Chief James Onanefe Ibori, born 4th of August 1958, is the immediate past governor of Delta State and arguably, one of the most vocal advocates of resource control in Nigeria.
Born to the family of late Chief Ukavbe Ibori and Mrs. Comfort Oji Ibori of Otefe in Oghara clan, Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State, he attended Baptist High School, Oghareki, now Oghareki Grammar School, before proceeding to the University of Benin where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and statistics. He started his working career with Mobil Oil Nigeria Limited and was later seconded to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)as one of the pioneer staff assembled to develop the marketing department of the corporation\'s Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company. He later quit for the exciting world of business.
Between 1994 and1997, he served as a consultant to the Federal Government in the areas of public policy formulation and implementation. His major assignment during this period was the research, which resulted in the formulation of a national drug policy for the country. A proposal he submitted to the Federal Government was the basis on which Decree 3 of 1995 was promulgated and the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Drug Matters was established.
Ibori\'s political career started, as it were, in 1990 when he joined the National Republican Convention (NRC). In 1991, he was nominated to contest for the Federal House of Representatives seat, to represent Ethiope Federal Constituency. He lost the election to his rival of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). But he was undaunted. When the Sani Abacha Transition Programme kicked off, he pitched his tent with the Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM). The GDM made some significant impression, clinching a good number of local, state and federal positions, including one of the three senatorial seats in the state. But the transition programme was abruptly terminated with the death of Abacha. Ibori grouped his followers and, with the leaders of other defunct political groups in Delta State, formed the Delta National Congress (DNC).
The DNC later merged with many others of like ideas to birth the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was on the platform of the PDP that he contested and won the January 9, 1999 election to become the governor of Delta State. In 2003, he was re-elected as governor for another four years. Delta State , during his tenure, witnessed unprecedented development in human and infrastructure resources. As at 1999, employees in Delta State were afflicted by numerous problems. Salaries and wages were in arrears and workers had agonising experience in getting paid. The situation changed for the better with the enhanced revenue from the resource control agitation. In the first two years of his administration, the number of public employees doubled. And Delta State was the first to implement the wage increase negotiated between the Federal Government and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC). There was enhanced remuneration package for the state employees so that staffs of the Delta State University became the highest paid in the country. Ibori\'s conviction that education serves a very significant role in human and national development saw him establishing three polytechnics in the three senatorial districts of the state and a college of physical education. And his private university, the Western Delta University, Oghara, is being positioned as one of the world\'s leading universities.
One of the most significant aspects of Ibori\'s achievement is recorded in the areas of road construction and building of bridges. It is estimated that the roads constructed during his tenure, if stretched on a single road, will cover the distance from Warri to Kano! The bridges constructed, code-named, \'Bridges of Unity\' are aimed at connecting the neglected riverine districts of the state to the upland territories. The most gigantic of them is the Bomadi Bridge across the Forcados River.
A lover of sports, he is passionate about sports development. He built the Warri Township Stadium and six smaller ones. The investments in sports yielded good dividends as Delta several times won the National Sports Festival. For these and many other developmental projects in electricity, agriculture, health, water resources and housing, he has received several awards for distinguish leadership and service from many
organisations and institutions including National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Leadership Watch, Centre for Youth Development, South South Peoples Assembly, Exams Ethics Project, the University of Nigeria Alumni Association, Lagos Chamber of Commerce, Federal Polytechnic, Oko, University of Benin Alumni Association, Delta State Baptist Conference as well as a citation from the Assembly of the State of Wisconsin celebrating the establishment of the James Ibori Centre for Policy Studies, a non-profit foundation dedicated to the enhancement and furtherance of human development in Africa.
Ibori is both loved and admired by Deltans and non-Deltans. The calls of excitement he receives whenever he makes a public appearance within and outside the state is a testimony to this. While some refer to him as the Strongman of Delta, others call him Odidigborigbo of Africa. This, surely, is in admiration of his undaunted, unbowed, unflinching, indomitable and irrepressible spirit. Ibori has seen challenging moments, but he has gone through them with gracious ease. But he ascribes his victories to the mercy of the Almighty God