LONDON (Reuters) – Former Nigerian oil state governor James Ibori, who was recently released from a British prison after serving a sentence for corruption, has signalled a possible political comeback in Africa’s most populous country.
As governor of Delta State from 1999 to 2007, Ibori became one of Nigeria’s most powerful men and enjoyed a millionaire lifestyle, with luxury homes in several countries.
He was later extradited to Britain, where he pleaded guilty in 2012 to 10 counts of fraud and money-laundering.
The case was initially hailed as a high point in the fight against corruption, although it has since become bogged down in allegations of misconduct by British authorities.
In line with normal British practice, Ibori was released in December after serving half of his 13-year sentence, taking into account pre-trial detention. He said he would return within days to Nigeria, where local media have reported that he remains influential 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.
Nigerian media reported that Ibori’s release had prompted dancing in the streets in parts of Delta State.