•Confounds politicians on affiliation with Uduaghan, his successor•Holds thanksgiving tomorrowEmma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South Perez Brisibe and Paul OlayemiSINCE he took flight from the country, on the spur of the moment, about six years ago, and subsequent trial and conviction in the United Kingdom, the second civilian Governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, had always dreamed of the day he would finally return to his fatherland.
The calendar day came, last Saturday, February 5, when he touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at about 5:37 a.m in company of two of his kinsmen, Prince Charles Abutor and Emmanuel Ganiga in a British Airways Boeing 777 aircraft with registration number, G-VIID.
Two quick lessons
Two things have become palpable since his return, which he is still savoring at his country home, Oghara, Ethiope West local government area. One is that Chief Ibori has learned to be quiet about himself and his activities after the loud celebration of his release, December, last year, in London, by some of his political associates.
The other is that it is ill-advised for anyone, politicians in this case, to count their chickens before the eggs are hatched. Indeed, political analysts in the state are still puzzled that despite the much talked about humiliation of Ibori’s successor and brother, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, which some top politicians in the state boasted would happen on his homecoming, nothing of such came to pass.
Dr. Uduaghan had earlier being maligned as Ibori’s “persecutor-in-chief,” but on February 5 when he landed Nigeria, those who did not know that Ibori took their tales with a pinch of salt were shocked to see that Dr. Uduaghan, who kept his cool all the while, was among the most trusted three or four persons that came to the airport, early that morning, to receive him. Most of them were even in the dark about his arrival.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Ibori confidant, Chief Ayiri Emami, who is among the selected persons that came to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, accentuated the point when he told Saturday Vanguard that going by the rumours he heard, he was speechless to see Uduaghan when he came at about 5.00 am already at the airport .
His words: “I arrived at about 5.00 am only to see that Uduaghan was already there. I later came to know that about four of us were separately communicated to be at the airport to wait for him (Ibori) and each person was told not to tell anybody. We arrived separately and only met ourselves there.”
What I saw between Ibori, Uduaghan – Ayiri Emami
Trying to be tactical in his comments, Chief Emami said: “What I saw last Saturday following the arrival of Ibori at the Abuja airport further confirmed the blood relationship between Ibori and Uduaghan, these two people are members of the same family, anybody trying to split them should watch it. There is a parable in Itsekiri land that says you do not expose the quarrel of two brothers, they are blood brothers and they recognize that.”
According to him: “When I got to the airport that morning, I met Uduaghan running around to ensure that everything was in order and when Ibori landed, both of them were in communication ear to ear without anyone in between, not even their children. I was looking at them, as it was just the two of them alone and I tell you, I could not even eavesdrop on their discussion.”
He volunteered: “People might be cooking up stories as regards their relationship. One has to be careful when it comes to issues of Ibori and Uduaghan. Even if there are differences such differences are no issues.”
Amori corroborates Emami
A top member of the Ibori political family, Chief Ighoghota Amori, who also spoke independently to Saturday Vanguard, said: “The relationship between Ibori and Dr.Uduaghan is still very cordial and as cousins, they have come a long way and blood they say is thicker than water.”
“But whatever the perceived hiccups might be, Ibori is above all of that, there is no problem between them and they would remain brothers for life,” he added.
How Uduaghan accompanied his brother to the Aso Drive head office of the Department of State Services, DSS, where Ibori had a brief meeting with the DSS Director General, Mr. Lawal Daura, is already public knowledge.
Consummation of first lesson
From available information, Uduaghan did not join the chartered plane Abuja, IZYAIR with registration number, 5NIZY, which flew Ibori and others to the Benin airport, but the stratagem to enforce Ibori’s first lesson was activated in Abuja before he left.
He had initially frowned at the ostentatious celebration in London, preferring a quiet affair, and with the sea of people waiting at Osubi Airport, near Warri, to receive Ibori, they knew that a wrong signal would be sent. That was why the lavish airport reception was abandoned, in spite of the inconveniences it caused many. A diversionary plan to use Benin Airport was reached.
Though he was scheduled to land Benin airport at about 11:30a.m, Chief Ibori finally arrived the around 2: 30p.m in company of Chief Ayiri Emami, his daughter, Hon Erhiatake Ibori, representing Ethiope West in the state House of Assembly and one of sons of former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Tony Anenih.
Arrival at Oghara
If he sidetracked the crowd at Osubi, he could not evade the one at his country home in Oghara, as when he pulled in to his land of birth, less than an hour later in a long motorcade, there was no space for him to enter his residence.
Because of the surging crowd, he was stuck in his car, but he afterward resolved to come out and acknowledged cheers from the multitude at about 3:45p.m. As expected, they went wild in screams of wild jubilation. Meandering his way through the unrelenting crowd, he went straight into his apartment where political associates, friends and chiefs from Oghara had sat patiently awaiting his arrival.
