Al-Jazeera Interview: Okah lied-Presidency …Presidential Aide begged me to implicate Northern Leaders -Okah …Resign Now-Northern Leaders
The Presidency has described as “outright lies” claims by leader of the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, Mr. Henry Okah, that he had spoken with an aide of President Goodluck Jonathan to blame the October 1 bomb attack on Northerners.
According to a statement signed by Presidential spokesman, Ima Niboro, the Presidency challenged Okah to name the alleged Presidential aide, describing the embattled MEND leader as a “drowning man.”
This is even as Northern Leaders led by Adamu Ciroma have asked President Goodluck Jonathan to resign for what it described as the President's inability to lead the country justly.
The group in a statement signed by Adamu Ciroma gave President Jonathan a one week ultimatum within which to resign or the group would be forced to ask the National Assembly to commence an impeachment proceeding .
“Now that the President has proven that he is incapable of leading the nation justly and fairly and that he is desperate enough to want to hang mass murder around the neck of unnamed Northerners to achieve his second term, we as citizens of this country have totally lost confidence in his leadership and hereby call on him to immediately resign. If he fails to do so by the end of the week, we call on the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against him with immediate effect. We state, without any equivocation that, as Northerners and as citizens of this country, we no longer feel safe and secure under his leadership,” the group said in a statement.
However, a statement signed by Niboro said “Mr. Henry Okah who has been openly charged for masterminding theterror attacks against his home country has been quoted by Al Jazeera Network as claiming that an aide of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan called to ask him to blame the October 1, 2010, bombings on Northern politicians.”
“This of course is an outright lie, and we challenge Okah to name the President's aide that spoke to him on the subject.”
“There is an ongoing investigation on Okah's alleged involvement in the bombings in Nigeria. In South Africa, he has already been charged to court. He should face the charges, and stop making frivolous claims.”
“There is no question that Okah is a drowning man determined to pull others down with him, and there is hardly any purpose to be served by joining issues with an accused mass murderer. Okah is a man who has been known to say one thing and do another, and we are not at all surprised by his diversionary rhetoric.”
In an interview, Henry Okah Tells Al Jazeera presidential aide wanted him to tell armed group to withdraw claim for Abuja deadly blasts.
The former leader of Nigeria's armed group has said he was arrested because he refused to tell the group to retract a statement claiming responsibility for last week's deadly attacks in the capital, Abuja.
Henry Okah, currently being held in jail in South Africa, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that he received a phone call from a "close associate" of Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president, telling him to urge the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) to withdraw its claim for the bombings, which killed at least 10 people and left 36 others injured on the 50th anniversary of Nigeria's independence.
"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," Okah said.
"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 a few hours later I was arrested. It was based on their belief that I was going to do that that Jonathan issued a statement saying that Mend did not carry out the attack."
Jonathan, who hails from the country's south and has declared his intentions to stand in next year's presidential election, said investigations had revealed Mend, which is fighting for a greater share of Nigeria's oil wealth, knew nothing about the attacks.
He said the bombings had been carried out by a small group based outside Nigeria, sponsored by "unpatriotic elements within the country".
Nigeria will be holding elections in January almost a year after Jonathan assumed the presidency after the incumbent president failed to complete his term due to illness and eventual death.
Jonathan's predecessor, Umaru Yaradua, came from the northern state of Katsina and Nigeria has an unwritten agreement for the presidency to alternate between the mainly Muslim north and the largely Christian south.
Al Jazeera did not get any immediate reaction from the Nigerian government about Okah's claims.
Meanwhile, the authorities have released nine people they arrested in connection with the bomb blasts on Monday, including an aide for Ibrahim Babangida, the country's former military leader.
Raymond Dokpesi, the director of Babandida's campaign to become the ruling party presidential candidate, was questioned by the country's intelligence services over the blasts, an aide said on Tuesday.
Dokpesi, who also owns one of Nigeria's leading television and radio stations, was summoned to the State Security Services (SSS) on Monday, Kassim Afegbua, a spokesman for Babangida, told the AFP news agency.
"He was released yesterday and is to report back today at about 3'oclock (1400 GMT)," Afegbua said.
"They said it is to do with complicity in the bomb incident of October 1.
Press Statement By NORTHERN POLITICAL LEADERS FORUM
On Friday 1st October 2010 at about 11 a.m., the Federal Capital City of Abuja came under attack by people who identified themselves as members of Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND). As Nigeria and Nigerians celebrated the nation's 50th Independence Anniversary, two powerful bombs were detonated within minutes of each other, few metres away from Eagle Square, venue of the celebration, killing innocent people in cold blood. Official government figures put the casualties at twelve people dead and seventeen injured. Unofficial accounts place the death toll at eighteen while over sixty people were said to be injured.
The attacks took place while the Heads of State and Government of several African and other countries were seated in Eagle Square to celebrate our 50th Independence Anniversary with us and while the attention of the whole world was upon us. It was clearly meant to embarrass the nation and its people and to give the rest of the world the false impression that Nigeria is on the verge of a violent political conflagration ahead of the general elections of 2011. It was also meant to intimidate the international community that Niger Delta criminal gangs have the capability to influence political outcomes beyond their traditional area of influence.
