JAMES IBORI: FOREIGN VILLAIN OR LOCAL CHAMPION?

 

“You be thief, I no be thief, you be armed robber, I no be armed robber”…remember that popular track cooked by the late legendary Afro-beat musician Fela  Anikulapokuti? It is a soundtrack that best suits the captivating ‘one-man’ movie trailer produced and directed by former Delta state governor James Ibori recently.

The ex-governor is no movie producer nay actor, but his recent statement “I am not a thief” at his thanksgiving ceremony in a church in Delta state following his release from a UK prison would definitely do well at the box office.

His unrepentant innocent posturing and attempt to “repaint” his ex-convict portrait sort of abuse and irritated the sensibilities of Nigerians, if not all-An attempt that also tries to smear the credibility of the justice system of a foreign power that found him guilty of corruption and consequently sent him to his prison sojourn.

This short movie clip by the ex-governor portends danger to Africa’s largest democracy’s fight against corruption and at the same time made her a subject of ridicule on the international scene.

The 12th February unholy comments by James Ibori in the sanctuary of a church in his hometown of Oghara where he affirmed his supposedly virtue-laden path had always been orchestrated by God reeks of hypocrisy and further cast dark clouds over the moral uprightness and obligation of the country’s religious institution. It is a well scripted plot that bodes down well with late Afro-beat maestro Fela Anikulapokuti’s dig at the two dominant faiths in the country in another popular hit of his, titled “Suffering and Smiling”.

It is sad and disheartening to see that Africa’s most populous country and sixth largest producer of oil in the world still languishes in poverty because of many years of political misrule and dearth of good leadership. The country has simply failed to actualize her full human and mineral potentials due to this cancer: Leadership.

The failure of past and present leaders, have borne a dysfunctional system where mediocrity is celebrated at the expense of hard work- A dysfunctional system where our value system seems to have taken a plunge into the depth of irredeemable abyss.

Or how can one explain the recent charade anchored by the former Delta state governor and an ex- convict? It is a puzzling situation and an anomaly that can only happen in a peculiar society like Nigeria’s.

It is not a heresy to say that Nigeria’s corruption has evolved into an ‘unstoppable’ juggernaut crushing every form of defence set up to cage it. Something, the current APC administration of President Muhammadu Buhari can attest to.

Pillaging and looting of the country’s resources by political office holders have gone unabated for more than four decades no thanks to the unwillingness and insincerity of the leadership to punish offenders.

The lethargic and languid body language by the past and present government has not only foisted corruption on the landscape but, has made it a norm in the psyche of those charged with the responsibility of steering the political wheels of Africa’s giant.

Sordid tales of massive corruption abound in the media with 90% of culprits going home unpunished. And even when they are caught and tried by the law court, they are eventually discharged and acquitted by the justice system. This fact mirrors James Ibori’s kangaroo trial in Nigeria before the UK judiciary did the right thing and served justice.

For James Ibori, his prison sojourn does not only ridicule and expose Nigeria’s judicial system but, also vindicates President Buhari’s frustration at the judiciary in his inability to fight corruption head on.

The country’s third and last arm of government had made headlines for all the wrong reasons over corruption allegations involving her judges, a scandal that saw the APC led government  extend its anti-corruption campaign by beaming the searchlight on the institution regarded as the masses’ last bastion of hope and justice.

Beyond the fraught lines of the judiciary, lies a non-conforming value system that has been reduced to bare bones no thanks to the uncomfortable and ‘two-faced’ disposition of the ruling elite. Many a time promises to fight corruption were made, but the accompanied actions and resolve only raise doubts and disillusionment among Nigerians. In addition; former President Goodluck Jonathan’s statement that “corruption is not the country’s problem” during his reign avidly serves as a reminder and validates this stance.

Back to James Ibori’s ignominy, his infamous action portends danger for the country’s leaders of tomorrow. It is a bad example and toxic exposure to the youths.

The former Delta state governor’s posture has not only passed a mixed and wrong signal to the teeming youths but, has also rubbished the efforts of the country’s educational policy makers that strove to formulate a new curriculum and introduce Civic education in Nigeria’s primary and secondary schools to arrest the decline, halt the perfidy in the value system and imbue a sense of nationalism in the youths by anchoring them to the tenets of honesty, integrity and patriotism.

A society can only pilot its flight to ascendancy and greatness provided its leadership and political institutions are strengthened to promote values and ethos, and also confront ills that could weaken the ‘runway’ to a successful takeoff. This is what clearly sets the Chinese and Western societies apart from Nigeria’s. The former most especially has proven her desire to attaining greatness and sustainable development through her robust political institutions that have promoted acceptable values and fought corruption head on in Chinese national life and government circles.

What went down in Delta state reeks of Bode George’s escapade except that he was not imprisoned abroad. The former Nigerian Port Authority head also had a beautiful reception arranged for him and the warm embrace of the church to re-launch his smeared image and thrust himself back into public sphere.

Hence, it is high time Nigeria’s government took an introspective look at her national life and find ways to address the pervading rot in it. Something PMB has already started but, would need continuity and same willingness from whoever takes over from the former general at the end of his tenure.

But, for now, Nigerians can only relax, sit back and grab a bucket of popcorn as they listen to the discordant tunes being played by key players in this theatre of the absurd.

 

 

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