The release of chief Onanefe lbori, former Gov of Delta state from a UK prison where, he was unjustly jailed after he, (under duress) pleaded guilty to money laundering charges without trial, has generated a lot of buzz in the media.
The storm was stirred up via analysis by some members of the commentariat of the circumstances surrendering lbori’s ordeal and the insincerity of the Western powers in the anti graft crusade as evidenced by the double standards applied, (in desperation to reap where they did not sow) when it comes to confiscating the so called proceeds of corruption from alleged corrupt leaders from developing countries.
Disappointingly, the developed world’s failure to repatriate the proceeds that they strip off their victims which was the big picture in the piece, has been narrowed down, by omission or commission to mundane and pedantic issues of image laundering for Ibori.
Such is the stance of Chris Akor, the editorial page editor of the prestigious Businessday newspaper, which is one of the media platforms in Nigeria with the most robust world view in its reportage, as it often features pages from the Financial Times, FT which affords local readers the opportunity to peep into the larger world without the extra cost.
Given the broad based focus of Businessday which l expected could have influenced mr Akor enough to engage in critical thinking, as opposed to allowing his emotions run wild to the extent of narrowing down the essence of my article to what he concluded in his rejoinder titled “lbori and His Loyal goons” on the back page of Businessday of Thursday 12 January, 2017, as trying to re write history in favor of Ibori.
The truth is that the article is a correction of misinformation peddled about Ibori and a clarion call for emancipation of the developing world from the shackles of developed economies which is the big picture.
Akor’s allegation that “Mr Onyibe and other lbori goons have sure benefitted from lbori and are demonstrating their loyalty to him”, is not only an infantile assessment of my piece, but also a very crude review because l went through the trouble of giving the write-up (which was anchored on Ibori because his release from jail was trending at that point in time), a historical and global perspective.
I traced the oppression of the developing economies by the Western powers all the way from the days of slave trade, colonialism and finally neocolonialism demonstrated by unfair trade practices against the developing world which currently reflects the latest mutation of their hypocrisy.
Then l sought to establish the fact that countries that welcome illicit funds from developing countries without scruples and seek to keep 50% of the proceeds when storms are generated in the countries of origin, are equally culpable of corruption.
But in his determination to play to the gallery, instead of opening up his mind like a quick witted editor to hear the other side of the story with a view to understanding underlying factors , Mr Akor was so bigoted and anxious to paint me black with a tarred brush that he adjudged my article as boring and focused on “thrashing the British police, judiciary and politicians for hypocrisy as unjust crusade against lbori”.
Need l remind mr Akor that l don’t personally know El Zakzaky, the Shiite Muslim cleric kept in dungeon by the federal Govt after courts have set him free, yet l have been lambasting law enforcement authorities for violation of his rights? I have never set my eyes on Nnamdi Kanu, operator of the illegal radio Biafra, neither do l have any personal relationship with Ahmed Dasuki of the Dasukigate fame, both of whom are still being held by federal Govt against court orders and l have been vociferously demanding that the rule of law should be respected by their jailers and thus release them forthwith .
So my defense of lbori is not just because he was my former boss, friend and now a brother, which Mr Akor would want readers to believe is the only motivation, but in line with my pursuit of justice through my advocacy for observation of rule of law and objective principles.
Therefore, tagging me a goon-a person who is hired to threaten, beat up , or kill someone -is not only nonsensical but devious.
Akor made his erratic judgement irrespective of the fact that l cited administrative records of judicial panels indicting the UK metropolitan police whose investigative officer was found complicit in the crime of demanding and accepting bribe from lbori’s team, just as the crown prosecution service, CPS was also found culpable of the crime of covering up material facts that could have swayed the judgement in lbori’s favor, a position the defense lawyers had argued successfully and the prosecutors could not controvert.
I would like to remind mr Akor that judge Anthony Pitts who sentenced lbori after he pleaded guilty without trial, was aghast during the initial assets confiscation trial, when he told the CPS that demanding a change of the legal basis for arraigning Ibori to a new one was tantamount to changing the goal post during a football match.
