By Emma Amaize
My problem with Henry Okah, He is owing me N170 million
ON Sunday, May 25, 2008, more than one and half years before the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), Henry Okah was finally released by the Federal Government on July 13, 2009, his supposed second-in-commandâ€, Victor Ben Ebikabowei, aka Boyloaf, described by a former Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta, Major-General Lawrence Ngubane as the â€œmost organized militantâ€ leaderÂ in Bayelsa State told Saturday Vanguard during a visit to his now isolated den at the creek community of Ezeu that Henry Okah is his boss andÂ there would not be peace in the Niger-Delta if he was not released from detention.
In his words then, â€œWell, as a matter of fact, my boss, Henry Okah asked us to lay down arms for sometime to see what the government will do since it is a new government. But we never knew that it is a kind of fraudulent government, a kangaroo kind of thing.
After ceasing hostilities and everywhere was calm, at the end of the day, they collaborated with a foreign government to trap down our manâ€¦I donâ€™t think there will be peace when Henry Okah is in detention.Â Â Â What are they talking about, they cannot fool the people, they can fool the people sometime but you cannot fool the people all the time.
Before they talk about peace, Henry Okah should come out; he should be a major player in that peace process, which is how they will get genuine peace. But any person that is telling you about peace, whether a militant or any leader, all these people are collaborators with government, all to betray the struggle.
So, there is no peace and no matter how it is, even if all the militants betray the cause, the gods must surely guide one man to fight this cause and we must surely get to our destination. That is my belief, I donâ€™t think there is peace anywhere so long as Henry Okah is being held; anything about peace without him is a camouflageâ€.
For the beginner, â€œGeneralâ€ Boyloaf is a big_time militant leader, who, according to the JTF, used to beÂ one of the mostÂ trusted foot soldiers of the leader of the Niger-Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NPDVF), Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and used to have three militant camps.
One in Ezetu , his country home, another in Azuzuama, both in the Southern Ijaw , while the third is in Agge, a border community between Ekeremor and Southern Ijaw local government areas. Although, he only established his camps in the state from February to March 2007, his fighters were estimated by the JTF to be about 200-300.
He was operating in the Port_Harcourt axis with Dagogo Farah before he relocated to Bayelsa state and reportedly had in his camp – 15 General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs), 120 AK 47 rifles, 15 long range BMGs, three Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers (RPGs), 17 new boats with new engines and 20 double 150 horsepower speed boats.
How JTF sawÂ him
â€œVictor Benâ€™s intent in the Niger_Delta region is purely criminal, and is known to have a violent disposition. While he started out as a foot soldier in theÂ NDPVF, Victor Ben is bent on becoming an illegal oil bunker, and it is suspected that that he wants to overrun Africa Owei and Joshua Mackiver (two other militant leaders in the state) to become the principal militant leader in Bayelsa state.Â He is truly a militant with solid credentials of being affiliated with the MENDâ€, the then task force commander noted in the classified report.
The devil-may-care image of â€œGeneralâ€ Boyloaf has, to borrow the Christian parlance, â€œpassed away and he has become a new creatureâ€,Â as he led 31 other militant leaders from different parts of the region to Aso Villa, Abuja, August 7, to meet with President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua and formally accept the amnesty proclaimed for militants by the Federal Government.
He still has up to October 4 to surrender his arms and he had vowed to keep a date with history, just as he is also mobilizing other militants to see reason with the government and surrender their arms to create conducive atmosphere for development in the region.
That, however, is not the problem. The problem is that Henry Okah, who is â€œGeneralâ€ Boyloafâ€™s boss is out of detention and instead of celebrating, both men are at each otherâ€™s throat. Why is Boyloaf at daggers drawn with the manÂ Â he fought for to be released ?
Is Boyloaf fighting the fingers that fed him, as some of his critics have alleged or he is rebelling against hisÂ boss for a genuine reason?Â Â He spoke to Saturday Vanguard on why he parted ways with Okah among other things. Excerpt:
How I met Henry Okah
I knew Henry Okah as an arms supplier during our struggle when we were using the umbrella of the Niger Delta People Volunteer Force, led by Asari DokuboÂ . Thereafter, I met him again in a meeting in Warri that had ion attendance I (Boyloaf) Tompolo, Farah Dagogo, and Albert Akalobgo, aka Olo..
He was not in any way part of our struggle, we were only negotiating arms purchase from him, since we already knew him as a major arms dealer.
But I have it on good authority that it was Henry Okah that established you as a militant leader in Bayelsa state few months before he was arrested in Angola by equipping you with arms?
How can any body say Heny Okarh set me up. Henry Okah is alive to dispute to dispute my Claim. AllÂ I have, was acquired personally. Even before he was arrested, he was indebted to me to the tune of One hundred and seventy million naira (N170 million).
