36 SITTING SENATORS of the Federal Republic of Nigeria abandoned their posts and duties and followed Saraki to his criminal case hearing….no one batted an eyelid…. well, not for very long.
But a handful of close associates gathered in a private home to celebrate and rejoice with their friend, James Ibori, who just gained his freedom from incarceration and many are showing great displeasure
Let’s put things in perspective here.
Did people assume that such a person will not have strong army of loyal supporters who will stick by him through any ordeal…regardless of his crimes?
Are we not acting out of hypocrisy to think that James will be seen as anything less than a demi-god by many many people who benefited from his “Robin-hood” largesse and generosity?.
This is a man who many including some who are now openly castigating him would have happily paid just to be introduced to. I have a friend here on Facebook (identify withheld) who stalked and begged me for months to travel with them to Port Harcourt to personally introduce them to James.
Now to anyone who might be wondering, James was, and is still someone I consider a close friend. In my third year in UNIBEN, James chased and relentlessly “toasted” my room mate Franca Kaine for the entire year and he was a frequent visitor to our “boys quaters”” apartment in UBTH Doctor’s Quarters. Thus we became close friends along with his friend Larry, who always accompanied him. I always said I got the wrong toaster. James was a really nice guy, friendly, funny, charming and very generous whereas his friend Larry was ……not.
Moving forward to the UK we also found ourselves neighbours when I lived in Harrow, North London in the early 90s. In fact I had to walk pass James’s house to get to/from Harrow & Wealdstone station and in the evenings, I would stop in front of his house and we would chat for hours before I proceeded home.
However I later moved south and didn’t keep in touch (there was no luxury of mobile phones in those days)
I last saw James in November 1993 at MMA in Lagos. I was in Nigeria for my wedding and I literally bumped into him. We had a small chat and he pushed his card into my hand, begging me to keep in touch. But I was with my (now ex) husband and knowing how guys can get, I binned the card (an act I still regret till today!) Cos next thing I know, bobo don become special security adviser to the then President Sanni Abacha …and later Governor of Delta State! And one of Nigeria’s richest governors to boot….Shege!!!
I remember when I temporarily relocated to Nigeria in 2002, that was actually the first time I heard he was a governor – the only person I personally knew in such a position and whose office I would have been able to enter with just a moments notice.
A lot of our old Uni mates I met while I was in Nigeria could not stop talking about James’s generosity. Many ex Unibenites benefitted hugely from his resources and I gathered that no one who visited him ever left empty handed – including guys.
I was only ever able to chat with James just after I returned to the UK in 05 – up till just before the troubles started and he was arrested in Dubai. This time I accepted a firm invitation to visit anytime I was in Nigeria, but by then, the UK authorities were already on his case and monitoring his associates.
And I was then working with the Metropolitan Police Service so I had to be careful……
So throughout James time in power, I can confidently say that I wasn’t a beneficiary of his widely talked-about largesse.
But I will be a mighty hypocrite if I now start to express shock at the size of the crimes attributed to him. Any matured Nigerian knows it is almost impossible to not be involved in corruption whether on a high or low scale while in government. Even ordinary civil servants can easily indulge in wide scale corruption if they wanted to and no matter how shocked we might be at the level of some of the alleged acts of corruption there is always a bigger one to be revealed.
For every James behind bars, there are bigger corrupt politicians strutting along the corridors of power in Abuja.
And many of us will never consider the corrupt acts of these people should any one of them invite us to work with them or award us some juicy contract. Lailai!!
I have exceedingly negative opinions about many Nigerian politicians, and public officials but I will never dream of dictating to their supporters to replace their loyalty.
No matter how filthy the hands of the Iboris or Sarakis or Oduahs or Tinubus or Fayoses, Diezanis, Obanikoros, Aregbosolas, Rufais etc etc etc might be, they will still be “Big Daddy” or “My Chairman” to many.
Even serial killers on death row have their own family and loyal friends who will stand by them to the end. Some even stubbornly unconvinced of their guilt in spite of the load of evidence against them. You only have to look to the American death row system and you will read of many inmates with sweethearts who write them and visit them in jail.
While I will not claim to be ignorant of James Ibori’s widely documented activities, call it blind loyalty but I have and I will never publicly judge Jamiisi (that’s what I called him), But out of respect to many many folks who are rightly enraged by his actions or alleged crimes while he was in office, neither will I publicly defend him.
