With Dare Lasisi, London
Few weeks ago, I came face-to-face with an imposing bill board close to a London train station.
What first caught my fancy was the colourful design of the advert and then a strong message which came flashing at my face with this controversial caption:’One in every five people shall suffer mental health sickness within a year.
I quipped for one moment and became agitated: “How possible is this sort of silly message being sent to us through the bill board”, I paused just for a moment, and continued my journey, ignoring the impact I felt about the message.
Getting settled now inside the train, the message kept creeping into my memory and I started to ruminate for over two hours, still gripped by agitation that how possible would many of us in reality get our sights so easily lost.
Just moments later, I wondered why I engaged myself with such medical issue which should not be my tea pot but rather an issue for medical experts. More so, I have got a lot running through my mind. I saved myself the torture of worries since it would not be peculiar to me as an individual. I am not the sort of person ready to ditch my word weaving profession for blood samples at medical centers. Why then worrying over an issue of medical concern. I smiled and just had a sigh and my mind swayed to another subject.
There are many causes of mental health problems in this life, especially with the plight of many on this land with no hope and no future and yet many challenges stare.
In the developing countries, many mental patients are looked at with stigma while they are avoided by their neighbours and friends. In Africa, many are of the opinion that relationships with victims of mental sickness are a shameful thing.
I am not going to over-stress to explain that aspect of our day to day attitude towards the less privileged in Africa at the moment.
The intention of this piece is just to carefully tell the ‘un-reported stories’ of the celebrated trial, now creating waves across the world.
The trial of James Ibori’s in London has left so many memorable side events, many that are not reported as the final stage of the trial was unfolding.
I was part of history on that fateful day that will for ever send ‘warning signals’ to all the Nigerian execu-thieves and legis-looters.
As we all remember, Mr James Ibori is not the only former Nigerian governor that massively looted public funds but he is just the unlucky scapegoat who had stepped on ‘powerful toes’ when he was in power especially in his home state of Delta in Nigeria.
The trial afforded another festival of celebration for the British press which crudely got excited on getting negative news on Nigeria. They massaged Ibori’s news, even describing ‘St James of Niger Delta’ as a ‘petty thief from the womb’! Pity!
He was jailed on April 17,2012 for 13 years at the Southwark Crown Court in London for fraud and money-laundering crimes.
It was a big news as journalists from every corner of the globe stormed London to witness one the ‘trials of the year’. It was another indictment on the part of the Nigerian judicial system that sensationally discharged and acquitted Mr Ibori of all the 170-count charges relating to fraud and money-laundering when the late President Umaru Yar Adua was still in power.
What happened in the four corners of Southwark Crown Court Court 9 is fast becoming history. But there is this side attraction that many are yet to know about which provided a mild entertainment to hundreds of visitors to the Court on April 16 and 17.
There was this Nigerian, (Let me call him Mr A) who provided the comic relief (which was later mis-interpreted as a ‘public nuisance’) for both pro and anti Ibori supporters that came to witness the final verdict from far and near.
I walked passed him when I saw him in front of the court as early as 8.30am as I did not bother to ask him anything, noting an unusual appearance that he put up.
He must have arrived as early as 7am to witness Ibori’s judgement day.
From my close observation, he only got one functioning eye. He dressed as a complete court jester with different types of amulet hanging on his neck.
A first glance at him sold him out as a typical Nigerian traditionalist with all sort of emblems of identity to distinguish himself as a peculiar person. Like an accomplished boxer, he had so many tags, tied to his waist belt and Mr A typical of the street Nigerian madman, carried about five different bags with his two hands apparently with no dreamt destination.
The natural odor oozing from his body was enough to suffocate anybody around him for long and seeking immediately medical assistance for body system decontermination. He was a spectacle.
Mr ‘A’ provided a comic scene, dancing in front of the court with no music provided. He apparently was being supplied with music from his own abstract world, pretending to be listening to unheard and imaginary sound.
Nobody was ready to engage him in any form of dialogue due to his weird appearance.
Some people even ignore him treating him as personel-non-grata believing there was no point chatting with a mad person who was only there as a sympathiser.