That happened after both counsels for Ibori and the CPS had made their final legal submissions to the judge and upon realizing that the ruling was going to be in lbori’s favor, given that no substantial evidence had been advanced linking Ibori to stolen funds from delta state as alleged, and that lbori had income from business prior to his foray into politics, the CPS sought to change the legal basis to suit their pre determined outcome.
After adjournment to another date for resumption of the hearing, Judge Pitts was to accede to the demand of the CPS, even after his initial objection, but he retired before the new adjourned date.
According to Mr Akor “Mr Onyibe sought to present lbori as a victim of (Olusegun) Obasanjo’s vindictiveness and DFID’s long winding campaign of calumny”.
What’s wrong with doing the right thing if it is aimed at correcting the wrong notion and misinformation in the public sphere that Ibori’s incarceration was just about economic crime and punishment and not politics?
Nigeria, like most other countries in the world is full of political intrigues shrouded in secrecy that are unbeknown to the uninitiated.
Is the story of who killed the ace investigative journalist, Dele Giwa not still trending nearly 30 years after ?
Although l made references to facts buttressing my position about victimization of lbori like DFID making a deal with then EFCC leadership to retain 50% of confiscated proceeds and previous recovered funds in foreign banks like funds recovered from the sale of late Diepreye Alamiesgha’s real estate in London in excess of $15m not being returned to Nigeria etc , as agreed with the host countries like the U.K., USA and Switzerland amongst others, which mr Akor, should have sought to controvert by FactChecking, he remained implacable and adamant. Apparently, he preferred to continue to wallow in his ignorance of the real facts behind the Ibori debacle which were laid bare in the article .
Is mr Akor following the controversy between former president Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ and the Awujale of ljebu land involving business mongul , chief Mike Adenuga, of GLO and Conoil so that he could appreciate the shenanigans that go on in Govt and the society?
Does he know the circumstances under which the late sage, chief Obafemi Awolowo went to jail for treason in the first republic ?
Fortunately, not all Nigerians share Akor’s naive and warped mindset hence my position has been validated by a recent press conference jointly held by prof Itse Sagay led presidential panel on anticorruption and office of the special adviser to the president on diaspora and foreign affairs led by Hon.Abike Dabiri to denounce the hypocrisy of Western powers who are quick to seize assets in their jurisdiction, but slow to return the recovered funds to Nigeria.
During the press conference Sagay lamented that after $480m of recovered late military dictator, general Sani Abacha’s loot had been lost to the USA and Nigeria was in the process of losing another $550m to the USA and Dabiri then urged Nigerians at home and in the diaspora to join the crusade to press the host countries to eschew the evocation of further technical tricks to deny us of the badly needed funds for development and return the recovered funds back to Nigeria without further delay.
Abike, a former broadcaster and legislator went on to wonder why the West would want to withhold our $1bn dollars and turn around to offer us aid to the tune of $1bn.
That was exactly the central theme of my article which mr Akor in his hurry to slay me failed to recognize.
Is this a case of a slave loving his chain or validation of the wisecrack, ignorance is bliss?
Continuing in his umbrage, Akor alleged “Funny enough Mr Onyibe presents as evidence that lbori did not steal any money the fact that the delta state Govt has not complained of losing any money to fraud. How puerile”.
What a mischievous attempt to twist facts which were stated without any ambiguity in my article?
Why did Akor cleverly avoid mentioning that l lucidly explained that the British metropolitan police and EFCC in Nigeria were given unfettered access to records by delta state Govt, but they failed to come up with any smoking gun, instead, he emphasized the aspect that delta state did not complain of missing any funds?
If Mr Akor is not advocating resort to jungle justice (which has become the fad in Nigeria where more often than not,fellow Nigerians are lynched for minor offenses) by accepting mere allegations spun by Ibori’s traducers as gospel truth, why would he judge Ibori guilty and proceed to lynch him in his article , when indeed the allegations are unsubstantiated and still subject of litigation ?