That isÂ before his arrest in far away Angola where he went to buy arms to supply. In every ramification, I have been very fair to him; it is on record that I was about the only person who stood by him duringÂ his travails.Â Â He is the one who is not fair to me, because after his release, he has not come to pay me my money or even thank me for all I did for him.
You say he is an arms supplier, but, as MEND leader, he is known all over the world as a freedom fighter?
Yes, he is not a freedom fighter, because all freedomÂ fighters live in their camps in the course of the struggle, how you can call yourself a freedom fighter or a leader, when you live in far away South Africa in an expensive mansion, stay in five star hotels and fly first class.
Check the archives for yourself; did General Akunder of Congo , Mohammed Farah Addid of Somalia and the leader of the TamilÂ Tigers in Sri lanka who died in battle field, live outsideÂ their territorial camps? Common sense will tellÂ Â whoÂ Â a genuine freedom fighter is.
He was the leading arms supplier, which was why we referred to him as master; it is you the media community that referred to him as the leader of MEND after his arrest, not me.
Why did you refer to him as master
I just laugh, it was still the same me who fought for his release, he is just an arms supplier and gun runner, we gave him the name master because we were buying arms from him for the struggle, he is angry because his arms business is closing up.
It should be noted that the aim of every business man is profit making, and a man in the business of his kind will not want peace, so that he can keep his business of selling arms running, how can anybody in the world give attention to a gunrunner, who will believe him, I lived in the camp for years struggling for the emancipationÂ of the Niger Delta, why theyÂ stay in five star hotel abroad and enjoy the luxury of flying first class, sit in front of his lap top, sends email, and now youÂ measure yourself with the likes of Osama Bin-laden, General Akuder of Congo, Mohammed Farah Addid of Somalia, the leader of the Tami Tigers who died in the battle field, do this leaders leave outside of their camps?Â Enough is enough let us allow peace and development come to our region.
Are you saying categorically that the arms you have do not belong to Okah?
It is not true that the arms I have belong to him, Henry Okah has not given me a single gun, neither has he given me a single bullet, he is indebted to me and has not supplied.
The other day I was reading through one of the daily news papers, precisely, Sunday 16th of August edition where a statement was made given details of the number of arms in my armory.
You see, see, this man has no single knowledge of what I have, he has not even been to my camp, neither does he know what I have. Let me make it clear here that the likes of those faceless cowards giving baseless informationâ€™s in the dailies should be disregarded by the public. It should be noted that every arms I surrender in this process of disarmament belongs to me.
Whatâ€™s really your problem with Okah, it seems there is more to itÂ than you are saying
I never had any problem with him, and it is true that I fought for his release, I gave my word that immediately after his release I was going to give up arms struggle.
But after his release, he turned around to discourage me from keeping to my words for reasons best known to him, which I cannot do at my age, all through the struggle I have been known as a man of my words and I keep to them no matter what it takes.
I understand that you were an oil bunkerer and that is your speciality, not really a militant in the true sense of it?
I was a key founding member of the arms struggle in the Niger Delta; I was a legitimate business man and a marine expert. My God is my mentor, because it is my believe that rebellion against tyranny is obedience to God.
Are you an oil thief who is masquerading as a Niger-Delta freedom fighter?
Like I said before I am marine expert going about my legitimate business but had to go into the struggle for the emancipation of my people because of my belief stated above.
Donâ€™t you think your current face-off with Henry Okah will do the struggle more harm than good?
It is my belief that it will do more good than harm, because it will expose the genuine intent of this man, Henry Okah because by the nature of his business, if there is no crisis in the region, his business will not flourish, which is not in the best interest of the good people of Niger Delta. It should be noted that the interest of every business man is profit making.
Are you foreclosing a reunion with him the way you are sounding?
If he decides to repent and change from his selfish ways, we can both work together for the interest of our people, I have nothing against him.
I know that some Niger-Delta leaders are working on re-uniting both of you and others too?
Yes, he has been sending several people to beg me, but I refused because I have not seen any sincerity of purpose on his part.
But am told you were the one sending people to beg him?
How can I beg a man I assisted in his release even when everybody knows he sells arms for survival? He does not even have a single idea how we plan our strategies, I did my best for him, but donâ€™t want to go into any details, but let me tell people to clear this fact, Ankio Briggs called me, we met and discussed on issues of peace and development of our region, it was in the middle of our conversations that she brought in Henry Okahâ€™s issue, and begged that we settle for the interest of Ijaw nation.
My simple reply was that I had nothing to settle with him, he is just an ungrateful fellow, his annoyance is that I will no longer buy arms from him, because I have nothing to do with arms anymore, we must move on to the negotiation table and allow development to commence in the Niger Delta.
You seem to be hard on the press lately, what is amiss
I am not hard on the press, I appreciate the efforts of the media, but I also advise them not to allow themselves to be misinformed on the reality, because it will not help us at this critical stage. Imagine (shows Saturday Vanguard a news report in Tuesday, August 18 edition of a national newspaper), the reporter mentioned my name that I spoke to him and told the newspaper that MEND was not involved in the July 12 bombing of Atlas Cove Jetty in Lagos and that I said the claims emanated from Henry Okah and his brother, Charles, this is very strange to me.
