In this final article in my series of replies to Simon Kolawole’s “The Welcome Party” where he condemned the massive celebration Chief James Onanefe Ibori’s release from UK jail elicited in Nigeria, I will face the sixth untruth in his single article. He wrote: “Season Three, I call it ‘The Journey’, started in 2010 when the government of President Goodluck Jonathan re-opened the case and Ibori, in an attempt to escape another trial, ran to Dubai”.
Olusegun Obasanjo’s Aso Rock had spent its entire second term setting traps for Ibori, but he was re-elected, was not impeached, and completed his tenure. The first obstacle was that Ibori’s name mysteriously disappeared from the list of those cleared to contest the 2003 elections, which was displayed at Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters, Abuja on a Saturday.
The then INEC Secretary, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, was in charge as Dr. Abel Guobadia had travelled to Benin for the weekend. I called Guobadia in Benin, and he denied that INEC stopped Ibori; he addressed the press in Benin the following day to insist that Ibori was cleared. Today, Baba-Ahmed is a columnist that pontificates on right and wrong, and I laugh, knowing that talk is cheap.
The next attack was the ex-convict court judgment forgery. That too failed to fly. Then after Ibori had completed his two terms of office, as Delta State Governor, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu stepped in to stop his forward match in Nigerian politics. He arrested and arraigned Ibori in Federal High Court, Kaduna. Why Kaduna? Forum shopping is the answer! Between Asaba and Kaduna, there are well over eighteen Federal High Courts starting from the Benin Division of the Federal High Court.
That is a story for another day. His real weapon was to keep an accused in Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) custody and torture him until he would choose either to die or plead guilty. D.S.P Alamieyeseigha got this treatment and he was counseled by several people to plead guilty and live.
My witness here is no less a person than former President Goodluck Jonathan himself. He met with Alamieyesiagha at the Vice President’s Lodge, Marina, Lagos, and convinced him to plead guilty. Jonathan, on that occasion, was an emissary of late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s, who promised to grant Alamieyeseigha state pardon because he was convinced that he was a victim of a witch hunt.
What pained Yar’Adua the most was that Alamieyeseigha was accused of purchasing Chelsea Hotel, Abuja, for himself, when it was bought for Bayelsa State. If this is true, then only God can understand why Jonathan who was Alamieyesiegha’s deputy did not correct this impression, even when he became President. Till today, that hotel lies totally fallow!
Ibori escaped Ribadu’s deadly plot by requesting the court to remand him in Kaduna prison. What followed; that it took the Judge two complete months to decide whether to grant Ibori bail is a sign of what had been plotted for him. Ibori would have been given the Alamieyeseigha treatment, denied bail; trial would have stalled indefinitely, until he would be forced to plead guilty.
May 2010, things had changed drastically. Jonathan was now President, and after Jonathan had declared that Ibori should be arrested DEAD or ALIVE, as newspapers widely reported, his administration attempted to slap a coup d’état charge against Ibori; a charge whose punishment is death.
Pretentious investigations actually began after which arrests would follow. The Chief Apostle of that plot from hell was Jonathan’s one-time National Security Adviser (NSA) late Gen. Owoye Andrew Azazi followed by the then Chief of Defence Staff whom late Azazi reported the fake intelligence to; the two then went to work on the then Chief of Army Sfaff. Azazi had already set plans in motion before he told Ibori’s brother, friend and comrade Chief D.S.P Alamiesiegha who then dragged him to see Ibori in Lagos to repeat his allegation to him face to face.
What delayed their planned arrest of Ibori was the stance of the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau (the present Interior Minister) who refused to join in that devilish plot. He told them that they could not make a coup plot against Ibori stick without dragging in some innocent soldiers. He said to Azazi: “Sir, you have been everything in the Army, including its head.
So, why will you destroy the Army just because you want to rope in a politician into a non-existent coup plot? How many troops are under Ibori? Were he to contemplate a coup plot, would he, a bloody civilian, even know who to recruit? Would Ibori not prefer to wait for the next election and work against the re-election of a sitting President, which you and I know he has the power to do?
To make this thing stick, you know you have to rope in a lot of innocent soldiers, and destroy many families – all because of politics. You and I know that no real intelligence report has brought this up or fingered Ibori. Sir, if you want to take him out, find other ways to do it but don’t involve any innocent soldier; no officer, no troop, under me.”
Then he promised to talk with Ibori. On leaving General Dambazau, the lawyer who accompanied Ibori to that meeting advised him to leave Nigeria if he wanted to remain alive. Ibori did not return to his house, which by then was being watched by strange faces: without getting home to collect anything, he left Nigeria for Dubai, where he did not bother to hide but stayed in a hotel to contemplate his next move.
Just one more thing, before we close this chapter; last Monday, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, Obasanjo’s former Special Adviser, International Relations, published “Return of James Ibori” in the Vanguard. He bore witness to what I wrote last week that Obasanjo declared an all-out war against Ibori, using the Federal Government, EFCC, the Police, the diplomatic trail and heaps and heaps of lies. Cole granted this much: “(Ibori’s) achievements are considerable”, “he belonged to the club of rich men; though he was fantastically generous and he carried himself as a successful rich man.
