The idea for this round of interview came about at the beginning of the year, and took about 3 weeks to complete. The Part 1 was published in 2012. In the intervening years, information that was previously unknown to the general public or that were only whispered about, have come to light – especially in terms of why Mr. Henry Emomotimi Okah was framed, charged, and eventually sentenced to 24 years behind bars. His brother, Charles Okah, is held captive at the Kuje prison in Abuja.
According to Charles Bukowski, about the “only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them,” their friends and or family members.
What you are about to read are the submissions of a man who once said he refused to engage in villainy or encourage malfeasance – malfeasances and villainies that would have undermined Nigeria’s national interest and its burgeoning democracy. Amongst other themes, Okah speaks about prominent Niger Delta figures like Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo, Asari Dokubo, Ateke Tom, and Boyloaf.
It’s been a while since we chatted. How are you and how is life in prison? How do you spend most of your time?
I am very well, thank you. After my sentencing, I spent a lot of time going through countless legal documents in preparing useful notes for my legal challenge to my conviction. There is little or no recreation in South African prisons. Many recreational facilities which existed pre-1994 have since been converted by warders and prison management for their personal use. “Correctional services” is a misnomer for the South African prison services. I spend my time reading whatever I can lay my hands on and by habit, exercise sufficiently in my cell on a daily basis.
How is your health, mentally and physically?
I am generally well but face challenges with feeding and a few medically related issues. I am supposed to be on steroid injections which I have been taking for years (for a congenital skin disorder). The prison doctors refused to administer these injections due to the poor food in the prison. I have not been eating their food all these years. I feed on 8 slices of plain bread daily. I take this with water. This has been the situation since May 18, 2014 when I was taken to Kokstad, the ultra-maximum punishment prison here.
In court the South African prisons lied that they were prepared to administer my injections but backed off outside court. I have lost 15kgs of weight within these last months but that is not a problem. I trust that I will regain whatever I lose when I get out of prison, but I don’t think I want all of the 15kg back.
In February 2014, media houses at home and abroad reported that you were “caught after a prison break attempt.” What was this about?
You may have noticed that foreign media houses immediately ceased reporting on that story. They discovered that like all the “evidences” used in my “trial”, this story was another fabrication of the South African government in its desperation to please its masters in Abuja and move me to a facility where I would not have sufficient phone access ahead of the Nigerian elections. They had been attempting this since my arrest in 2010 in response to desperate appeals by Goodluck Jonathan. I have since taken them to court and I am awaiting a court ruling on this matter.
In its defense, the management of the South African prison services provided no evidence of any kind, but claimed that an inmate who was caught escaping was supposed to travel into Nigeria through Mozambique, to bring back to South Africa by road through Mozambique fighters from the Niger Delta who were to attack the prison where I was held to set me free. I have never encountered people so unintelligent and ignorant! They confidently believed and probably still do, that Nigeria borders Mozambique. This belief may be influenced by the number of Nigerians living in South Africa.
In spite of all the time they spent planning, they could not conjure up a sensible lie. Escaping from prison at this stage will be letting the South African government off lightly. All media houses were embarrassed to have carried the story in the first place and promptly distanced themselves from the shameless liars. The minister, who surprisingly is a lawyer, appears to be unconcerned about inmates’ right abuses.
Do you feel safe in jail? Have there been threats to your safety? And is the South African government adhering to international standards in terms of your accommodation?
I don’t know what the international standards are and can only speak about Nigerian and Angolan prisons. South African prisons are generally unsafe and drug-ridden. In Angola or Nigeria, the least fear any inmate harbors is of being raped by other male inmates. In South African prisons this fear is real for many inmates. I have always been housed in single cell accommodation where the possibility of such does not arise. There have been no direct threats to my life. The only problems I face are those manufactured by the South African government and relating to my general wellbeing in prison. As I said earlier, the South African government is controlled by puppeteers in Abuja when it comes to issues relating to me.
