Henry Okah, the detained leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), blamed for the 2010 Independence Day bomb that killed at least 10 people with many more injured, is to tell a South African court the attacks were sponsored by President Goodluck Jonathan.
That, he said, came after the president and those working for him, had engineered similar attacks earlier in March 2010.
“It is my belief that President Goodluck Jonathan’s government working with a faction of MEND planned and executed the bombings of 14 March 2010 and 1 October 2010,” Mr. Okah said in an affidavit deposed at a South African court.
The president’s spokesperson, Reuben Abati, could not be reached to comment for this story. Calls to his mobile telephone were neither answered nor returned.
The sworn affidavit is expected to be filed at the court between Tuesday and Wednesday as Mr. Okah renews his bid to secure a bail after spending more than one year in a South African jail.
His trial is set to start October 1, 2012, exactly two years since a devastating blast that occurred less than a kilometer from the Eagles Square in Abuja where President Jonathan was attending Nigeria’s 50th anniversary.
The militant group, MEND, which authorities said Mr. Okah headed, claimed responsibility for the attack. Mr. Okah has denied membership of the group and plotting the attacks.
Instead, in a shocking deposition that further deepens the complexity of an already convoluted case, Mr. Okah, who lives in South Africa, said Mr. Jonathan and his aides organized the attacks in a desperate political strategy to demonize political opponents, and win popular sympathy ahead of the 2011 elections.
“The purpose of the 14 March 2010 bombing in my opinion was to create an atmosphere of insecurity in the Niger Delta where President Goodluck Jonathan at that time, was fighting to oust the governor Mr. Emmanuel Uduaghan whom President Goodluck Jonathan intended to replace with his Minister for Niger Delta, Mr Godsday Orubebe,” Mr. Okah said in a 194-page affivadavit obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.
“The bombing on 1 October 2010 was a platform for the elimination of political opposition from the north in the form of General Ibrahim 8abangida. The bombing of 1 October 2010 was also intended by the President Goodluck Jonathan Government to create anti North sentiments nationwide in order to galvanize support from other sections of Nigeria against other northern candidates in the Presidential elections,” he said.
The allegations first came to light in an interview Mr. Okah granted Arabic satellite television, Al Jazeera in October 2010 weeks after the blast. In the interview, he blamed the attacks on Mr. Jonathan’s aides and claimed he was arrested for refusing to influence MEND, to retract its claim of responsibility.
Since then, Mr. Okah has been denied bail at least twice, with one at the South Gauteng High court, Johannesburg where he is filing a new application for bail based on “new facts.”
Ahead of the start of trial October, Mr. Okah confirmed he has been availed with the details of evidences planned to be used against him.
The statements and exhibits, contained in a police docket obtained by the investigating officer, bear allegations the Nigerian government- now through its South African counterpart- put forward against the alleged former militant leader.
The previously known details contain claims of alleged phone communication between Mr. Okah and the those who carried out the attacks, allegedly on his orders, computer records, photographs purporting to show incriminating images and other materials.
His new appeal for bail is based on those evidences which he describes as being “extremely weak”. Mr. Okah said none of the exhibits had been substantiated to be linking him to the crime, and concluded that based on those claims, “It was unlikely that the state will be successful in a criminal prosecution against me.”
Despite Mr. Okah’s repeated denials of links to MEND and its attacks, his narration paints a picture of a former powerful figure whose influence over ex-militants, was courted by politicians, in the same breath regarded as a threat.
He spoke with Mr. Jonathan several times on phone, a telltale aspect of a long-standing relationship he said started in 1999 while the president was the deputy governor in Bayelsa state.
While the nation faced a leadership crisis during the sickness of late President Umar Yar’adua in 2009, Mr. Okah emerged a prominent figure in the aftermath of a successful amnesty programme for the Niger Delta militant, initiated by Mr. Yar’adua.
Politicians knew he could influence the ex-fighters and even what continued to go on in the oil rich creeks. It was a role President Jonathan needed, Mr. Okah’s statement pointed out, as did prospective opponents for the 2011 election like former military ruler, Mr. Babangida, and even current petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Mr. Jonathan repeatedly sent his aides, including Godsday Orubebe (Niger Delta minister), Oronto Douglas, and others to him in South Africa, to seek his support, he said.
His indifference, amid reports he was rooting for Mr. Babangida, as well as his refusal to rein MEND in on the statement, informed his arrest, Mr. Okah said.
He claim he was close to Jonathan so much so, Mrs. Alison-Madueke, then a minister of Mines and Steel, needed his support for President Jonathan to pick her ahead of Odein Ajumogobia, for the petroleum slot.
“The last call I received from Ms Madueke was at 6:41:35 on 4 April 2010 during which she thanked me for my contribution in influencing her appointment as Minister of Petroleum,” he said.
He said he was in touch with the president’s close aides when the October 1, 2010 bomb came off, and had no inkling his arrest was being planned.