If there are links known to Akor which we are not privy to, instead of declaring my articulated view as puerile, why did he not cite the links between Ibori and missing funds from delta state Govt?
Is this not not a case of Akor exposing his immaturity and incapacity by just conjecturing instead of engaging in more rigorous investigation for a robust analysis which is the least expected of an editor worth the salt?
Akor’s unjustified outburst simply exposed his naivety about politics in Nigeria and indeed internationally and as such he unwittingly demonstrated that he is still wet under his ears.
Going on appeal is a second chance opportunity embedded in criminal justice system all over the world to ensure that an accused does not get punished unjustly. Escalating a case all the way to the Supreme Court, which is the third and final level in the judicial system, confirms how far the law is ready to go in protection of the innocent.
From the foregoing, is it not prudent for lbori to try to remedy an injustice that a perverted UK legal system meted to him by taking advantage of the window open to seek legal respite?
My assertion is in consonance with the legal formality enunciated by British legal luminary, Sir William Blackstone in the Laws of England, 9th edition, echoed by Benjamin Franklin in his seminal work, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin where he was also echoing the great philosopher Voltaire , when he famously made the statement: “For the law holds, it is better that the guilty person escapes, than that one innocent suffers”.
Why should Ibori suffer silently the machinations of politicians of ‘timber and calibre’ of Nigerian politics?
With the inconsistencies in the body of evidence advanced by Ibori prosecutors, if not persecutors, through concealment of material facts and other unsavory practices, plus the compromised integrity of the Metropolitan police detective through bribe taking, the integrity of lbori’s conviction is clearly questionable as the appalling level of graft and violation of the laws engaged in by those arraigning Ibori has cast a very dark cloud over the Uk judiciary particularly with respect to its money laundering laws.
In the light of the scenario above, it could have been easily discernible to unbiased assessors of the article, except mr Akor and his ilk who engage in unjustified emotional outbursts, that it was an analysis of the raw deal dished out to lbori by some members of the UK judicial system which compromised procedures in order to entrap and fleece him of his assets to illustrate Western hypocrisy.
By and large, this social perfidy and economic subterfuge have been perpetuated via the unfair and fraudulent practice of luring our people into keeping funds – legit or not in Western countries vaults.
My raison detre for the article is therefore to expose how the initially very welcoming countries, suddenly turn hostile and want to unduly convert huge chunks of the targeted funds into their own( as much as 50%), when it comes into dispute and also violate agreements by even failing to remit the balance of recovered funds back to their countries of origin which is fraudulent in my reckoning.
So the piece is like a wake up call for Nigerians and indeed people in the developing world to recognize their rights to be treated equally with their Western counterparts and with more dignity by calling on former colonial masters to respect and observe the rule of law and due process in the same way they do in their countries to their citizens.
And you know what?
I’m not alone and indeed Nigeria is not the only developing country involved in the crusade to wean herself off Western slave mentality.
For those of us familiar with the international comedy program known as Comedy Central aired on satellite tv networks, you might have seen a video skit by the South African born comedian, Trevor Noah, the new host of the highly acclaimed USA based tv show, The Daily show.
In a current edition , the comedian made a caricature of the American double standard by highlighting how they characterize corruption as lobbying in the USA and it is called bribe in Africa.
According to mr Noah in a comedy strip titled “Corruption The American Style: Learn The secret Techniques the Pros Dont Want You to Know, “if you give a politician money in exchange for a favor, it is called bribery in Africa and lobbying in the USA.
While bribery is bad, lobbying is good.
The comedian also highlighted the fact that, while election manipulations in Africa is called rigging , in the USA it is called gerrymandering-a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular political party or group by manipulating district boundaries.
Again, rigging is bad and gerrymandering is good.
