Former governor of Delta state, James Onanefe Ibori has returned to Nigeria.
He arrived early today in Abuja with a British Airways flight and is expected to arrive his hometown Oghara later.
Several sources said Ibori, fondly called by his political fans as the Odidigbodigbo left London yesterday to begin the journey home, after a court gave him the green-light to leave.
Ibori was whisked away from the airport by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) where he had a chat with the DG of DSS, Maman Daura before leaving for Oghara.
Chief Ibori arrived Oghara at about 3pm.
Some Delta State politicians, led by a former Commissioner under his (Ibori) administration, Chief Ighoyota Amori, a former commissioner for transport under the immediate past governor of the state, Hon. Ben Igbakpa, the member representing Ethiope East Constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. (Chief) Evance Ochuko Ivwurie, Hon. Raymond Edijala, former Transition Committee Chairman of Udu Local Government Council, Dr.(Barr.) Aribogha. M. Clarkson and Mr. Thonpson Ebideke, members of the Niger Delta Leaders of Thought, the Ugo of Oghara Kingdom, Chief Ako JP, among others had stormed the Osubi Airstrip as early as 10am waiting for his arrival.
The politicians who had waited endlessly for Chief Ibori went into wild jubilation as they moved from the Osubi Airstrip enroute Oghara to welcome the “Odidigboigbo of Africa.”
His arrival today still caught many loyal aides by surprise, though Ibori had told Reuters and BBC earlier in the week that he would return within days to Nigeria.
Ibori was released from British prison in December after serving half of his 13-year sentence, taking into account pre-trial detention.
He was jailed for money laundering, an offence for which his wife, lawyer and some close relations were also jailed for.
In several interviews, Ibori did not rule out a future role in politics.
“What happens in African politics – you are in it until you die,” Ibori told Reuters in London on Tuesday.
“I am a politician, I will always be a politician. I play the politics in my party and in my country for the good of my people,” he said after a court hearing, part of ongoing legal proceedings in his case.
Asked if he would run for office again, Ibori said he was barred from doing so for 10 years because of his conviction, but that he intended to appeal to have that conviction overturned.
The appeal would centre on an allegation, made by one of Ibori’s former associates, that a British police officer had taken bribes in return for inside information on the case before Ibori’s conviction, and that prosecutors had covered it up.
British police say the allegation was investigated, resulting in no arrests or charges.
The state prosecution service says material supporting the allegation exists and it initially failed to disclose that to Ibori’s defence team, but it is confident Ibori’s conviction remains valid. Court proceedings are ongoing.
Just like his release in December, his arrival in Warri and Oghara today is expected to trigger dancing in the streets.