I had similar funny experience in front of the Nigerian High Commission building in central London on that fateful Tuesday, 20th October,2009 in London when late President Umaru Musa Yar Adua was still in power and former minister of FCT,Abuja,Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was having difficulty to obtain a Nigerian passport in London.
I was part of the ‘Nigerians-in-diaspora’ delegation that accompanied the former minister, Mr El Rufai to the Nigerian High Commision building to apply for his new passport.
The mad man(Mr B) in Mr El-Rufai’s issue was neatly dressed but words coming from his mouth were both illogical and un-reasonable.
He confused Mr El-Rufai as the first son of former Ogun State Governor,Chief Olabisi Onabanjo and also said Obasanjo was still the President during Umaru Yar Adua era. Mr B had also come to the embassy to apply for a Nigerian passport to travel back to Nigeria.
He lamented that he was tired of staying abroad after ‘donkey years’ and he must get a new passport on that same day, even without paying the required fees or filling the application forms. It was a most funny scenario I ever witnesed.
Suddenly, a fight broke out between Mr B and one Nigerian High Commission staff. They engaged in fist-curves and as I tried to separate them, my other comrades advised me to strictly face the business of that fateful day.
Mr B quickly dialled 999 on his ‘old school’ mobile phone and under five minutes,two police vans arrived with five fully-armed British police officers.
Mr B told the police that he was assaulted by the embassy staff and he pointed to me as a witness.
All the people at the embassy were just laughing at Mr B and his bare-faced lies.
As I took occasional stare at Mr A, the past memory of Mr B was creeping into my brain. But I was being pushe by nature to be sympathetic toward him and get closer to ask questions.
Then, one unseen voice smartly whispered to my right ear to move close and ask Mr A some questions. I refused to listen to this strange voice because this was going to be a distraction to the big news of the day which was Ibori’s sentencing by the Court.
Everybody was rushing to enter Court 9 but there was a bottleneck created by the policemen at the court entrance:’No ticket,No Entry’.
The scene was reminiscent of a cinema hall last minute admittance rush to watch a blockbuster film where you must show valid ticket before entry. I was later informed by one of the security officers attached to Court 9 that the ‘No ticket, No Entry’ policy was introduced in order to control the number of people that would witness the judgement day due to limited space and available seats.
Let me quickly fast-forward my story or should I say to cut the long story shortWhen Justice Anthony Pitts pronounced the final judgement of 13 years in jail for the former Delta State Governor popularly known as ‘Ogborigbogbogbo of Africa’ around few minutes past 3pm local time.
The mood of everybody present at the court premises suddenly changed.The police officers were quickly put on ‘red alert’ to control both pro and anti-Ibori supporters who were battle-ready to exchange blows.It was a real pandemonium as people trooped out of court 9 to either rejoice or celebrate.
It was so easy to differentiate between Ibori dedicated supporters who all looked sad,dejected and dissappointed from anti-Ibori supporters who were shouting: James Ibori,may you rot in British jail for looting public funds. You’re down but more looters from your class shall soon go down like you.’
As stubborn as a mule, Ibori supporters were busy trumpeting the achievements of their principal which they said were more than what President Goodluck Jonathan,former Governor Alams plus immediate past Governor Sylva all combined together achieved as governors of oil-rich Bayelsa State of Nigeria.
They termed the judgement a politically-motivated verdict because their principal,Mr James Ibori is now being punished because he stepped on ‘untouchable and powerful ‘ toes in Nigeria.
Some of them openly confessed that Mr James Ibori made them to enjoy real life as ‘human beings’ and they can’t reject him at his trying moment.They said they are all eternally grateful to Mr James Ibori who finally checkmated godfatherism in Delta State politics.
A lady called Stella who appeared to be their spokesperson lamented despite sadness written all over her face:’Ibori is down but he will rise again over his enemies.The downfall of a man is not the end of his life.Praise the Lord.’
When Stella, a lady in her early 30s was asked how could she still be defending Mr James Ibori, a convicted criminal that looted so much of public funds to cater for his extraordinary lavish lifestyle.She became so aggressive as if to kick anybody in the face and so defensive of the man she fondly referred to as her father and political mentor.
She narrated how Mr Ibori as her political father assisted her to become one of the councillors in one of the local government areas in Delta State.
