James Ibori is both Nigeria and a Nigerian in the most representative of terms. The Ibori Corruption Saga has much less implication for the ex-governor of Delta State himself; it is a signature of Nigeria as it, its forgettable past and possibly its uncertain future. Ibori’s triumphant entry into Nigeria is seriously superficial, his real welcome was a very deep reflection of the expectations and preferences of the ruling elite in Nigeria and their clients. Ibori’s return home to Nigeria is a test for all who have misgoverned and stolen big from Nigeria.
Nigeria has no time or space for impractical people. By nature or nurture, the Nigerian is thoroughly pragmatic, mostly about money and power, in all their ways. Money (and power) is the true God in Nigeria, not Jehovah, not Allah, not Mohamed, not Amadioha, not Olodumare and not Okunovu; why deceive yourself? Super pastors are in strong competition with each over the obscene claim of being the “richest pastor in Africa”. When neoclassical economists say every single thing human beings do is merely to increase their utility or profits, they are describing Nigeria perfectly.
Many are not satisfied with the sincerity of most of those who now frown upon Ibori’s triumphant return to Nigeria after spending years in a UK jail for money laundering [of Delta State public funds]. How many would have turned down the largesse Ibori is famous for if they had the opportunity? They do exist and some have done so during Ibori’s tenure in power, but how many? This dissatisfaction may seem a personal problem, yes, but does it tell a genuine if not profound story of Nigeria, if examined?
If Ibori’s entire HMP Brixton Prison visitors’ list is published in the media, you would not be too offended by and may exonerate the ordinary Nigerian people who danced and chanted in the street to welcome him home. “I was there”, signed the ruling elites. If money and power are the real God in Nigeria and James Ibori is believed to remain endowed abundantly with them, why the complaint about his public worship by supporters, regardless of him being a convicted money launderer who is set to challenge his conviction?
Furthermore, one can be assured that the Nigerian ruling class all wish that if they happen to be convicted at home or abroad, they would get the same welcome home that James Ibori got. Many of Nigeria’s Big Thieves have stashed the funds they looted from the state overseas, a lot of them still have the imminent threat of conviction for money laundering and other financial crimes hanging over their heads. These men are not sleeping well at night but Ibori’s return is giving them hope, lots of hope and reassurance. These are the very men and women that rule Nigeria, and we should not forget that.
The Ibori Corruption Saga cannot be separated from the notorious antics of Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North). This senator gave James Ibori the most outrageously flattering eulogy ever heard of a Nigerian politician in both recent and distant memory; he made Ibori seem omnipotent within the Nigerian political arena even from his prison cell in the faraway UK. This is the same senator who took it upon himself to pervert the law-making capabilities of the National Assembly to permanently immunise Senate President, Bukola Saraki, from his corruption indictments, perhaps at the behest of Ibori. Nwaoboshi also is positioned to help ex-Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State with his corruption woes too. Nwaoboshi is fast becoming Nigeria’s foremost corruption defender, what a reputation to behold.
All in all, Ibori is apparently still a super kingmaker, supreme political fixer, easy multibillionaire, he is backed by the most powerful in the land, he is loved by his people and others, and being an ex-convict has not dampened his money and power status much. He is home free in both literal and figurative senses. “He has the whole world in his hands”. Many decent, honest and hardworking Nigerian are asking themselves how they got so wrong while Ibori gets it so right. Others are conceding it’s Ibori’s destiny. And yes, many will deny these assertions and may be offended by them but when they are not expecting it their conscience will tell them their truths about the matter at hand, not anyone else.
Most regrettably, President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign has failed irreparably. His glib “give back Nigeria its stolen funds” and his pronounced toughness on corruption filled with senseless media exposes are more memorable as flashes-in-the-pan public relations than anything of political or diplomatic substance. Ibori, for all his travails, is an incomparable hero in the country Buhari rules.
More than ever the stealing of public funds has been definitively affirmed as the only or best way to become rich and famous in Nigeria. Does that not say something apt about Nigeria and Nigerians? Real anticorruption blitzes that will clean up the country are definitively firming up like the early formations of El Nino, but not under Buhari’s watch. Be wise.
In the present time, Ibori won!