I still fail to understand what the South African government hopes to achieve and suspect they are being misled by the Nigerian government or by a xenophobic disrespect for Nigerians, into believing that I can be intimidated into fearing them. Growing up as a child, the Bible verses of Matthew 10:26-31 were engraved in my heart. If President (Jacob) Zuma were ten times the man he believes he is, and Goodluck Jonathan one hundred times the man he always hoped to be, it would make no difference to me. I respect those deserving of my respect. I fear no one but God.
In terms of the infrastructure, South African prisons may be world class but most are in disrepair like most things in the rest of Africa. The treatment of inmates is a different story. Inmates are beaten to death with batons by warders. Such murders and assaults are covered up; not reported or investigated. It often recorded that these inmates who are always restrained with hands handcuffed behind, were trying to escape or attacked the warders. I witnessed such an assault here in this prison on July 3, 2014 where the inmate, as always, was handcuffed and then beaten with batons and the kicks lasting at least thirty minutes. The acting head of the prison in Kokstad witnessed the injury to this inmate but pretended not to.
In this prison, inmates are fed food fit for pigs and sufficient for a cat. This I suspect has to do with corruption as it is not exactly the case in other prisons. Managers, I suspect, inflate inmates feeding costs while underfeeding inmates. We are not granted access to the shower for as long as three weeks and do not bath for that long. Many South Africans I met in prison do not bathe and generally wipe themselves with a cloth so they may not worry so much about not bathing for three weeks as I do. Assaulted inmates are prevented from opening cases with the police. They are stopped from phoning until their injuries heal. South African prison (correctional services) management is lawless.
They violate every right of inmates with impunity — challenging poor inmates to take them to court. They even boast that should the inmate win, the bill is on the South African government and not a cent will be shaved off their salaries. There is no rehabilitation for those interested in being rehabilitated. Inmates, who were drug free on the outside, leave South African prisons as hardened addicts. Inmates serving time for minor offences are unreasonably mixed with extremely violent repeat offenders.
Prisons in Nigeria and Angola, while not as nice in terms of infrastructure as South African prisons are more humane. I think South Africa is a violent and uncaring society. The difference in my opinion between those in prison and many South Africans on the outside is those in prison were caught doing things that are second nature to many South Africans. Warders in Nigeria and Angola are also more humane. Their counterparts in South Africa are generally nasty. South African prisons, including their kitchens are rat and cockroach infested.
You say the kitchens of South African prisons are infested with rats and cockroaches. How do you know this to be the case? Have you been in the kitchen of any South African prison?
Yes. I have been in the kitchen at Leeuwkop prison in Johannesburg. Besides it is usual to find whole cockroaches and parts of cockroaches and other insects in inmates’ food. At the Pretoria Newlock prisons, without plugging holes in ones cell with rags and shutting windows even in the heat of summer, an inmate spends the entire night fighting with huge rats. All I have said is common knowledge.
You always sounded hopeful and alive. What’s the source of your strength and confidence?
God, Almighty God! From the day I was arrested, I have focused on the end, and know how this will end. I did not know it will last this long however; I mean my time in prison. Knowing the end, I know for a fact that those celebrating my incarceration have acted prematurely. What my enemies have succeeded in doing through all these years is to strike the first blow. The end will not be what they expect. While my confidence is always in God and never in man, I remain to be convinced that my trust in the integrity of South African appeal courts is misplaced. Let us wait and see what happens.
Did the South African and Nigerian government ever offer you pre-trial deals -- deals that would have averted the trial? If yes, what was the nature of the deals they offered?
I dealt entirely with the South African State. It is difficult to tell what emanated from Nigeria as my prosecution was controlled by Nigeria. Before the trial, seeing they had no case and trying to avoid international embarrassment, they offered, through my lawyer, a twelve (12) year sentence in exchange for a guilty plea on charges of supporting terrorism. If I had conceded to such foolishness, I would have spent six years in prison. Enough time they assumed to emasculate me and give Goodluck Jonathan a firm footing in the Niger Delta. I spurned this insulting offer and went to trial.