I know for a fact that if he was still in the position to, my friend will have been exceedingly helpful to me especially towards the execution of the many projects I’m involved in. My movements are no longer curtailed as they used to be and I would have made maximum use of my connection with him.
And many others including a large number of those calling for Ibori…or Saraki’s head will do just the same if the opportunity was presented to them.
Please let no one be confused into thinking that I support or condone criminal activities.
But then, let’s call a spade a spade. It is always easy for us to “shit on the ground we are not eating from”
And to those who have their fingers out for me right now, if Jamiisi was your broda, or cousin or in-law or ex bobo… and he had given you connections to contracts that yielded hundreds of millions of naira or pounds and afforded you the opportunity to send your kids to private UK schools, buy a house in Banana or Mango Island and buy 4 tear rubber vehicles at a time – swear to everyone on your kids lives that you would have said no.
And to us women, what if he were your husband?
If you were given an opportunity to leave your slave like daily 9-5 grind of running after buses and trains in London to report at work to someone young enough to be your child, someone who will open their mouth gbaga! and call you “Dupe!” or “Shadei”!!!
And you are chanced to relocate to a plush detached house with five ensuite bedrooms and a massive kitchen in one of the new estates in Lagos, with a brand new car, house gels, me-garde, gardner; people old enough to be your mother calling you “mummy wa” (even though you’re not Pastor’s wife) and you’re hobb-nobbing with beta celebrities and rich folks….because your hubby struck it big due to his connection with the likes of Ibori…..or Saraki..?
Swear that you will say no or reject the offer.
Swear that you will not go and do testimony in church that your “tory don change”??
I know for a fact that there are several married women here in London whose husband hold these kinds of positions in Nigeria, and they are enjoying huge financial benefits from these arrangements.
If someone like James were your husband’s benefactor or contact, would you still come on Facebook and shout condemnation?
I think not.
We know of many “uncles” who left their security job of 20 years in London to take up Special Adviser job in Lagos or Abuja. Many of them now only come to London to visit the children…or attend weddings….or to shop.
We can raise our noses and shout all sorts and cast stones when the report is about someone else. I have done it. But not when it is someone close to home.
The story will always be different.
The bitter truth is that corruption in some form or the other is deeply ingrained and woven into the Naija psyche. Many practice it with glee and without remorse. Others will make empty noise because others are practicing it, but given the slightest opportunity, will do even “greater things” than their predecessors. There are also those that will directly or indirectly, secretly enjoy major dividends of corruption, but pretend to be holier than everyone else.
All the corrupt politicians in our midst are not some unique species from another planet.
There are US. Many of them were elevated from the midst of you and I. Some of them even made the same noise of indignation like many of us are doing right now, condemning those who have been caught, and made scapegoats of.
But “got there” and did wonders (sic)!
However I ask with great amusement, how MANY OF THESE CONDEMNATORS (?) IF THEY HAD BEEN ASKED TO BE IBORIS SPECIAL ADVISER – BEFORE HIS TROUBLES – WOULD HAVE TURNED THEIR NOSE UP AT THE INVITATION?
AND I ASK THIS QUESTION DIRECTLY TO MY DIASPORAN BRETHREN WHO WILL JUMP ON ANY AVAILABLE ARIK FLIGHT WHEN AN ORDINARY COUNSELLOR IN THEIR LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASKS THEM TO BE THEIR PA???
Many folks’ noise are so loud that it’s beginning to sound more like belly-aching rather than righteous indignation. The words kettle, black, log , eyes and splint are jumping into my mind right now.
My dear people, I will not defend James Ibori…..but I will not crucify him either.
I would have preferred to keep my personal opinion of the guy off the public arena but some folks have inundated my inbox with calls for me to make a statement – preferably to condemn him.
But some of us believe in loyalty although many demonstrate it in different ways.
For the record, let me state that I, Olajumoke other than the numerous times James Ibori took me and my friend Franca to enjoy rice and dodo “without” (meat) at Ekosodi JSQ while we were students at Uniben, have not seen or touched a hallowed Naira note from the hand of Jamiisi.
But even in spite of this, I will still not crucify him.
I may choose to not defend my friend…..but I also refuse to cast stones at him.
There are already enough people doing that.
(C) Olajumoke Ariyo