“I am still young. I believe I will be governor one day if I don’t die.” Those were his exact words. That was in the twilight of 1998. An evergreen personal encounter with James Ibori, at the terrace of his duplex at Bendel Estate, Warri.
Ibori barely 40 then, had every reason to wax philosophical and tentative. His major concern – Moses Kragha, Arch political rival in an imminent election.
The elite class particularly in his ethnic Urhobo land saw Ibori as a joker. Why not? Kragha (APP) came to the public dressed in natty outlook – aristocratic manners , ex Shell executive , oil and gas player and the big one – proud alumnus of world famous imperial college ,London the school where leaders learn .
On the flip side, the name Ibori rang no bell. Just an unknown young man, coming to Delta politics from Abuja under PDP. But then Ibori would settle all doubts soon. May 29, 1999, his self propelled prophecy came to pass. He became governor. Destiny fulfilled, he sent Kragha to political oblivion .
When divine power embraces you, pedigree pans out in mysterious eclipse. The race is not for the swift…Today the rest is history.
Sunday 5th February 2017. Back from prison. Face to face with the man. Ibori smiled after he volunteered a lavish handshake, as he reclined in the comfort of his sofa at Oghara.
What a man? What a prodigious birth? Guests – invited and uninvited trooped in to pay compliments in ceaseless droves. Kings, PDP buffs, APC devotees, APGA loyalists -political enemies walking together, women and youths. All came, shunning sundry differences to see one man.
As the visitors come and go, I keep staring at one man. The indisputable benefactor of governors, senators, ministers, speakers – powerful politicians and even the common folks. He must be the mythical Greek Atlas who carried the world on his shoulders.
Another Sunday. 12th February 2017. I saw Ibori . He gave a wink instead of that brotherly handshake last Sunday, no thanks to the human barricade at First Baptist Church Oghara.
Ibori must have an Olympic sized heart to carry people, their problems and possibilities. In a highly acrimonious state where ethnic lines are sharper than Razor, Ibori has no boundary, with his ebony black foot rooted everywhere – Urhobo, Itsekiri , Ibo, Ijaw and Isoko enclaves.
Oghara stood still. His thanksgiving took the time of men and minions. They came from all parts of Delta and far afield. Ibori was just dancing and smiling. Swimming happily in a sea of crowd. Men and mob follow him unsolicited. Ibori does not rent crowd. He reigns over crowd.
Ibori! One man with so much attention. Good and bad, fantastic and frightening. The Ibori mystique has a tinge of mysticism. It is safe to bet that even his bitter enemies are enchanted by his charm. Does this man sleep or rest? Thank God I am not Ibori!
For stranger elements, it may be difficult to fathom why the hullabaloo on Ibori even with a jail albatross. Forget the negative profiling of Ibori fixed by Lagos/Ibadan press. Cast off the fake news on social media. Jettison the anti graft platitudes at Abuja. Political subterfuge, not scam, is Ibori’s bane.
Ibori with all his flaws is an enigma, so deep to decipher. Let the “saints” of CHANGE go on with their tea party at Aso Rock and even London.
Ibori is not in Abuja. He is no longer in London. He is in the best place now- home, having tea and even Starch and Banga soup with his PEOPLE!
Those without blemish,”sinless” corrupt free Nigerians, some my good friends, keep fuming …why celebrate Ibori, the much advertised bad boy? It is the eye of the child that fears the mask.
Still wondering why we romanticize Ibori? Wait until you see him!
Written by Comrade Norbert Chiazor, Chairman, NUJ Delta State Council.