After the state closed its case, again they offered a deal where I would plead guilty to sponsoring terrorism in exchange for the forfeiture of some assets but no prison time. This was a desperate move in response to the absurdity of the case they had presented in court. The strangest thing about this offer was that my counsel at trial informed me that he was advised by the trial judge that it would be wise for me to accept the state’s deal if I was unable to bring my witnesses to court. (The same witness prevented from attending my trial by the Nigerian government to the knowledge of this judge.) Again I refused and informed my counsel that I was prepared to take my chances and appeal if I had to.
I found out after my conviction that this judge may have been meeting with representatives of the Nigerian embassy in the absence of my legal representatives and without their knowledge as well. This was unethical.
The Nigerian government, an interested party, bore the entire cost of bringing all the state’s witnesses from Nigeria. The prosecutor deceived the court on this. The prosecutor also lied about a witness “Obesse” brought from prison in Nigeria – causing this witness to testify falsely that he was in police detention and not prison in order to justify the Nigerian government’s refusal to allow my witnesses travel to South Africa to testify on my behalf.
In sentencing me, the trial judge said I showed no remorse. That was the only accurate deduction he had made up to that point. I had no cause to be remorseful and felt he should be remorseful rather. Aside from his conduct during the trial and during my 317 application, his judgment was the most fatuous conclusion any sane person could have arrived at. My lawyers advised me not to appeal the merits of the case because this judge had allowed my witnesses to be prevented from attending my trial and I did not testify to place an alternative version of events before the court. The South African prosecuting authority is notoriously corrupt and can hardly win a serious case without fabricating evidence or judicial assistance. This was evidenced in the (Shrien) Dewani trial where the judge refused to be swayed by fabricated evidence.
I am a political prisoner in South Africa while the government continues to deceive South Africans that they have a terrorist in custody. This is all about oil and personal financial benefits to a few people here in South Africa the same way the South African involvement in the C.A.R and Congo is dictated by personal financial gain.
You once said that the Nigerian government, by way of the SSS and the Police, directly and indirectly harassed witnesses and also encouraged them to lie against you.
That the Nigerian government did all these things to any Nigerian is beyond question but I did not fault them for doing so. I’m in a “no holds barred” fight with the Nigerian government and such tactics are expected. What puzzled me was the involvement of people I had no quarrel with. Since being in South Africa, I had laboriously endeavored to walk and work within the limits of the law of the land, trying as hard as I could to offend no one as well. I forgot that money is a powerful weapon of war and the Nigerian government used this to remarkable effect in fighting me.
Some of the state’s witnesses were “hired guns.” Boyloaf`s brother, Sele, for instance testified that at a time, he was the spokesperson for MEND. He also testified that I sat down with him and Farah Dagogo with Boyloaf being present, planning an attack on Agip. Every fighter in the Niger Delta knows this to be false. At no time was Sele a spokesperson or a fighter. He was no more than my driver as he later admitted. Boyloaf did not have a camp until very shortly before my arrest in 2007 so I could not in 2006 be planning an attack on any installation with Boyloaf or Sele who was my driver. Another witness Zion Amada testified to overhearing me planning to attack Equatorial Guinea. During this period, he admitted that he was like a servant to me.
Peter Orubebe, after swearing to tell the truth, testified falsely to discussing the Abuja bombing with me after the fact. My phone records showed him to be lying and he couldn’t say which of his numbers he used in speaking with me and my number to which he made this call. Unsurprisingly, the trial judge found him to be truthful. All these people were encouraged to lie by the prosecutor who assured them that I will never leave a South African prison. Jonathan trusts in his wealth and power. I trust in God. We will see if he and Zuma can defeat God.
What’s next for you and your attorneys? When is your case likely to come before the South African Supreme Court (or whatever the highest court is)?
The Constitutional Court is the highest court in South Africa and this case may eventually go before it in the event that we have no joy at the Supreme Court of Appeal. It is in the hands of God and I believe my legal representatives are extremely competent and will do their best. The Supreme Court of Appeal postponed my appeal on November 26, 2014 to give my lawyers the opportunity to properly challenge the legislation under which I was arrested and prosecuted in the first place.