“Let’s assume Chief James Onanefe Ibori is a thief and a fraudster as you people are calling him.What of other thieves in Nigeria that did nothing to empower their people while in government? This is just a selective justice.You people are just sitting down in London believing all the cheap blackmail against Chief Ibori. You’re just educated illiterates.What happened to Abacha’s recovered loot from Switzerland?What of the funds recovered from Mr Joshua Dariye,former Plateau State governor and former Bayelsa State governor,Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha? What of President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife money laudering issue that was covered up? Please just travel to villages in Delta State and see Ibori’s achievements.”
As Stella was trying to re-package Mr James Ibori’s battered image. Mr A rudely interrupted the whole scene by saying: “All looted funds must be returned to Africa. This Southwark Crown Court is a product of British imperialism and freemason members. The present generations of Africans must demand for compensations for many years of slavery and colonialism. Our forebearers were forcefully shipped out of Africa by the white people to work as slaves in foreign lands .”
Mr A was so busy dishing out his ‘Pan-Africanism’ gospel but nobody really took him serious until he exploded another unbelievable hogwash:”Mayor of London, Mr Boris Johnson was once a drug addict. I used to sell hard drugs to him many years ago in London.”
As soon as police men heard this strange ‘bombshell’ from his mouth, they calmly approached him to leave the court area peacefully and immediately. But Mr A refused to move claiming he had ‘freedom of speech and movement’ as a liberated African man. He also threatened that he is a disabled man and if pushed too hard by the police officers, he would collapse and die.
The stage was now set for the press conference by the prosecution team but Mr A was still shouting illogical words to disturb the peace and serenity of the already charged atmosphere.
He stood in between the space created for both pro and anti-Ibori supporters to lawfully carry out their non-violent protest and started taunting the British police officers as ‘agents of imperialism’ against the African people.
When one of pro-Ibori supporters declared that:’Ibori is not a thief, Mr A repeated the same word in a comical way. But to add extra insult to the injury of the already-stressed police officers, Mr A crossed his boundary and started mimicking loudly every word coming out of both Ibori supporters and anti-Ibori supporters, turning the scene to a life comedy show.
He further provoked the police men by repeating every word coming from one police officer’s mouth.
When the policeman told him to move away, he repeated the same word like a nursery rhyme and there were irresistible roaring laughter from all watching the spectacle.
Mr A became more of a liability as hi nuisance outburst was getting into nerves of the helpless police watching his strange behaviour.
He started blocking television cameras as if paid to distrupt the whole show. He was becoming an unbearable thorn in the flesh of everybody waiting for the press conference and police officers could no longer tolerate Mr A’s madness and foolishness.
He was persuaded for the last time to vacate the scene. When the ovation was the loudest and a fight was about to break out between Ibori supporters and non-Ibori supporters. Mr A carried all his five bags and quickly dialogued with his legs.
After the fall of Mr James Ibori.Who is the next political leader in Nigeria to face justice over the looted public funds?
As the Indian foremost elder stateman,Mahatma Gandhi once said,:There is enough wealth for everybody’s need but not enough for everybody’s greed.
British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron also quipped in November 2011 that:”If the same amount of money looted from Nigeria for the past 30 years by their leaders were also looted from Britain, Britain by today will no longer exist as a region.’
Former premier league British-Nigerian footballer,Mr John Fashanu who was also invited to testify as a ‘character reference’ for the former governor could not hide his dissappointment over the verdict when cornered by some journalists. He smartly said:”I was once a footballer and referee’s verdict is always the final. I respect the Judge’s verdict today.Thank you.’
Let me end this long essay by telepathically acting as a pseudo-mindreader or as an unpaid professional child psychologist for Mr James Ibori’s children:’Our Daddy is now in jail.Our Mummy is in jail. Our Daddy’s girlfriend is also in jail. Our Daddy’s sister is also in jail. Our Daddy’s lawyer is also in jail. All our beloved people have been forcefully taken away from us. What a crazy life we shall all be living till their final release! As they are singing the Biblical songs of :” The Lord is my Shepherd”, They can only take solace in the biblical verses of Psalm 27 verse 10:” When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty”