I’m not a thief – James Ibori … Clergy man says he is ‘a gift to Urhobo people’

Former Delta State governor, James Ibori, who was convicted of money laundering in the United Kingdom, has said that he isn't a thief. The former gove

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Former Delta State governor, James Ibori, who was convicted of money laundering in the United Kingdom, has said that he isn’t a thief. The former governor spoke in public for the first time since his return from the United Kingdom where he served a 13-year jail term for money laundering at a thanksgiving service organised in his honour by the people of Oghara Kingdom at the First Baptist Church, Oghara in Delta State.

Addressing the congregation, Ibori said, “Today, I have decided to speak for myself, I am not a thief. I cannot be a thief. Today is the day they say I should give testimony to God. For those that know me, you know that my entire life is a testimony itself and I have said it over and over again that my life is fashioned by God, directed by God, sealed, acknowledged and blessed by God and I believe that since the day I was born.

“Like Archbishop Avwomakpa said, when this whole commotion started, what was most painful to me was the pain and suffering that my people were going through. What I went through has nothing to do with me as a person because for some reasons, like I said to you, I drew my strength from God and somehow, I knew that God would stand by me.

 “I knew that one day, this day would come. I am indeed very pleased that I can now stand before you and look at your faces, faces that I have missed and those of you that have indeed suffered the pains of my absence. It has nothing to do with me.”

The former governor, who switched between Urhobo and English languages while speaking, added, “So, when I reflect, it gives me joy that all your prayers, God has answered, all your support and solidarity for me all through this period, it is indeed not what I can begin to say. Like what our former chief of staff, Francis Agboroh, said ‘it is unthinkable.’

“If I am to give testimony of my journey you will not leave here. The only testimony that I have is the fact that I am back and alive in your midst. And again, I say that I never had any doubt in my mind that I would get back home. When I looked at how things were going, I discovered that they wanted to separate me from you people. They wanted me to go to the corner where I won’t be seen.

“That’s how I see it. …I am happy to be home with my people. There is nobody that can battle with the Lord. An Urhobo adage says there is time for everything (okemutie). A day will come when I will tell my story and every one of you will hear me. Today is to thank God.”

Earlier in his message tagged, ‘Knowing the gift of God,’ the South-South Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria and the President and founder of Christ Missionaries Crusaders Church International Inc., Archbishop Goddowell Avwomakpa, said a man carrying the gift of God was the one sent to bring joy to his people. He added that Ibori was a gift to the Urhobo people irrespective of what he had passed through. Avwomakpa stated that the people of the state were happy to have Ibori back in good health.

Archbishop Avwomakpa said Ibori and first civilian governor of the state, the late Mr. Felix Ibru, remain unsurpassed, regarding achievements,  by any other Urhobo political office holder.  “I termed them the only golden fish in Urhobo land,” said the clergyman. 

While urging Mr. Ibori to be a good ambassador of Delta State, Avwomakpa advised the ex-convict to be careful before making his next political move. The Archbishop likened Ibori’s case to that of  Biblical Samson, who was bounded and handed over to the Philistines by same people who cheered and hailed him when he came to their rescue. Avwomakpa advised all political office holders to always identify with the church and the traditional institution.

The thanksgiving, which was attended by politicians including a former Delta State governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, a former Police Affairs Minister and his wife,  Alaowie and Mrs. Broderick Bozimo, Ibori’s former deputy, Chief Benjamin Elue, Senator Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, Mr. Ovuozourie Macaulay and Olorogun Paul Abu, was held under tight security.

James Ibori, wife, Senami, sister and Christiana Ibori-Ebie

Former governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan

Senator Patrick Osakwe, Senator Emmanuel Arvwodo and Hon. Osai Nicholas Osai

Officiating ministers: Rev.Godwin Oyibo, Archbishop Goddowell Avwomakpa and Prof. Joseph Otubu

Ras Kimono, Orits Wiliki and others


Punch/Sahara Reporters (pix credit)