The South African government took advantage of questionable and untested legislation to imprison me. How can one explain a South African court adjudicating in a conflict with jurisdiction over only one party to that conflict? The judge had no powers to cause my witness to appear before him but still thought that was fair. The South African courts are trying to perform the duties of the International Criminal Court (sitting in Hague, Netherlands) without the necessary authority to do so. This is a consequence of the personal interest of a few people in South Africa. The absurdity of this entire exercise is highlighted by the fact that as it stands, South African courts have jurisdiction in the civil conflict in Ukraine.
Have Western legal firms and other institutions from Canada, the US or the UK shown interest in your case?
I doubt that my case will generate any positive interest in any Western nation. This is all about oil and the continued exploitation of African countries by the West. This is not unusual in a “dog-eat-dog” world. Positive interest is only possible where it serves the interest of Western nations. These nations use weak African leaders to fulfill their wishes and commit unlawful acts which they do not wish to be openly associated with such as my imprisonment in Angola and now South Africa incredibly. The ANC tacitly accepted that Nelson Mandela and its leaders of the 1960s were terrorists. The silence of the ANC which was due to the interference of the trial judge that Mandela and other ANC leaders of the 1960s were terrorists like me was shocking. To be labeled a terrorist in the likeness of Nelson Mandela was such a great honor to me that I marched off to prison celebrating this accolade.
Have human rights organizations (in Nigeria) contacted you or shown interest in you and the court proceedings?
I don’t know if any human rights organization in Nigeria has any interest in my case. Most African human rights organizations are lame and can be very easily influenced by governments through bribes and intimidation into ignoring rights abuses. Citizens of most African countries receive no support from their governments or home N.G.O’s leaving them open to abuse in foreign prisons.
Have you ever met Mr. Jonathan? If yes, what was your impression of him? What’s your impression of General Muhammadu Buhari?
I have met President Jonathan. I knew him though not closely when he was the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State. My cousin Chief (Diepreye) Alamieyeseigha was then governor. I had a meeting with Jonathan in Pretoria in 2007 when the late President Yar’ Adua sent him to speak with me. He was accompanied by Chief Timipre Sylva. I have spoken to him on occasions. In one instance, he was traumatized emotionally by the attack on his country home which he was misled into believing I had a hand in. The last time I spoke with him was in April 2010 when he asked for my support personally. Since my recent arrest, I have had no direct contact with him.
It is difficult to speak about President Jonathan without saying something uncomplimentary. I truthfully find him timid and cowardly. His discussions are unintelligible revealing a lack of intellectual depth. As governor of Bayelsa State, and a man whose home had been violated, I expected him to be angry and indignant at this sacrilegious act. Rather, he was physically trembling, terrified and incoherent as he spoke weeks after the attack. When we met in 2007, he did not mention the attack on his home even though as I found out later, that he, at that meeting, still harbored the misconception that I was somehow involved in that vile act.
I was quite young when General Muhammadu Buhari was in power so I am compelled by this fact to look at him in awe. This has nothing to do with his personality. General Buhari kept quiet for a long time and I have not kept up with him since after he was deposed in a military coup. He does not appear vain and would very likely be a more prudent civilian leader. This is not to say that I would vote for him in any elections as much as I respect him. I am disillusioned with Nigerian politics and have never voted or participated in any form of politics at any level.
You may not know this, but during one of his many campaign stops -- and after MEND had endorsed the candidacy of General Muhammadu Buhari -- President Jonathan was quoted as saying: “Okah was procured by someone in Nigeria to assassinate me.” This is a serious allegation.
These days it is difficult to differentiate Asari Dokubo’s comments from Jonathan’s. I, however, don’t expect any group in the delta to make public endorsements of any politician. That was a bold and risky move which can easily backfire when that politician fails to live up to expectations which in Nigeria is the norm. I am not a politician or politically inclined. I believe in actions and in doing what must be done — not talks.
But straight to your question: why has Jonathan not supplied proof of this and why have these “sponsors of assassination” not been arrested in Nigeria? No sensible person makes in public, such unguarded and unproven allegations.
