While celebrating his return from the United Kingdom recently, former governor of Delta state, Chief James Ibori, declared that he was not a thief despite serving a 13-year jail term for alleged money laundering.
“Today, I have decided to speak for myself, I am not a thief. I cannot be a thief. Today is the day they say I should give testimony to God. For those that know me, you know that my entire life is a testimony itself and I have said it over and over again that my life is fashioned by God, directed by God, sealed, acknowledged and blessed by God and I believe that since the day I was born.
“Like Archbishop Avwomakpa said, when this whole commotion started, what was most painful to me was the pain and suffering that my people were going through. What I went through has nothing to do with me as a person because for some reasons, like I said to you, I drew my strength from God and somehow, I knew that God would stand by me.
“I knew that one day, this day would come. I am indeed very pleased that I can now stand before you and look at your faces, faces that I have missed and those of you that have indeed suffered the pains of my absence. It has nothing to do with me,” he had said.
Since he made the remark, Nigerians have been reacting with some commending him while others criticising him. Read the reaction of some lawmakers and the president of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum below:
MOSHOOD OSHUN (chairman, Lagos Assembly committee on public accounts for state)
For me, it is confusing because he pleaded guilty when he was not coerced. He served the sentence. If he was found guilty, he could have appealed, but in this case, he said it himself that he was guilty. So now coming back to say he would appeal or leaving judgement to God is confusing. I think he is the only one that can really assist us here. The prison is meant to rehabilitate a person and I want to believe he has been rehabilitated and is now a better person. But if he says he is leaving judgement to God, then there must be something he knows, that God knows but that we do not know as Nigerians which he must tell us. He did the most sensible thing by pleading guilty so that the judge would temper justice with mercy.
DAYO SAKA FAFUNMI (chairman, Lagos Assembly committee on the environment)
I am not in a position to determine what name Ibori should be described as. It is left for the right thinking Nierians to decide and read in-between the lines. If he pleaded guilty to the charges read in Britain and having been convicted in Britain, he carries the tag: ex-convict. Except he gets pardoned, he cannot erase the tag. For me, it does not matter if he calls himself a name different from what the law calls him. For the British, they believe he stole money, they saw certain level of misrepresentation and that informed the decision of the court to get him sentenced. I don’t want to join issues with Ibori on this, but all I know is that anyone that goes to jail remains an ex-convict.
MUFUTAU EGBERONGBE (SA on political and legislative matters to the speaker of Lagos Assembly)
If he is not a thief, he should go back to the court and prove it. He should not leave anything to God. The jurisprudence in the clime where he was apprehended is such that they would always listen to him and listen in good time. Let him go back and clean the smeared image. I think we should be people of conscience in this nation. Like I said while discussing with some of my constituents recently, we have all grown into people low nationhood against the goals of our founding fathers like Anthony Enahoro, Azikiwe and Awolowo. What lessons are we bequeathing on the younger ones coming up? I still see him as a thief, as somebody who should not be associated with until he proves otherwise.
We claim the value of the naira is falling drastically but this is part of the reasons. The acting president, Yemi Osinbajo, recently said corruption is what is killing Nigeria. Why celebrating these same people killing you? It is so unfortunate.
BISI YUSUFF (chairman, Lagos Assembly committee on public accounts for local government)
It is highly unfortunate. He was freed here, he pleaded guilty abroad. If it was in Nigeria, they would have said he was coerced. In Britain, nobody will force you into pleading guilty. He agreed he committed the offence and the court jailed him. He came to Nigeria and said he is not a thief. Maybe there is a new word for someone who steals. We would ask him if there is another vocabulary for that kind of a thing, he may have manufactured one. Remember that the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, did say corruption is not stealing. We are thus coming to find professors who know how to twist language and meanings in areas of corruption. We need to ask them for a new name. Nigerians are not stupid, so you cannot just come and bombard us with us. We thank God for the current administration that is doing everything to curb corruption.
YERIMA SHETTIMA (President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum and dep chairman of Young Democratic Party)
You ran away from your own country, barricaded all the avenues the EFCC was using against you in the case, went to the UK. Then in the UK, they tried you, you pleaded guilty and they convicted you. After you returned, you were celebrated and you told Nigerians you are not a thief. Sincerely, that is an abuse on the sensibility of Nigerians. It is sad and embarrassing and history will not forgive us for celebrating those that should be disowned.
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