The leader of the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry Okah, currently being held in South Africa, yesterday said President Goodluck Jonathan through one of his aides had wanted him to implicate one of the presidential aspirants from the north over the bomb attacks in Abuja during the October 1 independence celebrations.
Okah, who spoke in a chat with Al Jazeera from South Africa, said he is being prosecuted because he refused to do the bidding of the Nigerian government in the bid to get MEND to withdraw its claim of being responsible for the bombing and hang it on some high political figures from the northern part of the country, particularly his opponents in the 2011 general election.
The Presidency has however, denied the claim, describing his statement as “frivolous” and “diversionary”.
Okah told Al Jazeera that he received a phone call from a “close associate” of President Jonathan telling him to urge MEND to withdraw its claim for the bombings.
“On Saturday morning, just some days 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 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,” he said.
Meanwhile, a statement by the special adviser to the President on media and publicity, Ima Niboro challenged Okah to name the close associate of the President who made the call to him in South Africa. He described Okah’s statement as outright lie.
Niboro said: “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 on going 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, he said, 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.
Those who were at the Presidential Villa to see the President yesterday include, Alhaji Mujahidin Asari Dokubo, Chief Government Ekpomolo (Tompolo), Ebikabowe Victor (Boyloaf), Chief Ateke Tom, Comrade Fara Dagogo, Shoot At Sight, Eberi Papa and Buster Ryme.
In his speech, President Jonathan informed them that while the government regrets the incident and sympathizes with the victims of the blast, “it has opened the eyes of government more to see how we can improve security.”
Speaking earlier, Mr Ebikabowe (Boyloaf) told the audience which included Vice President Namadi Sambo and other top federal government officials that the group condemns the act, just as he denied MEND’s involvement in the bombing.
“MEND is not responsible. We have disarmed. We say to the world that those people claiming they are MEND are impersonating. It is a terrorist act and people responsible for the act should be dealt with accordingly.”
Tompolo, who said he founded MEND and acted as the overall commander, noted further: “I am the leader of MEND. We are not part of the incident of October 1. MEND is not involved. I am the owner of MEND. We are going to work with you to save this country. Nigeria is for everyone.”
Also speaking during the visit, Alhaji Asari Dokubo, described the bombing as “heinous and condemnable.
“I want to let you know that we the people of Niger Delta, be you the Ogonis, Ibos, be you Itsekiri, Urhobos, we have condemned this action.”
Dokubo who said they were at the Villa to commiserate with President Jonathan said they wanted the world to know that no power can resist the power that God had given him.
Northern Political Leaders Forum(NPLF) in a statement signed by the former minister of finance, Dr Adamu Ciroma, vowed to mobilize the National Assembly dominated by the north to commence impeachment proceedings against the President should he fail to resign his job.
The forum said the attempt by Jonathan to exonerate MEND from last Friday’s bomb blast and his plot to link some prominent northern politicians to the attack was a clear indication that he would not be fair to all as a president.
Ciroma in the statement alleged that Jonathan’s attempt to nail some northern leaders was another indication that he ‘will employ extra-judicial means in his ill-advised ambition to contest the 2011 election.”
The group said the northerners as citizens of this country have lost confidence in President Jonathan’s leadership. Part of the group’s statement read: “We state without equivocation that as northerners and citizens of this country, we no longer feel safe and secured under his leadership.
“We insist that his desperation to be president in 2011 can only take Nigeria back to the dark days of former president Obasanjo third tern agenda and its attendance instability and wasting of the innocent civilian lives.”
The forum alleged that the bomb attacks meant to intimidate the international community that Niger Delta criminal gangs have the capability to influence political outcomes beyond their traditional area of influence.
“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,” the statement added.