The truth is that I am not an assassin and have no need or desire to do that. That is not who I am. I am not a criminal. I am not a terrorist. I am not an assassin. I seek and fight for justice and equity.
There are those who believe that you should have taken the route many ex-militants took: agree to Jonathan’s inducements (cash rewards, million-dollar contracts, access to the presidency, etc.). Why didn’t you?
I am not an ex-militant and proudly lead those who still believe in our noble cause. I am speaking with reference to all militant agitators and not to any particular group. Everyone fighting for justice in the Niger Delta is a volunteer to the cause. I ventured into this struggle with a clear and achievable goal in mind. In spite of all expected obstacles, this vision remains ever clear and achievable. In this life where our existence is as brief as “early morning mist”, I have no need for or interest in these things you mentioned. None of these surpass the joy of fighting for the rights of millions.
In an interview Asari Dokubo granted The Nation newspaper this year, he made very serious allegations against you. For instance, he was quoted as saying: “Henry Okah, if he asks for money and you don’t give him, he attacks you. He asked Goodluck Jonathan when he was Governor of Bayelsa State to share the budget and give him 5% of the budget of Bayelsa every month.”
A fool is a fool by any other name. When Jonathan wants to spread lies, he knows who to call. Sensible people like Ateke Tom and Farrah Dagogo will refuse to be so used. You should have seen an interview he paid a journalist to publish. He can only get space in local newspapers that have nothing better to publish. No one approaches Asari for interviews. He begs for them believing that these give him relevance since he has become a pariah in the Niger Delta and can only now ply his trade in Abuja. He is unintelligent and has forgotten the different versions he has given in the past. This man once said I was fighting against Goodluck Jonathan because Jonathan displaced Alamieyeseigha. Another time he said my wife is Itsekiri which was why I supported Itsekiris. My wife is from Enugu.
He has also said in yet another interview that I am not Ijaw. But Ijaw historians and scholars will tell him that I am a purer Ijaw than he can ever be. Even as I say this I must tell you that the issue of tribe is unimportant to me because I am not tribalistic and regard myself first as a Nigerian before an Ijaw.
The international media wisely has no time to waste on this nuisance. I did not support any side in the Ijaw/Itsekiri conflict which I considered to be senseless and I fought to restrain Ijaw fighters.
Asari was also quoted as saying: “Henry Okah invaded Government House with his boys, destroyed Government House. They went to Otueke, burnt down his country home in Otueke, thinking he was there.”
This is not true! An absolute lie! In any case, this man (Asari) should be looked upon as a source of amusement and nothing else. I unfortunately met him for the first time at the home of a friend a very long time ago. I did not speak with him. He was dressed in a filthy white robe and spoke endlessly -- his mouth hanging open even when silent. When he left, my friend explained to me that Asari was a thug who harassed with machetes, villagers and political opponents of the then governor. This explained his bizarre conduct and appearance. I had an extremely poor opinion of him and when I later found out he was made Ijaw Youth Council president, my opinion of that organization nose-dived.
Asari had previously claimed that I am an arms dealer who has no “boys.” Forgetting all that, he now claims I attacked Jonathan’s country home with my “boys.” Why can’t Jonathan speak for himself? Jonathan claimed that I planned to assassinate him, well, why didn’t he add that I attacked his home and demanded 5% of the budget of Bayelsa State? Asari was then in prison and was moved to the SSS dungeon when President Obasanjo discovered that he (Asari) was busy negotiating ransom for South Korean hostages seized from Daewoo by people then under him. This shows that he was commissioned for this interview as he was then in isolation.
It is a wonder that to this day the Nigerian media has not discovered that Asari Dokubo is irrelevant in the Niger Delta. He was replaced as a commander by Farah Dagogo, a more sensible and disciplined fighter and the reason for this is obvious to everyone whenever Asari opens his mouth. He is what you call empty barrel. Goodluck Jonathan knows who attacked his home. He obtained an apology in Abuja from this person who is “working” with him. Jonathan also knows the reason why his “new friend” attacked his home.