It is regrettable that these bombs were allowed to go off given that the nation's security organizations had admitted that they were forewarned by foreign intelligence organizations and by the bombers themselves. It is also unfortunate that the bombings followed recent changes in the leadership of the nation's first line of defense - the armed forces, the police force and State Security Service.
We in the Northern Political Leaders Forum condemn in the strongest possible terms this callous and barbaric act of cruelty and cowardice, perpetrated by a group of people steeped in the culture of terrorism and unbridled violence. We condemn all those who give them shelter or comfort under any guise and call on all law-abiding and peace loving Nigerians to raise their collective voice against this violent group, its method and motive. We call on the Federal Government and the nation's law enforcement agencies to pursue these common criminals masquerading as militants with all the resources at their disposal and bring each and every one of them to justice for the crime of murder and for taking arms against the State.
We seize this opportunity to offer our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this dastardly act and pray for the repose of the souls of their loved ones. We call on the Federal Government to pay compensation to the families of the victims for its failure to prevent this attack in spite of multiple warnings, including several from the perpetrators themselves. We pray for the quick recovery of the injured and call on the Federal Government to, in addition to settling their medical bills, offer them the services of expert counseling in order to assist them recover psychologically from this harrowing ordeal. May this kind of tragedy never be allowed to happen to this country again.
The tragedy of October 1st has opened yet another ugly chapter in the history of our nation whereby, for the first time, innocent civilians and the nation's capital were simultaneously targeted and bombed by a notoriously violent terrorist group. The implications of this act to the security, peace and stability of the Nigerian State are so grave that no matter the motive(s) of the bombers, they must be hunted down, apprehended and punished for their dastardly act. If they are allowed to go unpunished, as they have been in the past, Nigeria and Nigerians may never see peace again as the specter of kidnapping, which emanated from the activities of criminal gangs in the Niger Delta continue to illustrate.
It is on record that the Amnesty Program of President Umaru 'Yar'adua included a definite deadline within which ALL Niger Delta insurgents were to lay down their arms. Any individual or group that failed to take advantage of the Amnesty Program must no longer be allowed to hide behind the guise of militant agitation to take innocent lives and must be considered and classified as terrorist. There is no longer room for semantics over Niger Delta militants and terrorists.
That is why it came as a rude shock to the nation when President Goodluck Jonathan declared, only hours after the Abuja bombs that killed and maimed innocent civilians that MEND, the criminal group that took responsibility for the bombings, was not to blame. Not only that, the President was also quoted as saying that he knew who the bombers were and that they were terrorists, not MEND, a distinction which reveals where the President's sympathies lie. In a curious reversal of roles, the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces who swore to an oath to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and to
protect the lives and property of its citizens has found himself, instead, going the extra mile to absolve from culpability, the terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the attacks. Even more disturbing was the declaration by the President, only hours into the bombing investigations, that he knew who the attackers were. Is President Goodluck Jonathan a closet member of MEND or is there more to the President's curious posture than meets the eye?
Just before this statement was due to be released to the media, the answer to the second question began to emerge. The Department of State Security finally succumbed to political pressure from the President himself and followed in the footsteps of the EFCC to target the President's political opponents. On Monday October 5th, we received news that High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Chairman of DAAR Communications and Director-General of General Ibrahim Babangida's Presidential Campaign Organization, has been arrested by the SSS in connection with the bombings of October 1st. Last night NTA's 9 O'clock news was interrupted, for effect, to broadcast the purported connection between the High Chief, General Babangida's presidential campaign and the bombers in a desperate attempt to validate President Jonathan's hasty investigations and prove his predetermined theory right.
Only this morning, Henry Okah, a leader of MEND, told Al Jazeerah Television that he was approached by the Nigerian Government to prevail on MEND to retract its statement that it was responsible for the attack so that President Jonathan may implicate Northerners who are opposing his presidential ambition in the unfortunate bombing incident. This is another confirmation of our fears that President Jonathan will employ extra-judicial means in pursuit of his ill-advised ambition to contest the 2011 election.
But Nigerians are not fools. They know that MEND does not need anyone's prompting, least of all a person they declared persona non grata only a few weeks ago, to perpetrate its dastardly act. Clearly, the President needs a better, more creative alibi to intimidate and victimize his opponents. We have earlier warned Nigerians to be vigilant; that the targeting of selected state governors by the EFCC was part of a grand design to intimidate the President's opponents and make them submit to his desperate agenda to run for President in 2011. We have been vindicated, alas, at the cost of eighteen innocent citizen's lives.
We would like to state, for the umpteenth time, that President Goodluck Jonathan's desperation to be President again in 2011 can only take Nigeria back to the dark days of President Olusegun Obasanjo's Third Term with all its attendant instability and the wasting of innocent civilians' lives. Now that the President has proven that he is incapable of leading the nation justly and fairly and that he is desperate enough to want to hang mass murder around the neck of unnamed Northerners to achieve his second term, we as citizens of this country have totally lost confidence in his leadership and hereby call on him to immediately resign. If he fails to do so by the end of the week, we call on the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against him with immediate effect. We state, without any equivocation that, as Northerners and as citizens of this country, we no longer feel safe and secure under his leadership.