By James Ibechi
Oghara in Ethiope West local government area of Delta State, home town of former Delta State governor, James Onanefe Ibori, bounced back once again last weekend as the political capital of the oil-rich state having virtually gone into oblivion since the travails of perhaps his most illustrious son who went into exile when agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, turned the heat on him.
Ibori, 57, was arrested in Dubai, the United Arabs Emirate in 2010, and extradited to the United Kingdom, where he was jailed in 2012 for money laundering.
His sister, Christine Ibie, wife Nkoyo, and mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo, had earlier been sentenced and had served out their jail terms ahead of Ibori who was released December 20, 2016.
Since his release, his kith and kin as well as political associates had looked forward anxiously to his arrival. And when it did happen on Saturday, no one was left in doubt that indeed, Ibori is a man deeply loved by his people, warts and all.
One remarkable thing about Ibori’s return is that Oghara, as it was when he held sway as the governor of the state until his tango with the law, has regained its groove.
Since weekend when he once again stepped his feet on the soil of the town, Oghara has become a political Mecca where political associates come to felicitate with him and reassure him of their unalloyed loyalty.
Among those who had so far visited was Amos Utuama, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who was the deputy governor to immediate past governor of the state, Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan. Utuama was Ibori’s attorney-general and commissioner for justice from 1999 to 2007; Pius Sinebe, former state chairman of the PDP, Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and one-term senator who represented Delta Central senatorial district.
Others are Ovie Agass, secretary to Delta state government, Ighoyota Amori, a former commissioner, Willie Oki, chief executive officer of an indigenous construction firm, Wokson Engineering Nigeria Limited, former and serving commissioners and local government chairmen, amongst others.
Explaining why the people were so jubilant and accorded Ibori a rousing welcome, Ejaife Odebala, former member of the state House of Assembly and special adviser on project monitoring, said: “I am too happy, too happy, too happy and we thank God.”
According to Odebala, chairman, Sapele local government, “Our man who suffered for us is back”, stressing that “first, Jesus Christ was so good; he died for us.
“Ibori is so good, he went to prison for us. Mandela was so good, he went to prison for us. So, no matter what they say, we know God has done something good for him and for us.”
A visibly over-excited traditional chief, the Ezomo of Oghara said “oh, today, it’s God. We just thank God for today. I have no time for comment today because today is a very happy day.”
As Ibori settles down after over four years of being away, putting together his once formidable political family, which had been in disarray since his travail, would engage much of his time.