By Jon Egie

 

 

 

Chief James Ibori giving his testimony in the church.

Chief James Ibori giving his testimony in the church.

Right inside the First Baptist Church, Ogharefe where Chief James Ibori was to give thanks to God for his freedom- regain, the congregation comprising of relatives, friends and political associates especially the old brigade of Ibori trickled in as the church auditorium swelled to capacity.

The service which was scheduled to commence at 930 hours, would not kick-off until 1020 hours when Ibori arrived. While the waiting was on, the congregation suddenly stood up at 946 hours when a surge at the Western Door was mistaken as the arrival of Ibori. A disappointed congregation was to behold Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan and his entourage and some persons hissed while a woman sitting close to this reporter remarked, “wetin I want do with Uduaghan?”

 

Archbishop God-Do-Well Avwomakpa flanked on the left by Rev G.O.Oyibo

Archbishop God-Do-Well Avwomakpa flanked on the left by Rev G.O.Oyibo

However, the rendition of the Hymn, ‘Now Thank We All Our God’ heralded the commencement of the service at 1017 hours but at 1020 hours when Ibori arrived, the electric power source of the church failed and all the systems went dead. By the time power was restored, the presence of some of the dignitaries present at the thanksgiving service including traditional rulers, Hon Festus Agas (SSG) Ovuzorie Macauly (fmr SSG), Chief Broderick Bozimo (fmr Minister Police Affairs), Dr Steve Oru (fmr Minister Niger Delta Ministry), Chief Emmanue Aguariavwodo, Chief Osakwe, Chief Willams Makinde (MD DESOPADEC) among others, were announced. But Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, governor of Delta State was conspicuously absent.

The Homily

 

Archbishop Avwomakpa presenting the homily

Archbishop Avwomakpa presenting the homily

Mounting the pulpit, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (South-South zone), Archbishop God-Do-Well Avwomakpa presented a sermon titled, “Knowing the Gift of God”. Before he proceeded with the homily, Archbishop Avwomakpa gave a Jerusalem stone to Ibori as a symbolic mark of further achievement that will usher in another thanksgiving in no distant time.

The CAN leader described Ibori as a gift of God, which the people of Delta State have failed to recognize as was often the case of many people.

He explained that the gift of God is someone sent by God to earth and who has the responsibility of putting smile on the faces of people. According to him, it was only when people were in trouble that the attributes of the man who is a gift of God manifest. He affirmed that it was only Chief James Ibori that had put smile on the faces of Deltans irrespective of ethnic roots and lamented that those who succeeded Ibori  (Uduaghan and Okowa) have messed up the joy of the people. The congregation shouted approval of that message.

 

Ibori, daughter and monarch dancing to present thanks offering

Ibori, daughter and monarch dancing to present thanks offering

He recalled Jesus’ message to the Israelite, during his crucifixion travail, not to weep for him but for themselves because Jesus understood that their tears were not genuine and quickly added that many are the afflictions of the righteous but God delivers him from all of them.

He pointed out the despair and stagnancy of development in some African families including Delta wherein lay uncompleted buildings whose owners were killed by witches and wizards because they refused to allow such persons who were the gifts of God to dwell among them.

Avwomakpa recalled the biblical story of Samson who was bound hands and feet by his people and delivered to their enemies, the Philistines, to be killed but because the plot was not of God, Samson overcame .

 

Ibori dancing to drop his offering during the service

Ibori dancing to drop his offering during the service

He charged the congregation and indeed Deltans and the people of the South-South to protect their rich people, their educated people and their elites as their assets because their reputation alone grants an exeat and access route to prosperity.

He said Ibori was a point of contact between the Church and the State while he served as governor and stressed the Urhobo aphorism that only an experienced polygamist has respect for the first wife.

Referring to the biblical Jacob’s well that still ran for over 250 years after Jacob’s death, Avwomakpa asked the political class, especially those who succeeded Ibori if their wells were and could still run one year after they leave or have left office just as the well of Ibori was still running?

 

The Iboris during the thanksgiving service

The Iboris during the thanksgiving service

Archbishop Avwomakpa told the congregation to shine their eyes to see the realities of the present day Nigeria and participate in partisan politics because the Church needs politicians “not only for their pockets but for the betterment of the people”.

“From the time you sold Joseph to Egypt have you been able to be what you wanted to be?” Avwomakpa asked and stated, “Great people always have trouble”.

He said although the brothers of Joseph sold him, they could not sell his dreams adding “who believed that Brother James will come and sit with us again in the church” but his dream was “I shall return” and that has come to pass.

“Beginning from today” Avwomakpa continued, “we must be wise to protect the gift of God to us because no matter how much we press down to submerge, the gift of God will float to the surface”.

 

Ibori raises his familiar song, 'Who can battle with the Lord'

Ibori raises his familiar song, ‘Who can battle with the Lord’

He charged the political class to show love and be polite to the people recalling that in humility, while he served as governor, James Ibori cried to the church that he had tried his best to resolve the Warri Crisis to no avail and wanted the church to intervene and that when the church prayed, the crisis ended.

“Do not neglect God because He alone has made you what you are” Avwomakpa enjoined.

Pouring benediction, the cleric said, “God, you are the Lord of cabals, bring peace to Nigeria and Delta State. Every other plan against this gift of God is hereby cancelled” and called on God to take the congregation to the place of assignment where their problems will vomit them as the whale vomited Jonah.

 

 

Oghara monarch eulogizes Ibori

The homily ended, the monarch of Oghara, HRM Orefe 111, was called to the pulpit to make a statement regarding the Ibori thanksgiving. The monarch said preparation for the thanksgiving actually began in November 2016 when the People of Oghara got wind that Ibori would soon regain freedom and because “we are proud that Oghara is blessed with a very big son in whom we are well pleased” the whole kingdom got involved in the thanksgiving preparation.

 

One of Oghara indigene wearing the Ibori thanksgiving dress

One of Oghara indigene wearing the Ibori thanksgiving dress

He testified that as king, the name of Ibori has opened many doors for him and hence compared Ibori’s travail to the biblical story of the lost sheep for which sake, the Shepherd left the remaining 99 in search of.

He appreciated the humility of James Ibori and his respect for kings and urged the congregation to continue to pray for Ibori.

 

 

 

Ibori’s testimony

The introduction of James Ibori to mount the pulpit to give his testimony was greeted by ecstasy and shouts of joy by the congregation.

Ibori described himself as the beneficiary of real amnesty and the travail he suffered as a path way to fulfilling his destiny.

“For some reasons I gave my life to God and I knew God would stand by me. I am indeed happy to see these many faces that I have missed for so long” Ibori said.

 

The travail of Ibori as a prisoner in the UK

The travail of Ibori as a prisoner in the UK

Continuing, Ibori said he really was not guilty of the charges that took him to prison but faced by the danger of the plot against his life, “I decided to change my garb on the troubled water” and pleaded guilty to evade the danger.

“What matters now is that I am home and those who prosecuted me will have a case with God” Ibori said and raised his familiar song, “Who can wrestle with the Lord’ in Urhobo language to acknowledge and appreciate the power of God in his life and further called for the solo, ‘How Great Art Thou?’ as the church, led by Ibori danced and praised God.

The service came to an end with the presentation of thanks offerings by Ibori assisted by his sister, Mrs Christiana Ibie-Ibori, his cousin (Uduaghan), his daughter (Erhiateke), his uncle (Williams Ibori) other close political associates and members of the congregation as well as the king of Oghara.

In the closing benediction, the Pastor of the church, Rev G.O. who officiated prayed God to guide Ibori as a new born.