By Emma Amaize, Simon Ebegbulem, Festus Ahon, Akpokona Omafuiare, Perez Brisibe and Paul OlayemiSEVEN years after he left Nigeria, a former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, dressed in dark ash long sleeve shirt and navy blue jean trousers, arrived his country home, Oghara, headquarters of Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state, to a rousing welcome by his kinsmen, politicians, friends and top functionaries of the state government, at about 3.20 pm, yesterday.
Human movement literally came to a halt at Oghara after his arrival from Benin airport in the company of his associates, including his long-standing All Progressives Congress, APC, chieftain ally, Chief Ayiri Emami.
His entourage could not disembark on arrival at Oghara because of the mammoth crowd until about 3.41pm, 21 minutes after he arrived, as not only the villagers, but political associates and friends also flooded the country home.
At exactly 3:45p.m, Ibori came out of a black tinted Lexus Jeep in a whirl of screams and wild jubilation from the crowd, which had defied security blockade, to catch a glimpse of the man they refer to as the ‘father of politics’ in Delta State.
He waved to the crowd as he sauntered out, meandering his way through the surging crowd and went straight into his apartment where political associates, friends and chiefs from Oghara had sat patiently awaiting his arrival.
The former governor did not speak to journalists at Oghara, Benin and Abuja, probably following an understanding that he should not speak to the media to avoid overheating the polity.
Session with the DSS
Ibori, who returned to Nigeria aboard a British Airways flight, first landed at the Abuja International Airport and had a session with the Director General, Department of State Services, DSS, Lawal Daura, in the federal capital before he flew to Benin-City, Edo State.
A security source told Sunday Vanguard that the plan was for the former governor to fly to the Osubi airstrip, Warri, enroute to Oghara before the meeting with the DSS altered the plan.
The source said the DSS invited Ibori to its headquarers immediately after he landed in Abuja where one of his daughters, his successor in Asaba Government House, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, and three other friends were waiting to receive him.
Narrating the arrival of the former governor, the source said as soon as Ibori disembarked from the plane that brought him, he and those that received him moved to the domestic wing of the Abuja airport where a friend had made provision for a private jet to convey him to the Osubi airstrip.
“While waiting, a message came from the DSS that the agency would like to have a chat with Ibori briefly”, the source stated.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that a request was made that the meeting with the security agency be rescheduled but the authorities insisted the meeting must hold that same yesterday.
On getting to the DSS office, it was explained to Ibori, Uduaghan and others who had received the former governor that reports from Osubi indicated that a mammoth crowd had gathered there to receive him.
The DSS made it clear that such a situation with the crowd could easily get out of hand and be hijacked by hoodlums, thereby creating security challenge
“The meeting was a friendly one”, Sunday Vanguard source said.
A consensus was said to have then been reached that instead of Ibori flying from Abuja to Osubi, it was better to fly to Benin-City and sneak into Oghara
That was how the flight arrangement was changed and that was how Ibori ended in Benin en route to Oghara. He left for Benin-City after the session with the DSS.
Meanwhile, the crowd at Osubi, totally oblivious of the new plan, kept waiting for the arrival of Ibori by air.
Meanwhile, as politicians, friends and top government functionaries were waiting for him at Osubi aiport, he arrived the Benin airport at about 2:30 pm.
Sunday Vanguard learned that the former governor’s arrival at the Benin airport was even concealed from airport staffers until the plane touched down.
Before his arrival, seven black Prado jeeps and five Hilux vans and about 10 Mobile Policemen arrived the airport to wait for him.
Few of his family members were said to be around to welcome him. When the aircraft touched down, the former governor, it was learnt, waited for another 20 minutes inside the aircraft to disembark with his luggage. Security operatives cordoned off the VIP Lounge of the airport where he was welcomed by family members.
It was also observed that security operatives were on red alert against photographs being taken, as they warned journalists to stay away. One of his Ibori’s sisters insisted journalists they should not allow any photo even when security operatives tried to give journalists that opportunity.
Ibori alighted from the aircraft at 2:50 pm and smartly entered one of the bullet-proof Prado Jeeps and departed in a convoy of 12 cars. The former governor, who smiled and waved to journalists around, declined to speak before he left the airport.
At Oghara, he did not also speak to journalists . In fact, when he arrived, there was a stampede, as people wanted to see and touch him. It took minutes for him to come out of the vehicle that conveyed him. He waved to the crowd, after which, he went into his house with some friends, while the crowd sang and danced outside.
While inside his house, Sunday Vanguard learned that prayers were offered by political associates, led by a former PDP Chairman in the state, Capt. Pius Sinebe.
Starch and Banga delicacy
Immediately after the prayer session, he was said to have retreated into his bedroom, freshened up, came out dressed in white singlet and went to the dining table, flanked by the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya. The former governor and his guests then ate a meal of starch and Banga soup.
As at 4:58 pm, government dignitaries from the state were seen trooping into Ibori’s residence to rejoice with him.
The Oghara, Osubi ambush
To say that Oghara was agog over the former governor’s return would be an understatement; it was a frenzy of sort, as villagers laid siege to his home as early as 9.00 am.
But the wait at Osubi airport started around 10:00 am and ,shortly after, the airport was bursting to seams with Deltans and non-Deltans alike wanting to catch a glimpse of Ibori.
Crowd control could have been chaotic if he had landed at the Osubi airport, which was where many people, including the Secretary to the State Government, Chief Festus Agas; Hon Alphonsus Ojo; Chief Sheriff Oberovwori; Chief Pius Ovbije; Commissioner for Health, Dr. Nicholas Azinge; the Managing Director of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Chief Williams Makinde; Chief Lovette Idisi; Mr. Austin Ayemidejor, and Mrs. Philomena Oyarone, had converged.
Speaking on the former governor’s return, an erstwhile governorship aspirant in Delta State, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, said: “I am overwhelmed with the arrival of the doyen of Nigeria politics and Delta State in particular because he is one man, who plays politics for the benefit of his people. And the best politicians in the world are those who play politics of development.
“His return is more of interest to Deltans as a whole, whether PDP or APC. I do not ascribe Ibori arrival to the benefit of Urhobo alone, but the state as a whole. His arrival is proof that God is good,” he said.
A former Secretary of the State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Chief Andy Osawota, said: “Ibori is the man on ground, either here or in limbo, he has affected all and takes everybody along without discrimination. He is just like Jesus Christ because he ticks, a man, who does not want anyone to suffer.”