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Ibori: What Oghara meant to teach Nigeria

Now that the dust and hullabaloo -over a people’s audacious, trademark reaction to their son who went, saw and conquered a London prison- has died down, proponents and opponents must be in a good frame of mind to listen to some sense, even if it comes from someone fond of talking nonsense. The intention of this discourse is not to wake up sleeping dogs, but to show how even seemingly petty changes in ethics and attitudes can become priceless drivers of national development and integration. It’s time Nigerians buried the natures that have permanently arrested the development of our country.

Nigeria is a humorously-strange or strangely-humorous country that other countries individually and corporately eye as the global capital of hypocrisy. True to type, we may hypocritically launch back at those countries but deep down in the inner recesses of our national conscience, we know that this nomenclature is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This is the country where citizens known to have murdered peace and sleep and who therefore ought to pay the supreme price, not only walk about free but also have the temerity to appear in the court of public opinion, keeping straight faces, to sit in judgment over hungry compatriots caught stealing a goat.

This is the so-called great country of good people where the triplet vices of injustice, hate and greed thrive. This is the land peopled by evil geniuses endowed with the dexterity of manufacturing or manipulating blame for others and exoneration of self. Smart people, we believe that just as we can never be guilty others can never be innocent. That explains why there’s been a steady, sharp rise in religiosity, but a mountain-to-valley crash of values leading to an alarming rise in criminality. Shamelessly, thinking we deceive the world, we mock ourselves by embarking on what’s clearly a fruitless, empty ego-chasing trip in the name of this or that campaign. Ever wondered why none of the campaigns broke any ice? Simple: they were all dead on arrival!    

Some Nigerians got so good they raised the bar of the 10 Commandments by concocting an eleventh namely, thou shalt not be caught. Meaning, you are free to break all the laws you can but ensure you are never caught. Unlike all the holy 10 which are enshrined in the Book of Life, the eleventh commandment is written only in the hearts of two hundred million people. Yes, it is true, Nigerians, good and bad, know and live by that rule. Anyone who protests inclusion or screams innocence on this count should be ignored because of the point made earlier about hypocrisy!

Enter Chief James Onanefe Ibori. Since sneaking into national consciousness in 1999 aged 40, when he became governor of his native Delta State, the former two-term governor has remained a major political actor. Not once did he stop. Not even on Tuesday, 17th April, 2012, when Southwark Crown Court, London found him guilty of corruption. In fact, it seems that the godfather was even more powerful behind bars, considering that from while still facing trial, he got his cousin, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, a second term and a year before he was freed, helped incumbent, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, elected. No doubt, after his 21st December, 2016 release, the man naturally, even if unconsciously, returned to headline news where he belongs. So, was the ad hoc deafening celebration of welcome by his people such an abominable signature?

I have taken a position. However, before sharing it, permit me to take you through how I arrived there. There are Nigerians in this country who served as long as or longer than Chief Ibori who have also been accused of having helped themselves to the public till. Have they been punished? Secondly, even with all that ‘saintly wealth’, have they attracted what I call the Ibori impact and difference to their community? Thirdly, apart perhaps from the one and only Tinubu the Great, and Senate President Bukola Saraki, how many other governors of that 1999 (to 2007) Class have remained, even in their states, like Ibori: afloat, relevant and deciding factor numero uno? Name members of that class whose communities celebrate them as cacophonously as Ibori’s people do their son. In fact, aren’t there serving governors and such other high profile leaders whose communities would boo, not cheer, at them now let alone when they leave office?

My point is this: it was foolhardy and hypocritical for us to condemn Oghara people for that massive jubilation over a son who obviously made/makes them happy and proud. I stand with Oghara people on this. I salute them for their un-Nigerian mannerism of not deserting a benefactor in crisis. I recall that they mounted roadblocks to his home to inhibit our selective law, until the man had vamoosed into the creeks and reappeared in Dubai. Oghara and their son teach us a lesson or two about the fact that what’s wrong or right in Nigeria is a matter of perception. Fire-spitting, tongue-speaking born again Christians who occupy church front rows in this country today would actually vote for a liberal herbalist as against their high-flying bishops, if occasion demands.

Fastidious killjoys and holier-than-thou casters of the first stone who insist on remembering Chief James Onanefe Ibori’s London jail years after he stumbled over the eleventh commandment must not forget the other, more beautiful, side of his split personality as someone’s hero and model and sponsor-mentor, rolled into one. His silver linings of love for community and his people as shown in his legendary social munificence and political speciesism are leaves others must borrow.

This is not a vote for corruption, but where or if corruption has sufficed, there’s no harm in sharing the spoils to the people rather than pretending that we are blind fools who didn’t see or know what transpired. Enough of these preachments on ethical and attitudinal ideologies. Nigerians have enough values to last us a lifetime. Now, all we are saying is: give us a piece of the national cake. This is the new gospel that has been resonating from Oghara. Let’s stop playing deaf and hypocritical. God bless Nigeria!

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1 Comment

  1. Peter Okeke 16th May 2017 at 5:17 pm

    I would like to ask the writer if Ibori was the governor of Delta state or that of his community only. Was it right to steal from the state and make only his people happy at the expense of representative well spread good governance. We should call a spade a spade and leave it at that. No more no less. He was not elected as the governor for his community and himself. What the people of his community did was formal celebration and putting of garland around the neck of corruption.

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