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My release won’t stop N-Delta crisis — OKAH

By Eze Anaba, Saturday Editor, Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief &  Ise-Oluwa Ige
ABUJA — LEADER of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Mr. Henry Okah, who was freed by the Federal Government, Monday, has declared that his release from detention will not change the situation in Niger Delta unless the Federal Government addressed the root cause of the crisis in the region.

Okah in an exclusive interview with Vanguard, yesterday, said he saw hell in detention for one year and five months.
Excerpts of the interview:

How do you feel being a free man?

I really have not thought about it, but I don’t feel much different because I knew this would come. I knew it would come to this point. ‘Militants not fighting for me’

MEND leader, Henry Okah at the Federal High Court in Jos before his release. Photo: NAN
MEND leader, Henry Okah at the Federal High Court in Jos before his release. Photo: NAN

How would your release impact on the violence in the Niger Delta?

One thing I know is that those fighting in the Niger Delta are not fighting for nothing and I don’t think they were fighting for my release.

That is not the main issue. As long as the main issues are not resolved, I don’t see how the problems in the Niger will just go.

Besides the amnesty, what else do you expect the Federal Government to do to ensure a lasting peace there?

My brother, I don’t know.

I really don’t know. (Laughs). I really don’t know what to tell you. As you know, I am just coming out. And you know, I have not met anybody. I have not spoken to anybody. And I will rather do that before I start talking,

You must have heard that before your release, some militants bombed the Lagos Atlas Cove Jetty. How do you feel about that?

I don’t know what to say. But I know certainly that whoever did that must have had his reasons. I will have to examine the reasons before I can come to a conclusion.

Do we expect a rethink of strategy in the Niger Delta now that you have been released?

Like I told you, my detention was not the problem. So, not much will change. Except the Federal Government does something about the problem in the area.

Do you hope to speak with the leadership of MEND now that you are a free man on the way forward?

Like I said, I am very tired, I am ill. I will need to be given some time to rest and all that before I can really say anything.

Now I am speaking with you because I have to speak with you. But if you really want me to really talk, I will have to take some time and recover. I will need to go first for surgery and all that.

Through your lawyer, we heard you were very ill. Can you give us an insight into what health problem you have?

It was really inconvenient. ‘I was in solitary confinement for 1 yr, 5 months’

Were you ever brutalised in detention?

No, but you see, there are different forms of torture. I was subjected to different kinds of torture you know. Let me explain how I was held. I was held in a cell without a window. I had no access to any kind of light. I wasn’t allowed to exercise myself.

I wasn’t allowed visitors. No phone calls. No newspapers, nothing. I was just held like that for one year and five months. I was there 24 hours a day, seven days a week for one year and five months.

When was the first time you saw a lawyer?

It was in March

Have you got in touch with your family in South Africa?

Yes, that was the first thing I did. I got in touch with them and we have been talking.

‘It’ll be immature to respond to Asari’

One last question. Asari Dokubo, your comrade in the struggle has been saying a lot of things about you during your incarceration. How do you intend to relate with him henceforth?

I cannot start responding to everybody. There were a lot of people everywhere saying various things, including people who were irrelevant to the situation as far as I know. For me to answer all of them, I will be very immature.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.