Another Christmas: James Ibori and the “Invisible Man”

Christmas is here! This time last year many politicians from Delta State were queuing up in London, England to see ex-Governor and Gubernatocrat, Chief James Onanefe Ibori. They were far away from home and the main reason they wanted to see “the Man” was to secure their political futures in the wake of the 2015 general elections and perhaps do other things for themselves. After all, Ibori is founder of the dominant Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) based Ibori Dynasty that rules Delta State even when he is in the slammer in a foreign land! One may wonder what this Christmas holds for the Ibori Dynasty.

Ibori is still a guest of Her Majesty; no change in that. Predictably, the queues coming from Nigeria to see Ibori in London at Christmas time are much shorter this year than last. No elections are happening soon and all ‘political rents’ and ‘favours’ have been shared if not over-shared. However, the shorter queues of visitors from Nigeria are no indication that Ibori’s grip on Delta State politics is on the wane. It is simply a quiet season in politics.

The big surprise at Christmas is the role of the immediate past governor and successor to Ibori, Emmanuel Uduaghan, in Delta State politics. Ex-Governors especially gubernatocrats with tons of money stashed away and ready for ‘political spending’ in their states either become senators, political godfathers/kingmakers, personalities of goodwill, elder statesmen, backing their political party [current and future candidates], making powerful covert / overt intervention in governance etc. Ex-governor Uduaghan is neither of such personalities.

Instead, the ‘Uduaghan personality’ can be best described as retiring, surreptitious, unengaged and elusive. Such is very uncharacteristic of a man who continuously for 16 years as commissioner, then Secretary to the State Government (SSG), and then governor (for the last 8 years). For one and a half decades he was one of the most prominent “faces of Delta politics” and in a bang at the end of his tenure of governor he has made himself very obscure, if not invisible.

One can only speculate why Uduaghan has become the “Invisible Man” of Delta politics. Firstly, some say his gubernatocracy was extreme and he kept Delta State’s wealth to himself and a few cronies alienating most from the ‘goodies’. His projects for Delta State were reputed to be mostly incomplete and derisory. Furthermore, Ibori’s patronage network that brought him to power was systemically side-lined; always a bad move in politics. The resultant has been most ordinary Deltans dislike Uduaghan vehemently and the wealthy and powerful ones despise him with a vengeance.

Secondly, many swear Uduaghan was neither a leader nor a politician but got into politics and succeeded on the prodding, strength, assurance and guidance of his cousin, James Ibori. Uduaghan for many who knew him was always a bookish geek that read hard to become a medical doctor but generally lacked effective social skills not to talk of political ones necessarily backed up by considerable acumen, delicacy, finesse and tact. That is not to say that Uduaghan was not a very ambitious man or lacked inner strength or cunning. Nevertheless, without the prop and guidance of Ibori, the visibility of his incompetence became easily evident and his “avoidant personality” became prominent.

Thirdly, there is the fear of prosecution for corruption which concerns Uduaghan. Usually, one reason why corruption is difficult to prove because of a lack of evidence and witnesses. As “generous” and “empowering” as Ibori was to too many inside and outside political circles, it took only the moderate efforts of those he had aggrieved to get him vigorously prosecuted and ultimately behind bars. Uduaghan was neither generous nor empowering to anyone but a few and numerous enemies will most willingly be ready to produce concrete evidence and bear witness unrelentingly against Uduaghan if the need arises.

Elsewhere, [ex]-Senator Ighoyota Amori of PDP, also a part of the Ibori Dynasty has been sent back to Mosogar, in Ethiope West LGA, Delta State by a court tribunal for winning his seat in the senate fraudulently; Ovie Omo-Agege of the Labour Party has taken his place as a senator. This is a bad outcome for the Dynasty. Not much news is coming from Ifeanyi Okowa, the third man to become Governor of Delta State courtesy the Ibori Dynasty… yet.

Locked away in jail and hidden away in invisibility, Ibori and Uduaghan, respectively, are not going to spend the Christmas of 2015 the way they imagined they would when the Ibori Dynasty was and its principals were so “untouchable”. Well, let us see what the Christmas of 2016 will bring for these Delta politicians.

Grimot Nane

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