Trevor Noah then concluded by reminding viewers that Americans like to have fun when they are engaging in corruption which is why, more often than not, when corruption takes place in the Western world, it would be regarded as a commitment to a cause-if a rich man offers to endow a chair or build an auditorium for a higher institution of learning in exchange for the favor of awarding pass mark for a degree to the donor’s wife or ward.
I urge Chris Akor to apply his energy and the veritable Businessday platform to pressurize the Western countries where our looted funds (it has been established that the likes of Sani Abacha hid some money abroad) is located to repatriate the funds badly needed for socioeconomic development in Nigeria and stop dabbling into matters that are far deeper than his simplistic mind can process.
As we all would agree , there are always, at least two sides to a story. The truth and the flip side.
The EFCC under the old command and DFID have been telling their side (flip side) of the story against Ibori in the past five years.
Since Ibori’s completion of his jail term in the UK, lots of hitherto hidden facts have been released into the public arena and some of the active participants in the Ibori saga are still alive and on active duty.
None has controverted the truth which is being rolled out, in any significant manner.
Some of the very critical information that could have threatened Nigeria’s fragile democracy were withheld because Ibori decided as an honor to his motherland to go down with them than divulge such in a foreign land.
Such facts, after a cooling period, may be released by lbori himself in his book which l urge Nigerians to look forward to its publication sooner or later.
Why Chris Akor with a kindergarten mindset choose to engage in the assassination of my character instead of embarking on a voyage of discovery which the unfurling of the travails of lbori which dates back to his days (1999-2007) as the foremost resource control advocating governor during his first tenure in office in the oil rich delta state, boggles my mind.
Did the apparently hollow minded mr Akor who concluded that other commentators and l, trying to correct the wrongly held opinions about Ibori’s journey to UK prison and the deep rooted culture of Western powers fleecing the developing world of economic and human resources are doing so, not just owing to our indebtedness to lbori as he crudely surmised, but to refocus attention on the big picture by beaming the light on the developed world’s consistent pattern of oppression but disguised hypocrisy.
Hear Mr Akor’s crow:
“But they must not do that by insulting our collective intelligence and trying to rewrite history. Their actions further show the difficulty of fighting corruption in Nigeria”.
What an acquiescence with the subterfuge of political demagoguery cloaked in anti corruption drapes!
Wake up and smell the coffee, man!
Is Akor so blind not to see that lbori’s incarceration was not just about the fight against corruption but a political high wire game spanning Nigeria and the UK where two nefarious motives of vendetta by some Nigerian political leaders with bruised egos found a common ground with an equally mesmerized and highly infuriated British law enforcement system intent on striping developing countries and their leaders, who store their wealth in their countries, of such possessions.
The truth is that the UK police which could not phantom how lbori who was working in a DIY as a Teller, could come into substantial wealth after about only a decade of returning home to Nigeria, and as such concluded that Ibori’s wealth must have been stolen, and a substantial part of it kept in Uk must be squeezed out of him, perhaps as reparation to Brits.
Hey, we live in Africa where great fortunes could be made in the commodities business -oil/gas, gold and other precious metals – in a short time span, legitimately.
If in doubt, ask oil/ gas giants SHELL, EXXON Mobil, Totalfina Elf, AGIP and others how they have been raking in humongous profits since oil was discovered in Oloibiri in Bayelsa state in 1963.
Is Mr Akor not aware of how the desperation to stop lbori from getting his political party’s nomination for a second term in office as governor after he led 26 governors of Pdp party to challenge OBJ’s eligibility for a second term, as president ?
Did that political move not prove to be an albatross as it led to lbori being framed as ex convict by his political opponents only for him to escape by whiskers ?
Has Chris Akor not heard of how OBJ himself was saved from the noose by a prominent northern leader who ordered his transfer out of a particular location before life is snuffed out of him when the first coup took place in the 1960s? Is Akor not familiar with the story of how OBJ was once again spirited out of a prison order to escape lethal injection during his last incarceration for alleged involvement in coup against Gen Sanni Abacha?
How did late Shehu Yar’Adua die in prison, is it not via lethal injection and what happened to the presumed winner of June 12,1996 presidential election, MKO Abiola of blessed memory?
