Opportunities for Buhari’s anti-corruption after Ibori

By Dulaa Alaamu

Since the return of James Onanefe Ibori from serving time in a British jail, most people from Delta state have been vilified and insulted for ‘celebrating’ the return of the former governor of Delta state, James Ibori. Well, everyone in Nigeria is entitled to their opinion. What makes the entitlement to your opinion dangerous is when you adopt a holier-than-thou disposition and assume that you only, have a highfalutin prerogative.

Chief James Ibori was accused of stealing from his people by the Nigerian state, and he has done time in a British not a Nigerian jail. That as a matter of fact makes the entire judicial system and the Nigerian state a huge joke. With his release, the same people he is said to have sinned against rejoice and pop champagne. The rest of Nigeria wonders at this macabre and sublime piece of contradiction. Why should they be popping champagne and celebrating if James Ibori greatly wronged them?

The celebration by Deltans over the release of James Ibori may not entirely be about James Ibori. Why the people of the Delta are celebrating as a matter of fact, I believe, is not because the man tarred roads and built schools or gave scholarships. Most people in the Delta know that the monies that James Ibori was accused of stealing do not belong to James Ibori. They know those monies belong to them. Therefore, what they celebrate is a release from an oppressive political and economic system based on two sets of laws and ramifications; a system which picks and chooses who to jail. Most believe the monies he took, he took for and their behalf from an oppressive system.

And then, what I say next now is a great risk, especially in a Nigeria where thought and the thinking processes sometimes follow a vertical line. It will likely be seen as holding brief for James Ibori. But you know what, after our government outsourced our judicial systems to the British government, one would have thought that we would vigorously pursue all the other ex-governors who have stolen from their people. As we speak, a former governor of Jigawa state, Saminu Turaki allegedly stole N36billion from Jigawans…N36billion! A former governor of Abia State Orji Uzor Kalu allegedly stole N5billion too. Former governors Abubakar Audu of Kogi State, Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo State, Adamu Abdullahi of Nasarawa State, Attahiru Bafarawa of Sokoto State, Danjuma Goje of Gombe State and Alao Akala all together stole over N200billion from their people.

Where is the Nigerian government with its bluster and filibuster? Why is the British government not asking the Nigerian government to send them these people? In sixteen years, none of these people have been hauled in and clamped down either in a Nigerian or British prison.

And when you ask the honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Oga Malami why they cannot haul these people who have stolen from Nigerians, he tells you a cock and bull story that there is no money to prosecute them. If we have no money to prosecute these individuals, shouldn’t we be taking the step to lob them to Britain, at the very least, so that justice is served? It worked for Ibori didn’t it?

In 1984, just about a year after Muhammadu Buhari became head of state, he arranged for Umaru Dikko, former minister of transportation under Shehu Shagari, said to be the most corrupt man alive then to be abducted back to Lagos from London. To get him into the crate, Umaru Dikko was drugged and shipped as diplomatic baggage. But here we are in 2016 with President, Muhammadu Buhari as president. He has a Babachir Lawal, Secretary to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The gist is all over town that he pocketed N220million meant for starving and homeless women and children in IDP camps in Borno State. What has President Buhari done about it? Nothing; apart from referring him to a colleague in the administration for ‘investigation’. Uzor Kalu Orji who allegedly stole N5billion from Abia state has crossed over to Mr President’s party, and what he has now is even better than the perpetual injunction from criminal prosecution, which Mr. Peter Odili enjoys.

Celebrations in Delta may have something to do with James Ibori, but at the end of the day, a people will celebrate the release of someone who stole from them if their perception is that the system is an oppressive one skewed against them in favour of political ramifications and considerations.

Alaamu, a public affairs commentator, wrote in from Lagos.