The news of the release of the ex-con former Governor James Ibori of Delta State filled the air during the week having served six-and-a-half-years of his 13-year jail term, as the sentence ran concurrently. Even though he’s been released from prison he’ll still have to wait till sometimes after January 2017 before he can exit the UK because of his inconclusive assets confiscation hearing. Grapevine even has it that Nigeria is already processing his extradition.
A convict is defined as “a person found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court” or “a person serving a sentence in prison”. Convicts are often also known as “prisoners” or “inmates” or by the slang term “con”, while a common label for former convicts, especially those recently released from prison, is “ex-con” …
This piece isn’t about his legal battle, so I won’t allow myself to be distracted by what went on in the courtrooms. Rather, this is about who we’ve turned out to be, it’s about questioning our sense of rightness, it’s about our broken moral gauge and our warped propriety compass which in my opinion has lost its bearing.
By today’s standard, without mincing words, Mr Ibori is a thief, out of your kindness you may search other words to use in describing him, the word ‘thief’ does it for me though as I find euphemisms inappropriate for now having being convicted for stealing. The words corrupt, money-laundering, embezzlement and financial-misappropriation are elitist and confusing to the ‘street’. My choice of the words ‘stealing’ and ‘thief’ is quite deliberate, at least in that way you can situate him side by side the Musa, Uche and Bayo that stole goat, yam, pepper or picked pocket in the market place.
We’re either mad or our brains are made of dust, if not, why will an ex-convict be expected with pomp? Even Delta State Government is planning a ‘befitting’ welcome and obviously with State funds. You see how mad we’ve grown? Someone stole the community goat, went to prison and upon release we’ll use the community money that escaped his pilfering fingers to welcome him! The rule seem to be ‘steal very big, get a wrist-slap and come back big’. He’s even being already tipped for some political responsibilities. After all Alamieyeseigha procured a shameful Presidential pardon that was to put him in the senate. Like heads dangling with the surgeon’s blade in it, some equally went in ‘Aso-Ebi’ (family uniform) to welcome Bode George from Prison with dance and drums of shamelessness.
Ibori’s Local Government of OGHARA in Ethiope West Local Government Area, Delta State will not be left out of the frenzy, they must welcome ‘their’ son. Beautification is going on with posters bearing his pictures pasted at strategic points. Friends and associates are also in as they have their pictures side by side his in solidarity. The same son who stole them blind? At least if the Nigerian judiciary failed to ascertain that, now we know through the help of the UK courts where he pleaded guilty to graft. Indeed we must be mad!
Some of his kinsmen even alluded to the claim that at least he ‘fixed’ our town’ and I ask the obvious, was it with his money, if at all he did? That I call the second level of our innate madness when we praise political office holders for using ‘our’ money to do what is expected of them. That should be matter for another time, permit me to deal with the first level madness for now, the Ibori example.
How madder can we be? That a sitting elected political office holder in the place of Delta State’s House of Assembly Speaker travelled to London with the left over funds of the State to welcome Ibori back from prison is mind troubling, insulting and in defiance of decorum and common-sense. Not to talk of sitting Senator Nwaoboshi who flew down to rain eulogies on him about how he made ‘kings’ while in his prison cell. We truly must be mad!
In the Nigeria of yore, your face is covered in shame as an ex-con, your family members become objects of scorn, you might need to relocate your children and change their schools to save their faces. Those were days when upon visiting a friend, the question their parents ask you is ‘whose son are you, who’s your father’? A good name used to have worth back in the days. But today, the same fathers who are supposed to be calling us to account are the same ones knitting the threads of the red carpet to welcome a renowned ex-con.
Nigeria has fast become a land where abnormality is the norm, a land of misplaced praise, a land of skewed reward system where the good suffer for the singular ‘sin’ of being good and the bad enjoy for the singular ‘fame’ of being bad. It’s a nation where a 7 year old is immolated for thieving gaari (a local staple) and the old is celebrated for stealing big enough to shut mouths and distort minds.
If we’re not mad then our minds long ago wrongly negotiated the moral curve of no return.
Isn’t there room for penitence? Yes there is! Do I hate Mr. Ibori? No! Am I without sins? No! Doesn’t he have a right to life after his willful ordeal? Yes he does! But he should bury his head in his hands as he returns to the larger society whilst leading a quiet life devoid of the kind of pageantry being prepared for him. And during this period seeking medical and scientific help for societal re-integration. You don’t spell ‘hero’ the same way you spell ‘thief’!
The bloods of the lesser thieves maimed and served justice in the likeness of the jungle on our streets will question all those waiting to celebrate and welcome the bigger thief.
Indeed, the world is eclipsing!