Thanksgiving and thanksgiver
By Femi Macaulay
W hen a thankful thanksgiver with a heart full of thanks organises a thanksgiving service, it should be expected that he would give a testimony. Former Delta State Governor James Ibori, who returned to Nigeria after serving time in the United Kingdom for corruption–related crime, gave a curious testimony at the First Baptist Church, Oghara, Delta State, on February 12, prompting reflections on thanksgiving.
When is a thanksgiving service a thanksgiving service, properly so called? Ibori’s testimony was a testimony to the elasticity of the idea of thanksgiving. Ibori said: “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 is thought-provoking that information on Ibori contradicts his self-promoting twin claim that he is not a thief and cannot be a thief: “Ibori moved to London, England, in the 1980s where he married his wife, Theresa. Ibori worked as a cashier at Wickes DIY store in Ruislip, Middlesex. In 1990, the couple were arrested for theft from the store, and fined £300. In 1991, he was convicted of handling a stolen credit card, and fined £100.”
It is unsurprising Ibori brought God into the picture while giving his testimony; thanksgivers usually bring God into it when they express their thankfulness. But it is startling Ibori mentioned God because he has not demonstrated God consciousness, meaning his words are not enough to show he understands the concept of God and the demands of God consciousness.
Ibori continued: “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.”
Ibori also said: “So, when I reflect, it gives me joy that all your prayers, God has answered them… If I am to give testimony of my journey, you will not leave here… 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…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.”
The background to Ibori’s thanksgiving is worth presenting in some detail because it definitely doesn’t reflect God consciousness on his part: ”In 2007, the Metropolitan Police raided the London offices of lawyer Bhadresh Gohil. Hidden in a wall behind a fireplace, they found computer hard drives containing details of myriad off-shore companies, run for Ibori by Gohil, fiduciary agent Daniel Benedict McCann, and corporate financier Lambertus De Boer. All of these men were later jailed for a total of 30 years. As a result of these corruption allegations, the United Kingdom courts froze Ibori’s assets there, valued at about £17 million ($35 million), in early August 2007…In an exclusive interview with CNN, Ibori denied allegations against him claiming they were politically motivated.”
More information: “On December 12, 2007, Ibori was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Kwara State Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja. The charges he faced include theft of public funds, abuse of office, and money laundering…On December 17, 2009, A Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta State, discharged and acquitted Ibori of all 170 charges of corruption brought against him by EFCC.”
Further information: “In April 2010… Ibori’s case file was reopened. A new allegation that he embezzled N40 billion ($266 million) was pressed against him…. Ibori fled Nigeria, prompting the EFCC to request the assistance of Interpol. On May 13, 2010, Ibori was arrested in Dubai, United Arab Emirates under Interpol arrest warrants, issued from United Kingdom courts and enacted by the Metropolitan Police…Ibori’s case and extradition became one of the longest, most complex and expensive operations mounted by Scotland Yard in recent years.”
Additional information: “On February 27, 2012, accused of stealing US$250 million from the Nigerian public purse, Ibori pleaded guilty to ten counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud at Southwark Crown Court, London. Following the guilty plea entered by Ibori, the EFCC brought before an Appeal Court the six-year-old ruling of a Federal High Court in Asaba which acquitted Ibori in 2009…A three-man panel of justices at the Benin Division of the Court of Appeal on May 15, 2014, ruled that the ex- governor has a case to answer. With this judgment, the coast is clear for Ibori to face further trial in Nigeria…”
This is what followed Ibori’s admission of guilt: “On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Ibori was sentenced to 13 years in prison by Southwark Crown Court for his crimes. Among possessions confiscated were: A house in Hampstead, north London, for £2.2m; a property in Shaftesbury, Dorset, for £311,000; a £3.2m mansion in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa; a fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000; a £120,000 Bentley Continental GT; a Mercedes-Benz Maybach 62 bought for €407,000 cash, which was shipped direct to his mansion in South Africa.”
This is worth mentioning: “After the sentencing hearing, Sue Patten, head of the Crown Prosecution Service central fraud group, said Ibori had acquired his riches “at the expense of some of the poorest people in the world.” Ibori was released from jail in December 2016 after serving four years; he came back to Nigeria on February 4.
It is curious that a man whose conduct as governor was unquestionably ungodly now wants the world to believe that he believes in God. It is a point to ponder whether Ibori has developed God consciousness, beyond his mechanical mention of God at his thanksgiving event.