Just recently, a friend told me that other Niger Delta heavyweights, i.e. Diezani Alison-Madueke and Peter Godsday Orubebe, tried to appease you so you could (a) support Jonathan’s ambition; and (b) agree to the general understanding amongst many ex-militants. Why didn’t you go along?
This is untrue! Conflict in the delta appears chaotic but there is some form of order and there are rules. Orubebe, by swearing to speak the truth and then lying in order to imprison me, knew from that moment that I can never in this life, be at peace with him and that is the reason why he like others, is battling to ensure I am not released. He can never have the courage to approach me in his lifetime.
I don’t yet have a problem with Diezani. I know, love and respect her mother. However, I have not spoken or communicated with her (Diezani) since around April 2010.
As I said earlier, I am not an ex-militant and can therefore not sit with those people in the first place or be in accord with whatever discussions they may arrive at. Jonathan-manufactured militants are of no use to our cause and therefore of zero value to me. I am a leader of the “living” and not the “dead.”
With the benefit of time, of hindsight and considering the pain and sufferings you and your loved ones are going through, do you regret your activism? Do you regret fighting for justice and equity on behalf of the Niger Deltans?
Not at all! I will find no greater joy doing anything else. God has assisted my family cope well through all this. I thank God for those who have stood by me through thick and thin. For me, this is just another “work related hazard.” I wish my country well and I am in fact more determined to see the entire Niger Delta issue to a speedy and logical conclusion.
From the start of the struggle for justice and equity in the Niger Delta, what was your relationship with Tompolo, Asari Dokubo, Alamieyeseigha and Edwin Clark?
Tompolo was a commander of a group of Ijaw freedom fighters. He was a good fighter but is cunning with a lot of “native sense.” He would have been a much better person absent of the influence of a group of “village politicians” who steer him for their benefit.
I never had a relationship with Asari Dokubo. I met him about three or four times in all my life and never alone or for more than thirty minutes or an hour maximum. He was a foul person to be around. He bad body odor, mouth odor, poor eating manners and talked endlessly. The last time I had any kind of contact with him was around early 2005 so I wonder where and how he obtains all this information he claims to have about me. He was briefly a commander where he made all the noise he made about shutting Nigeria’s oil taps before he was replaced by a more competent Farah Dagogo. Asari is a stalker who admires me and seeks my attainment it seems.
Chief Alamieyeseigha is an older cousin. This is all I know him as. He is a kind-hearted person. As for Chief Edwin Clark, I met him only once upon my release in 2009 at the prompting of my then lawyer in Nigeria. This meeting was at Chief Clark’s home in Delta State and lasted less than one hour.
He (Chief Clark) is a tribalist and an opportunist. I never had any further contact with him after that visit. He is one of those people in the Niger Delta who parades themselves in oil companies pretending to have control over militants. I wonder what this decrepit man can do with all the money he is gathering. Unfortunately, this “blind man” is one of Jonathan’s chief advisers so what can be the fate of Nigeria? Ijaws and other indigenes of the Delta must cease supporting useless and treacherous leaders of Nigeria based on tribalistic sentiments. Traitors and our enemies are one and the same!
You and your lawyers are inching your way through the South African legal system. What if things don’t turn out right for you? After all, sooner or later, all these appeals and all that will come to an end.
I remain unwavering in my belief that I will soon be free. I will be free regardless of the efforts of Goodluck Jonathan and his allies in South Africa to keep me chained, such is my faith. Though South African legal system is painfully sluggish, I will succeed as God is by my side.
Assuming you regain your freedom, would you like to remain in South Africa or return to your country of birth, Nigeria?
If I tell you or anyone that I would like to remain in South Africa, I doubt if anyone would believe me. It is now virtually impossible for me to remain in South Africa. Here, I am dealing with a government that takes orders from Nigeria and seems willing to do anything and I mean anything — at a price. For my arrest and subsequent imprisonment, people here were rewarded with oil blocks by way of SacOil (a South African oil company).
The current South African government has abused its power repeatedly in the misuse of its Home Affairs Department, Police Force, Prison Services and tax man in trying to curry favor with the Nigerian government. The prosecuting authority of South Africa is an acknowledged political weapon of the state that was also repeatedly used as a vendetta against me.
