Speaking publicly for the first time since his release from prison December 21, 2016, former Delta State governor, James Onanefe Ibori said at a thanksgiving service in his honour by his Oghara kinsmen on Sunday at the First Baptist Church, Ogharefe, that he pleaded guilty to charges against him as a short-cut to his freedom and not because he was guilty as people were alleging.
Ibori who said this in his Urhobo dialect, said when his travail started, “what was most painful to him were the pains, the sufferings that my people were going through”, stressing that it had nothing to do with him as a person because for some reasons that he had not said to anybody, he had remained himself, and somehow, he knew that God would stand by him. “I knew that one day, this day would come. I am indeed very pleased to be in your midst looking at your faces; faces that I have missed, people that I have missed. When I reflect at the mercies of God, and all your prayers, God has answered”. Thanking his people for their support and solidarity, Ibori said if he were to give his testimony today, they would not leave the church. “The only testimony I have is the fact that I am alive and well and happy to stand before you today”.
Earlier in his sermon, Bishop God-do-well Awomakpa whose homily was titled “Know the gift of God, said in Urhoboland, there are only two people who have made an impact on the people, number one being Michael Ibru and the other, Ibori. He said one of the things that make one recognize a God-sent gift “is in the midst of wahala”, stressing great people always have troubles. According to the Bishop, most of the gift of God namely Jesus Christ, Joseph, Paul, Peter, James, John went to prison, so also did Ibori. While stating that dead bones shall rise again, Awomakpa opined that “we need politicians who will go into politics not because of their pockets but for the betterment of the land”. He said with Ibori’s safe return, God has granted the people victory and thanked Oghara people for the thanksgiving service, adding that this is the beginning of thanksgivings as Ibori’s friends, associates and supporters would also organize one for him.
The Ovie of the Oghara Kingdom at whose behest the thanksgiving was organized said Ibori is a great son “in whom we are well pleased. He said Ibori had written the name of Oghara on a very big map and had touched the lives of so many people hence they were thanking God for his safe return and God’s mercy and grace over his life. Personalities who graced the occasion included former Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, Ibori’s erstwhile deputy, Benjamin Elue, the Iyase of Benin Kingdom, Sam Igbe, members of the serving and former members of the National and State Assemblies, former minister of police affairs, Broderik Bozimo and his wife Rosaline, Steve Oru, former minister of Niger Delta Affairs, political associates and traditional rulers led by the chairman of the state council of traditional rulers, Emmanuel Efeizomor, the Obi of Owa.