Inside his apartment, prayers were offered by friends, led by a former PDP chairman in the state, Capt. Pius Sienebe (retd.) At the end of the prayer session, he went into his bedroom, freshened up, came out dressed in a white singlet and went to the dining table to savour his customary starch and Banga soup delicacy.
At about 5:45p.m, more guests, including the immediate former deputy governor of the state, Prof Amos Utuama, Chief Tom Amioku and a host of others trooped in.
Like a loyal subject, three hours after his arrival at Oghara, Ibori in company of some of his close associates, sneaked through the back exit of his country home to an unknown destination, leaving the gathering that stationed themselves in anticipation of him addressing them.
In a convoy of five black Prado jeeps with sealed number plates, the former governor landed at the palace of the traditional ruler of his hometown, the Ovie of Oghara kingdom, Orefe III, III. He was accompanied him by Chief Ighoyota Amori, Chief Henry Ofa, Chief Ayiri Emami and his daughter, Erhiatake Ibori at about 6.40 pm
Speaking on the visit, the Ovie told Saturday Vanguard: “We are excited that he has finally had his breath of freedom in Nigeria and in his hometown here in Oghara.”
How first day ended
On how Ibori spent the night, Chief Ofa, who accompanied him on the visit to the palace said: “Immediately the meeting ended, he went back to his country home where guests continued trooping in to congratulate him on his freedom.”
The incursion of politicians into Oghara on the second day of Chief Ibori’s arrival confirmed reports that Oghara has become a “political Mecca” for politicians within and outside the state.
However, for the second time since his arrival, Ibori departed his dwelling to an unknown destination at about 12:27p.m in a convoy of 13 cars on February 6. Prior to his day trip, the former governor played host to the senator representing Delta South Senatorial district, Senator James Manager, at his place.
Those who accompanied Senator Manager included the member representing Burutu constituency in the state Assembly, Hon Daniel Yingi and a member on the board of the Delta State Board of Internal Revenue, Barry Gbe.
The visit by Senator Manager and his team was followed by some members of the Delta State House of Assembly, Prince Eric Oharisi, Samuel Mariere and Chief Sheriff Oborewhori , who turned up at about 1:30p.m in four black Prado jeeps while he was momentarily out of location.
The icing on the cake
However, high point of the day event was the visit of the state governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who came with a coterie of government officials at about 4:02p.m.
Giving details of the hectic itinerary of the former governor on the second day of his arrival, Chief Amori said: “We were awake till 3.00 a.m into the third day, as we have been entertaining visitors, who kept trooping in to congratulate him.”
On the third day, other prominent Deltans, including the ex-military governor of defunct Mid-West region, Major General David Ejoor (retd.), former Acting Governor of the state, Rt. Hon Sam Obi and the traditional ruler of Uvwie Kingdom, HRH Abe I, joined others to celebrate with Ibori.
Describing Ibori’s return as delightful, Rt Hon Sam Obi, said: “Deltans are celebrating the return of our father, who is a political colossus, he is a detribalized man and his absence has been felt by all and sundry. His return has brought hope to everyone because he represents hope for Deltans.”
He advised the people of the state to remain peaceful, law abiding and committed to the development of the state.
Otuaro meets Ibori
Deputy Governor, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro on the fourth day, led another set of politicians to celebrate with the former governor.
Otuaro who reached Ibori’s residence at exactly 2:57p.m discussed intimately with the former governor, who is also his political leader.
Others, who visited same day were former governorship aspirant on the platform of the PDP, Mr. Tony Obuh, chairman, Governing Board, Delta State School of Health Technology, Mr Nelson Ejakpovi, top politician, Chief Solomon.Ighrakpata, management and staff of the Delta State University, DELSUTH, Oghara and Delta State Polytechnic, Otefe, Oghara.
Also in Oghara were the Managing Director of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Chief William Makinde, Executive Director, Social Services Development of the commission, Mr. Ochor Ochor, former Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Mr. Raymos Guanah, former Commissioner for Commerce, Olorogun Ebenezar Okorodudu and former Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Love Ojakovo.
The list included the former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state, Chief Pius Sinebe, Special Project Director, Ughelli-Asaba Road dualization, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, former Chairman of Post Primary Education Board, Philomena Ededey, Mr. Steve Ovedje, Mr. Solomon Areyenka, Mr. Paul Owumi, Chairman of the PDP in Ethiope West Local Government Area, Mr. Ojo Onome, amongst others.
Day of thanks
Since his arrival, the stream of visitors has been endless and the testimonies towering. Up till yesterday, they were still pouring in and tomorrow (Sunday) the former governor will hold a thanksgiving service for his safe return in Oghara, which politicians are expected to jam-pack, after which the daily political pilgrimage to Oghara will probably drop.