Is Akor not aware of the Nigerian and international conspiracies involved in the death of both former military head of state, General Sanni Abacha who ate an apple and died in Aso Rock villa and Abiola who drank tea in prison and passed away, back to back?
The foregoing events that l mentioned are not movie plots in Nollywood but a catalogue of real live tragic events that happened in Nigerian political firmament.
The lesson to Chris Akor and those like him who elect to dive headlong into the murky waters of politics full of barracudas and pirañas of which they know little or nothing, just because they want to join the bandwagon, so that their voices may be heard, is that they should look before they leap next time.
Otherwise they may end up unwittingly setting themselves up for a fall.
In conclusion, the article has already rattled some of the countries withholding release of recovered funds as reflected by the clarifications recently made by AGF, Abubakar Malami about the status of $550m Abacha stuck in the USA.
l urge Mr Akor and his co wailing wailers (apologies to Rueben Abati) to find answers to the following public policy posers :
What drives the average Nigerian ‘big men’ to store their wealth-Legit or not- in England or anywhere else abroad?
Could it be that the late military head of state, Gen Murtala Mohamed’s purge of civil and public servants who worked with Gen Yakubu Gowon whom he toppled as head of state in a military coup, like Mobolaji Johnson, then Gov of lagos state whose Eko Court multi stories luxury property in victoria island, lagos was seized and Mr EK Clark, then Federal Commissioner for information, whose luxury cinema chain, Roxy was forfeited to Govt?
Could that be the underlying reason Nigerian public and civil servants prefer keeping their wealth overseas instead of investing locally in industries to create employment for Nigerians like Aliko Dangote is doing?
Could inward investments by Nigerians help boost the economy and lift it out of the current recession or we must wait for the elusive FDI or portfolio investments to energize our ailing economy?
Should president Buhari consider granting amnesty to Nigerians-politicians and businessmen/women-who have stashed away huge public funds abroad to return same via local investments to stimulate the economy, as he vaguely promised during his inauguration in 2015 that he would not probe past corruption perpetuated before his ascension to power?
The kind of deal offered Abacha’s family by OBJ on the late dictator’s loot, looks like a good idea for the likes of Diezani Allison Madueke and others believed to be at large with enormous caches of Nigeria’s money.
By the way, apart from Uganda where general financial amnesty was offered the corrupt and South Africa, where corruption amnesty was proposed for embattled president Jacob Zuma, two developed countries, the USA and Italy have used amnesty programs to deal with issues of corruption.
The USA did in 2004 when then president George W Bush enacted tax amnesty program to bring back home tax free billions of dollars stashed away in tax havens.
In 2009, Italy launched a tax-amnesty plan which allowed the hassle free repatriation of funds deposited in tax havens by Italians.
These are revolutionary proposals that should be pondered by all well meaning Nigerians to move the country forward not the gloating over the misfortune of politicians which does nothing but buoy or satiate the craving of done Nigerians with the emotion of ‘the rich also cry’ syndrome, an indulgence in which the average Nigerian so much love to wallow, but which brings no food to the table.
The Bottomline is Ibori has survived the wicked plot of his political opponents to dim or quench his political light and nobody has the right to stop him from basking in the euphoria of his triumph.
He does not wish such misfortune of bring jailed unjustly for his worst enemies and he is poised to make a triumphant entry back into Nigeria as a prisoner of conscience and one million haters like Chris Akor and a few others rilled by the rousing welcome being proposed by his kith, kin and associates can’t stop him.
As John Lewis, the legendary congressman and the last of the surviving black rights speakers alongside Martin Luther King during the blacks rights struggle in the USA admonished , we have to make good trouble, whenever and wherever we find injustice.
l share the passion of the civil rights icon to speak out against injustice whenever l spot one and that has remained my passion and mission.
*Onyibe, a development strategist and futurologist, a former member of Delta State cabinet, is an alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts university, Medford