James Ibori, like most PDP members, did not believe that General Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ, would want a second term. Ibori had said electing OBJ for second term was unwise and that OBJ was unelectable. This is why OBJ had it in for Ibori who had led the movement to stop Obasanjo’s second term bid because that was the original agreement at the time of recruiting OBJ to run in 1999. OBJ was to be President for only one term, so even the third term proposal was unaccepted.
“Have it in for Ibori” is an idiom, meaning “to persistently try or desire to criticize, cause harm to, or harass someone, especially due to a grudge”. So, the truth is that it was not an anti-corruption fight that led to Obasanjo’s misuse of the EFCC to hound Ibori; it was Ibori’s opposition to Obasanjo’s crudity which was giving politics a bad name, according to Cole, Obasanjo’s Under Secretary in Dodan Barracks, Lagos, whom Obasanjo appointed Daily Times M.D in 1976, 1987 -1990 Ambassador to Brazil and who returned as Obasanjo’s Adviser in Aso Rock, Abuja in 1999. And when Cole wrote that “Ibori led the Southern revolt” he should know what he was talking about. Often, he was the one Obasanjo sent, whenever the 1999 – 2007 set of South-South Governors met to advance the Fiscal Federalism (Resource Control) course, to whittle down the effect of any collective stance. Unfortunately, Cole is from the South-South.
Rather than reveling in the witness of Dr. Cole (PhD, Cambridge) that I wrote the truth in my last article, I mentioned him for the deceptive philosophy in his essay’s introduction and conclusion. His intro: “HIS (Ibori’s) achievements are as considerable as his background is somewhat murky and unclear”.
So, right from the first line, he had to detract from Ibori’s achievements by bringing in unclear and murky background. How does Dr. Cole define murky and unclear? Would he agree that some things about himself are really “murky and unclear”? When Obasanjo dropped him, only Aso Rock insiders knew it was because of an oil business concerning Sahara Oil and Ghana. Does that make Cole’s life murky and unclear ever after?
I don’t think so. Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole and Chief Yomi Edu are two people that can testify to how most of the PDP Governors of 1999-2007 spent their own resources in their various states to get Obasanjo and the PDP in power. Most of them were men of means before contesting for the position in their various states. That is one admission he makes and probably accounts for PDP’s solid structure in Delta State today.
His concluding paragraph: Showing his angst at the heroic welcome Lagos crowds accorded the late Biafran leader Chief Emeka Odumegwu – Ojukwu on his return from exile and the one Ibori is sure to receive, he asked a totally illogical question: “What if at the end of the World War II, Hitler was to come back to Germany, what would be Germany’s reaction”?
Hitler was the aggressor in the Second World War. That some people still believe in his Nazism, Aryan race and anti-Semitism nonsense has no bearing with the Ibori issue, which is strictly that of government’s forgery of indictments against him. The example of the most publicly known charge against Ibori, the $15m bribery allegation, will do: Ibori was not asked about it when EFCC questioned him on July 4th 2007. It was never mentioned while he was being questioned after his arrest on 10th December 2007; EFCC never questioned Ibori at all on it. So Ibori never made any statement about it.
Interestingly, Ibori was arraigned at the Federal High Court in Kaduna on December 11, 2007, but the three statements about that bribe allegation – Ribadu’s, Lamorde’s and James Garba’s were dated December 12, 2007. That is, two days after Ibori’s arrest and a day after he was arraigned in court.
Such leaves doubts in Ibori’s follower’s minds – doubts about the money’s origin, Senator Uba’s role, etc. Uba himself would later issue a press statement saying Ibori handed out the money in his presence and house but he was ignorant of the reason for that transaction. Thus Uba, a Senator of the Federal Republic, was contradicting Ibrahim Lamorde and James Garba, who said in their police statements that when they collected the money from Uba’s house Ibori was not there, and that Andy Uba’s aides brought out the money.
That is yet another set of contradictions in the various statements as though all the accusers have been condemned by an unknown force never to agree on any material particular except on the name Ibori. Ribadu himself has made some five statements and all contradicted every other one! And if Ibori handed out the money, in Uba’s presence, why did Mr. Rotimi Jacobs say in open court that the money came from IBORI’S UNKNOWN AGENTS. Hey, how many versions should truth have? The real truth will come out one day.
For lack of space I’ll reserve my expose of all the lies in Ribadu’s several statements as well as in those of Lamorde and James Garba for next week.
Coles last statement: “One thing is clear; Ibori’s arrival in Delta will change the political dynamics of Delta State and thereby of South-South.” Wrong: Delta state and South-South politics never changed; the people have remained loyal to Ibori’s leadership though he has and remains absent from home for almost a decade.
This is truly remarkable! Cole may not understand this; just as he did not understand Ndigbo’s ever enchantment by Ojukwu. May it never be forgotten that Ibori has not yet returned, yet he is causing this entire ripple. This is because the South-South celebrates the grace of God which kept their hero alive despite all the devilish machinations against him which began during Nigeria’s era of brigandage, gangsterism and banditry which claimed the lives of Bola Ige, A.K Dikibo, Harry Marshal, Chuba Okadigbi, DSP Alamieyesigha, and countless others. And none stood as stoutly in the turf of battle as the Odidigboigbo himself.
Tony Eluemunor is Ibori’s Media Assistant.