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How James Ibori recruited Christian leaders to visit Yar'adua

April 6, 2010
Image removed.Authoritative sources have told Saharareporters that former Governor James Ibori of Delta State organized yesterday’s visit of four Christian leaders to see ailing Nigerian ruler Umaru Yar’adua in Aso Rock Villa.

Archbishop John Onaiyekan, the outspoken Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Bishop David Oyedepo, the high-flying prosperity pastor who is general overseer of the Winners Chapel, Pastor Yusuf Obaje, who served as chaplain in Aso Rock during former President Obasanjo’s tenure, and Reverend Emmanuel Kure of the Throne Room Church in Kaduna made the trip to see Yar’adua.

Our sources said that Ibori, who remains in hiding after the EFCC chairperson, Farida Waziri, tipped him off on plans to arrest him for fresh money laundering offences, made contact with several Christian leaders to arrange a “Christian” visit to the gravely ill Yar’adua. Ibori, our sources said, acted at the request of Turai, Yar’adua’s wife, who felt that a visit by a Christian group would be a good move after an earlier visit by Islamic prelates backfired.

Besides, Ibori reportedly told her that a visit by Christian leaders would help calm a raging negative storm triggered by the visit by Muslim clerics. One of the Islamic clerics, Datti Ahmad, had issued widely reported threats that Nigeria would experience crisis if Yar’adua was removed from power.

 “Hajia [Turai] convinced Chief Ibori to arrange some Christian leaders to see her husband, whatever his condition, to douse any lingering controversy – and also to enlist some Christian sympathy for her desire to secure her husband as a continuing relevant factor,” said one source.

After Saharareporters broke the news about the composition of the Christian delegation, some newspapers rushed to town with claims that Archbishop Onaiyekan and Bishop Oyedepo had denied being part of the delegation. But Oyedepo today broke his silence in Abeokuta where he had gone to preach at Governor Gbenga Daniels’ birthday event. Besieged by reporters, Oyedepo confessed that he was actually part of the delegation. However, he arrogantly told the newspapers that he does not owe the Nigerian public an explanation for his visit, which he described as private.

Our sources disclosed Turai Yar’adua was overwhelmed by the public outcry that greeted the visit to her husband by four imams. A close source to one of the imams revealed that the Islamic leaders had held several meetings with Turai to fine-tune strategies for frustrating “acting President” Goodluck Jonathan’s consolidation of power. Saharareporters has learnt from various political sources in Abuja that Mrs. Yar’adua had lost a lot of sleep over the possibility that her physically ravaged husband could be declared incapacitated by a new cabinet put in place by Jonathan. “She had hoped that the imams’ visit could help ignite some sort of demonstration after Friday prayers in mosques across the north,” said one security source. When that outcome failed to materialize, she asked Ibori to help reach out to credible Christian leaders who could help douse the criticisms trailing the visit by the imams.

One source said that Ibori first contacted Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor who declined the offer. He then invited Oyedepo, Onaiyekan and Obaje who agreed to pay a visit. Obaje, who had a falling out with Obasanjo towards the end of his tenure because the ex-president had failed to anoint him governor of Kogi State, was said to be “excited to be part of the delegation.”

Saharareporters could not establish why Onaiyekan, who has a reputation for being outspoken about political corruption, and Oyedepo agreed to be part of the delegation. However, our source indicated that Ibori specifically recruited Reverend Kure to “help the Yar’adua group out with some propaganda.”

“Perhaps unknown to the other three, Reverend Kure was specially hired to do the same job for Turai Yar’adua that Dr. Datti did after the Muslim clerics’ visit,” said one source. “That job was to present to the public an impression that Yar’adua was making steady improvement and should be expected to return to office.”

However, after being grilled by foreign correspondents and local journalists after the encounter with Yar’adua, Kure was forced to admit that Yar’adua could only manage to grunt “Amen” during their prayer session with him. In yet another interview he said that he had closed his eyes to pray and could not tell if Yar’adua actually said Amen.

A source told Saharareporters that Onaiyekan was keeping silent for now because he was reportedly too shocked at the condition of Yar’adua.


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