Uche Secondus, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), says James Ibori, former governor of Delta state, “must be celebrated”.

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Speaking during a grand reception organised in honour of Ibori at Ovwor-Olomu in Ughelli south local government area of Delta, Secondus praised the “sterling leadership qualities” of the former governor.

The reception, which took place on Saturday, was attended by Emmanuel Uduaghan, a former governor of Delta, and Ifeanyi Okowa, the incumbent.

Ibori returned to the country on February 4 after spending close to five years in jail in the UK for money laundering.

A statement by the press office of the Delta state government quoted Secondus as saying Ibori is a “unifying figure and a blessing to the Niger Delta region”.

The PDP chairman was quoted to have said: “Ibori must be celebrated because he is a man of the people not just in Delta state but across the nation.

“Today, he is a factor in this country. On behalf of the masses of our country, we salute you, we salute your courage because you are a man who believes in the struggle of the party.”

He said in Ibori, Delta has “a son that has built a political structure that is envied across the nation.

“Delta state remains the only state in the nation that has a stability in political succession. It remains the only state where all the governors that have ruled the state are still members of the PDP.”

Okowa linked the “foundation of development” in the state to Ibori, saying he established a political structure “which served as a bridge builder and development agent across the country”.

Ibori was first arrested in Dubai by Interpol operatives on May 13, 2010, from where he was subsequently extradited to the UK.

A UK court convicted him of fraud in 2012 and handed him a 13-year jail sentence but he regained freedom in December, after serving four and half years and agreeing to be deported from the country.