In private and in public, and for more than a decade now, former President Goodluck Jonathan has been obsessed with the Okah Brothers. He’s been fixated on Charles and Henry Okah. And especially since 2007, when there was an attempt to compromise his safety and security, he’s been under the illusion that the brothers are gunning for him; that they want him dead. But really, nothing can be farther from the truth. Neither Charles nor Henry wants him dead.
What’s to be gained by assassinating him? Nothing, absolutely nothing! That he was thrown out of office and is being shredded by history is enough for millions of Nigerians.
That he was a former lecturer doesn’t make him valuable. That he was a former deputy governor and governor of his state doesn’t make him consequential. That he was a vice president, and later president, doesn’t mean he was singular. As a lecturer, he was pedestrian; as a deputy and later the substantive governor, his reign was fleeting and insignificant; and as the world came to see and know, his presidency was extremely wasteful and damaging.
In so many ways, his presidency was worse than that of Obasanjo. But Obasanjo was a better man. For instance, in spite of the antagonistic relationship between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, he (Obasanjo) didn’t go about peddling lies and imaginary tales about his “enemies.” He was not vengeful towards Asari-Dokubo. And even though he could have, he did not bring down the weight of his presidency on Asari-Dokubo. He did not attempt to destroy Asari-Dokubo. But not so for Jonathan – a man who could not and did not know or understand that criticism does not parallel treason.
To be sure, Charles and Henry Okah are not fans of the former president. They didn’t care for him. But then millions of Niger Deltans, as with millions of Ijaw, didn’t and still don’t have high regard for him. Jonathan knows this, just as he knows that millions of Nigerians don’t think much of him. This was a political leader who excelled in failures and political perversions. And he thinks Charles and Henry wanted to get rid of him? What’s the point? But of course, this can only be true in his imagination.
There are several reasons why Jonathan was determined to see Charles and Henry Okah rot in jail. Every Ijaw elite knows this; every politically conscious adult-Ijaw knows it. Ask Chief Edwin Clark. Ask Professor Kimse Okoko. Ask former Governor Timipre Sylva. Ask Elder Peter Godsday Orubebe. In all of this, Charles Okah is “guilty” only because he is Henry’s brother and also because he is thought to be the mysterious Jomo Gbomo. In Jonathan’s mind, it is not enough to punish Henry alone. In the process, he expended vast private and public resources to effect the incarceration of the brothers.
Almost six years after the 2010 Independence Day Bombing -- except for Jonathan and his fire-spiting comrades and a handful of Ijaw elite -- not many people can tell you who committed or ordered those iniquitous and contemptible crimes to be committed. The Police don’t know and neither does the State Security Service (SSS), a.k.a Department of State Services (DSS). But Jonathan knows. His militant commandants know.
In the first five years, the Jonathan Administration was unable to successfully prosecute Charles Okah. And so they just kept him locked up – depriving him of his human rights.
And since assuming office in 2015, the Buhari administration has been wondering about what to do with Charles. But unfortunately, the activity of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has complicated the government’s thinking. NDA or not, is President Muhammadu Buhari going to keep an innocent man locked up, or is he going to do the right thing by setting him free? Charles was not Jonathan’s “main man,” they wanted Henry. With the cooperation of some elements in South Africa, they were able to rope Henry in. His case is ongoing at the South African Supreme Court of Appeals.
In addition to setting Charles free, President Buhari should also inform the government of South Africa that his administration is not interested in extralegalities against Henry Okah.
For those who don’t know Henry Emomotimi Okah, please know these: He is not what Jonathan and his proxies and errand boys portrayed him to be. He is not what the media takes him to be. He is not what you – you – thinks he is. You’ve heard many of the stories and many of the lies; but really, those are just palm wine stories and injurious lies fabricated by the “Jonathan machine” and the “Jonathan press.” Henry is a justice-seeker. His pronounced self-confidence and obstinacy was at variance with many Ijaw elite and fire-spitting militants. What’s more, he offended by refusing to pledge loyalty to Jonathan and his political ambition.
Henry Okah was believed to be indifferent to the Ijaw-Itsekiri crisis of 1997. It was said that unlike many of his “friends” and “comrades” who engaged in the localized war, he was not religiously-nationalistic. As a result, many of the fire-spitting militants swore to do him in. They got their chance by sponsoring people who, violating one of the tenets of Christianity -- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor – showed up in the South African court to spew falsehood. These so-called witnesses, and their sponsors, had the support of President Jonathan.
Jonathan acquiesced to it because (a) he had long known that Henry didn’t give a hoot about him; (b) was too proud and stubborn to be manipulated; and (c) had made it known that he wasn’t going to support his (Jonathan’s) political ambition. To know Henry is to know that he was not going to be anybody’s fools; and neither was he going to do anybody’s bidding. He was not a for-profit militant; he didn’t think it was necessary to fight Nigerians from the northern or western part of the country (as some fire-spiting militants advocated during the 2015 presidential campaign and presidential election).
Jonathan! Beneath that quiet and bashful demeanor is a vengeful man. He does not forgive, he does not forget. This is a man who extracts pounds of flesh from anyone who crosses, dismiss or disrespect him. When next you see Chief Timipre Sylva, ask about his experiences at the hands of Goodluck Jonathan.
Goodluck Jonathan extracted many, many, many pounds of flesh to the point where he had trouble storing them. And now he is afraid: afraid that a battalion of real and imaginary enemies will come after him. Unlike many former presidents who live in their state of origin, he is afraid to settle down in his palatial country home. He spends most of his time outside of his state. He is on the move, on the run. He may be afraid of others, but he should not be afraid of the Okah Brother. It is time he ends his obsession with the Okah Brothers.
As for President Muhammadu Buhari, we urge him to do the right thing, do what the constitution requires of him. He should not personalize the rule of law, and he need not carry Goodluck Jonathan’s cross.
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