Henry Okah: On Saturday morning, just a day after the attack, a very close associate of President Jonathan called me and explained to me that there had been a bombing in Nigeria and that President Jonathan wanted me to reach out to the group, Mend, and get them to retract the earlier statement they had issued claiming the attacks.
They wanted to blame the attacks on northerners who are trying to fight against him [Jonathan] to come back as president and if this was done, I was not going to have any problems with the South African government. I declined to do this and few hours later I was arrested. It was based on their belief that I was going to do that that President Jonathan issued a statement claiming that MEND didn’t carry out the attack because they were expecting a kind of retraction from the group
Aljazeera: So just to be clear, why do you think that political aide was asking you to ask MEND to make that retraction? What was the reason for that?
Henry Okah: They don’t want it to seem as if Jonathan does not have the support of his people, you understand? For months now they have been lying to everybody that everybody is so pleased with Jonathan, that he is going to bring peace to the region which is entirely false.
This attack now was actually going to be a great smear on his aspiration. They just needed the group to retract that statement which was why I was contacted. But I declined to make any such move.
Aljazeera: As far as MEND is concerned, what is the situation with MEND, because Goodluck Jonathan is trying to say that this group is not a problem anymore; the previous president had tried amnesty and rehabilitation programmes, can you give us a summary of what the situation is with MEND?
Not just with MEND, with everybody who is fighting and to whichever way they are fighting. You don’t just give people an amnesty and ask them to forget about the reason why they are fighting. Every one of us is fighting for something and if what we are fighting for is not addressed, it ushers problem in the area. You understand. It is not about Jonathan being president or about an amnesty being given. I mean, why will you steal my land and you give me an amnesty and then you expect me not to continue fighting you? Why would that happen?
Aljazeera: Are you saying none of these concerns you have are been addressed by the government?
Absolutely none. With Yar’adua it was much better. He had a good understanding of the problem. And regardless of the fact that he was from the north he was making good attempt at addressing these problems. But with Jonathan it is entirely a different story. He doesn’t know what the problems are and is also being tele-guided by other people, you know, who are giving him very bad advice.
Aljazeera: So Henry what do you think is going to happen to you now?
I don’t care, I really couldn’t care. But one thing I tell you for sure, is just like I was able to talk to you, it only shows that South Africa is not like Nigeria. In Nigeria I was held for one year and four months in solitary confinement. I didn’t kill anybody, I had no books, no newspapers, no TV, no radio, not even electrified. But the fact that I can speak to you on phone, even though I am being detained, shows that I am in an entirely different country from Nigeria.
And I am arrested here at the instance of Nigeria, which threatened the South African government with diplomatic action if they didn’t arrest me. That is the only reason why I am in detention. All those people I learnt have been arrested in Nigeria I have no contact with any of them, I don’t even know them.
They are just trying to do this thing, to point the finger at other political opponents in order to scuttle their attempts at being president. But as you see I am not a politician and I have no any business with any of the other aspirants for the posts of president in Nigeria. I have no connection with them. The story that I have been given a lot of money by different politicians to do one thing or the other, but I promise you I don’t even have that kind of money myself. I don’t have money.