udoamaka Okoronkwo's brother/relative. My broda, take am easy.... It's unfortunate that your personal ambition and dreams suddenly collapsed like a pack of cards. Take heart, my broda. God dey!

Ibori the petty thief

The prosecutor called him a "thief in government house". http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17181056

Nigeria official 'stole millions'
www.bbc.co.uk
James Ibori, a former governor of one of Nigeria's oil-producing states, pleads guilty on money-laundering and fraud charges worth a total of $250m (£160m).

Ibori did not plead guilty to

Ibori did not plead guilty to any corruption charges. With the corruption charges removed because they could not be proved beyond any reasonable doubt, the Police stayed with money laundering charges, to be proved by nothing but inference — the convincing of a jury of white persons. No proof, no evidence would be needed then, no documentary truths would be established.“The British and the Nigerian establishments have been driving this case to a pre‑determined end, and a battle weary Ibori was advised to plead guilty, end what had promised to be a long‑drawn trial, and begin to rebuild his life which had been tossed about in an ocean of legal controversy and trials because of politics— since 2003, that is nine long years ago. Also, Ibori did not want a long‑drawn trial where Nigeria’s name would be bandied about in a forign court.”

Ibori did not plead guilty to

Ibori did not plead guilty to any corruption charges. With the corruption charges removed because they could not be proved beyond any reasonable doubt, the Police stayed with money laundering charges, to be proved by nothing but inference — the convincing of a jury of white persons. No proof, no evidence would be needed then, no documentary truths would be established.“The British and the Nigerian establishments have been driving this case to a pre‑determined end, and a battle weary Ibori was advised to plead guilty, end what had promised to be a long‑drawn trial, and begin to rebuild his life which had been tossed about in an ocean of legal controversy and trials because of politics— since 2003, that is nine long years ago. Also, Ibori did not want a long‑drawn trial where Nigeria’s name would be bandied about in a forign court.”

14 pounds to investigate Ibori?

According to Eluemunor, “the world was made to believe that Ibori’s guilty plea was a sudden turn around and not a well‑deliberated act that was part of a plea bargain deal. But it is on record that several Nigerian newspapers of last Sunday published different versions of that self same story; that Ibori would plead guilty as part of a plea bargain arrangement.“Of course, that plea bargain deal would only kick in with Ibori’s pleading guilty, which he did on Monday. After that plea, which had been successfully foretold by Nigerian newspapers, both the prosecution and the defence counsel were to return on April 16 and 17 to make their needed statements

British government spent 14m pounds to investigate ibori

Unfortunately, while Ibori’s lead counsel stayed true to this time‑tested legal procedure, the prosecution counsel went rogue and began to make wild and unfounded statements aimed at nothing but self‑glorification and Ibori’s demonisation.“What was not clear to Nigerians was that the prosecution lawyers were labouring at damage control as the publication in several Nigerian newspapers of last Sunday had leaked out the secret that the seven‑year investigation against Ibori had not only cost the British taxpayer £14 million but was funded by the DfID —the Department of Foreign Development.

this is so senseless, whats

this is so senseless, whats with all the drama put into the story? at the end we still dont know the sentence, my friend you just wrote a silly unapprehensive story here. are you informing us or are you writting a movie? cos this pretty seems like a movie to me with no serious information

Post a comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Comments are limited to a maximum of 1000 characters.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <p> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.