Embattled former Delta State governor, James Ibori, says he was wrongly accused and maligned by those who typecast him as a thief.
Mr. Ibori , who recently returned to Nigeria after serving jail term in the United Kingdom for corruption, made the remark at a special thanksgiving held in his honour, at the First Baptist Church in Oghara, Delta State on Sunday.
Speaking to the mammoth congregation, Mr. Ibori said he was wrongly accused and that the biggest pain he felt aside from his travails was the anguish his people went through because of his absence.
The former governor, who hailed the crowd of politicians, clergy, traditional rulers and other enthusiasts, said he was aware those behind his travails wanted to separate him from his people.
He said: “They want me to go to the corner where I won’t be seen. 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 who know me, you know that my life is a testimony itself. I have said it over and again that my life is fashioned by God, directed by God, sealed, acknowledged and blessed by God. I believe that since the day I was born.
“Like the Archbishop said, when this whole commotion started, what was most painful to me was the pain and suffering that my people were going through.
“It has nothing to do with me as a person because, for some reasons, like I said to you, I drew my strength from God. So, 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, the faces that I have missed, and those of you who have indeed suffered the pains of my absence. It has nothing to do with me.
“So, when I reflect, it gives me joy that all your prayers, God has answered them, with your support and solidarity with me all through this period. It is indeed not what I can begin to say.
“The only testimony that I have is the fact that I am back and alive in your midst. And again, I say that I never had any doubt in my mind that I would get back home.
“When I looked at how things were going, I discovered that they wanted to separate me from you, my people. They wanted me to go to the corner where I wouldn’t be seen. That’s how I see it. At a point, I called my older brother (former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan): ‘How to get home is what I am about to do now’. It was a pragmatic decision.
“I am happy to be home with my people. There is nobody who can battle with the Lord. An Urhobo adage says there is time for everything (okiemute). A day will come when I will tell my story and every one of you will hear me. Today is to thank God,” he said.
Mr. Ibori was convicted of corruption and money laundering on April 17, 2012, after five years of trial.
The Southwark Crown Court, UK, sentenced him to 13 years in prison while his houses, luxury cars and other property items were confiscated.
The judge, however, ruled that Mr. Ibori would spend half of the jail term, which is six and half years.
Born on Aug. 4, 1959, Mr. Ibori was the governor of Delta from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007 on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).