Former Governor of Delta State governor, James Ibori, who was convicted of money laundering in the United Kingdom, has dismissed claims that he is a thief.
The former governor spoke in public in Nigeria since his return from the United Kingdom where he served a 13-year jail term for money laundering.
Ibori spoke at a thanksgiving service organised in his honour by the people of Oghara Kingdom at the First Baptist Church, Oghara in Delta State yesterday (Sunday).
Ibori, dressed in Urhobo traditional attire, flanked by his elder sister, Mrs. Christine Ibori-Ibie and daughter, Erhiatake, arrived the venue of the thanksgiving at about 10.30am after the praise and worship service had commenced.
Addressing the congregation, 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 that know me, you know that my entire life is a testimony itself and I have said it over and over again that my life is fashioned by God, directed by God, sealed, acknowledged and blessed by God and I believe that since the day I was born.
“Like Archbishop Avwomakpa said, when this whole commotion started, what was most painful to me was the pain and suffering that my people were going through. What I went through has nothing to do with me as a person because for some reasons, like I said to you, I drew my strength from God and 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, faces that I have missed and those of you that have indeed suffered the pains of my absence. It has nothing to do with me.”
The former governor, who switched between Urhobo and English languages while speaking, added, “So, when I reflect, it gives me joy that all your prayers, God has answered, all your support and solidarity for me all through this period, it is indeed not what I can begin to say. Like what our former chief of staff, Francis Agboroh, said ‘it is unthinkable.’
“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. When I looked at how things were going, I discovered that they wanted to separate me from you people. They wanted me to go to the corner where I won’t be seen.
“That’s how I see it. …I am happy to be home with my people. There is nobody that can battle with the Lord. An Urhobo adage says there is time for everything (okemutie). A day will come when I will tell my story and every one of you will hear me. Today is to thank God.”