All I can say for now is that I will not remain in South even if I have to leave with just the clothes I am wearing. After all, such would be the case if war were to suddenly erupt in South Africa. For reasons I am yet to comprehend, the South African government thinks I place value on my assets in this country. I am proudly Nigerian and no true Nigerian hangs on in desperation to anything outside Nigeria. This is not my country and I never planned to die here unless God so willed it.
The Niger Delta is deteriorating in terms of the environment, unemployment, and other issues you concerned yourself with a while back. What’s your thought on this matter?
I warned Nigerians about Goodluck Jonathan but some people assumed I was speaking in anger and arrogance. If you go back to our first conversation, you will found out that all said is now being made manifest. With the exception of Tony Uranta who said his phone was stolen and the thief had sent me text messages appealing for a MEND disclaimer of the Abuja bombing, not one person has till today denied all I said. Nigerians have now seen Goodluck Jonathan for exactly what I told them that he is. There is little difference in his speeches and that of Asari.
The future however is not entirely bleak. I pray Nigeria gets a responsible and sensible president who sees the need to properly address the situation of the North and South in the face of Boko Haram and the Niger Delta issue. If not, I foresee the use of arms in the not too distance future that could result in a civil war if care and caution is not taken.
The oil companies should not be deceived by false assurances given by those parading themselves as leaders of militants that nothing will happen to them as they continue to plunder the land. All these people put together cannot secure one asset of pipeline of any company. Collectively we should change Nigeria as a whole because the entire nation is in disarray. I rely on the courage, determination and spirit of Nigerians and its youth to make such a change possible.
What do you suppose are the biggest misconceptions the Nigerian and South African public have about you?
In the eyes of some South Africans, I am a terrorist; but really, their opinion is of little importance to me. The vast majority of the good people of South Africa know that these are trumped-up charges. Some are generally misinformed and ignorant about things outside the borders of this country. All their knowledge of international events is gleaned off the pages of South African newspapers which, in many cases, are no better than tabloids.
With the exception of “The Mail and Guardian” newspaper, investigative journalism does not exist in the South African print media. In my case, many South Africans happily gobble up all the negative propaganda spewed out by a government whose policies are largely influences by the parochial interest of a cabal.
In Nigeria on the other hand, public opinion is divided and I am comfortable with that. I have always spoken the truth -- the verifiable truth. Information is freely available for anyone who thirsts for the truth these days. Even so, people have different understanding of the exact same piece of information making the differences in public opinion of me understandable.
What message do you have for young Ijaw boys and girls – especially those who look up to you?
My message is simple. The Ijaws are a proud nation of warriors who have never been successfully held in bondage by anyone. Ijaw youths should not now learn to become perfect slaves suitable for use by our oppressors. They must not be deceived into believing that demanding for justice and fighting for it if necessary, is criminal or amounts to terrorism.
They must reject all worthless peace prizes and conferences for as long as they remain oppressed and be prepared to fight and sacrifice their lives for the victory which God will not deny us. As much as I love peace, I will not allow myself to be cheated by anyone.
Can a Black African or an African company do in Holland, UK, United States or anywhere else what the oil companies are doing in the Delta? Will the Dutch, American or British government sack an entire village and or kill its citizens for me? Will any of these governments allow the wholesale environmental pollution of their lands and waterways as is the case in the Delta?
Where in the Western world would you find the gross abuse of the environment and the curtailing of human rights as you would find in the Delta? There is proper accounting of wealth and income everywhere in the oil-producing countries -- everywhere but the Niger Delta. This is unconscionable, and should be unacceptable to all Nigerians.
In Part 3 of “Conversation With Henry Okah,” he spoke about militants who threatened to go to war in the event Jonathan loses the now rescheduled election; the detention of his brother, Charles, in Kuje prison Abuja; the psychology of Jonathan; South Africa’s interference in the affairs of the Niger Delta; the problem of leadership in Nigeria; and his take on the upcoming presidential election.
- Sabella Abidde lives in Alabama. He can be reached at [email protected]