I never made such comments and I did not speak to theÂ said journalist. In one breath, he wrote that the name of the person he spoke to is one Cele Kaiye and in their headline, they put my name, Boyloaf.Â Before then, another national newspaper said I am in trouble, which was on Sunday, August 16.
But I want to tell you that I am not in trouble in anyway and that is why I am saying the media should confirm all news before making it public, unconfirmed news will not help at this decisive stage.
I call on the federal government to immediately call all the media stations, especially the print media not to allow the present peace process to be truncated, the government know how hard it took for the amnesty to become a reality, we must not allow some unscrupulous elements whose interest are just focused on making money out of the crises to jeopardise the effort.
Do you stand by your words
I came out publicly on 7th of August and told the worldÂ that I was giving up arms to enable the Nigerian Government commence development of the Niger Delta region, which was the reason why we took up arms in the first place,Â who is talking about big boys, big boys in what?
All we are talking about is peace, let us negotiate peace and let development come to our people who have suffered for too long, the days of business as usual is over for the business men, who turned the struggle as an avenue to enrich themselves at the detriment of the people, and those who use the struggle to empower themselves politically in the corridors of power.
We made history when we came out publicly and declared our acceptance to the government amnesty gesture to enable genuine development come to the region, and we stand by our words.
Govt never said militants are fools
I do not agree to this, the federal government has not called any militant or freedom fighter a fool, nobody is foolish in any arms struggle in the world. Once the other party is ready for negotiation, we are bound by the negotiation, why are we in the struggle in the first instance?
It is in the interest of our people, now the government has said it is are ready to develop and correct the injustice done to the region, what is the first thing to do, amnesty to the genuine fighters and then, reintegration process, which is what government has signed to do, after which development will commence. If we are sincere in the struggle, we must give peace a chance, which is what I believe, is the right thing to do.
Why are some people angry with you
I have told you before that Okah is not a freedom fighter, but, just an arms dealer, who only traded inÂ arms to the militant to enrich himself, ask him; does he have a camp anywhere in the region? Do you leave in far away South Africa, trade in arms and call yourself leader? How? TheyÂ are angry because I have come out to accept amnesty, they are struggling because their source of making money in the name of struggle is over.
But they say you are a traitor and that you are only grandstanding?
I am not grandstanding, it is not in my character,Â I am not hustling for any security contract, but if given the opportunity,Â I will do it in consultation with the communities and my co-leaders in the struggle since it is in the best interestÂ of our people.
Some people say in the hierarchy of militants, you are not supposed to lead them to Aso Villa to accept amnesty?
You talk about hierarchy, what is hierarchy? We are talking about a struggle to develop our region, and you talk about hierarchy, are we politicians?
My main focus and objective is the development of the Niger Delta region, I am ready and will go ahead in the amnesty process and will lay dawn my arms in the shortest possible time. Nobody, I repeat nobody can threaten my life, I am fully ready to crush anybody who would want to scuttle this process of peace, because he or she does not mean well for the people of Niger Delta.
We have accepted peace to bring about development of our land, because that is what the people ask for, which was why we took up arms, but who ever dares us should embrace his family and write his will, because I will react, and it will be deadly.
The leader of Camp 5, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo and Henry Okah met recently, donâ€™t you think they are joining forces?
Let me tell you, he (Okah) is just looking for relevance and people he can get arms from for submission. It was made known through the media that he has no arms to submit, we know his games, but unfortunately for him, the days of games are over, our people must enjoy the benefit of our resources. Regarding Tompolo, he is a man I know, he does not trust Henry Okah and will never.
But Henry Okah appears to a man of principle, as he reportedly opted not to meet with Mr. President even when they wanted to fly him in a presidential jet or drive him in a bullet-proof car?
I just laugh, who is he to be flown in a presidential jet? Or beÂ is be driven in a presidential bullet â€“proof car, is he trying to belittle the office of the President and Commander -in -chief of the armed forces.
Has Nigeria as a nation come so low to fly a common arms dealer in a presidential jet?
How can the president even want to see him? We saved him because he was just a son of the region, with the charges against him and investigation carried out, it was clear that he was not in any way championing the interest of the Niger Delta, but just trading inÂ arms to enrich himself,Â can the Nigerian president bring himself so low?
He is just a liar trying to crave relevance for himself. We know the truth; we are not interested in all this.Â All we are interested in is peace and development.
The president of our country in his wisdom has granted us amnesty and has set up machinery for the development of the region; we must give him a chance to keep his promise to the people of the Niger Delta.
You are talking about a man, who despite his serious health challenge, had to stay back after his release from going abroad for medical treatment to talk to militants in the region to embrace peace?
Again I laugh; the truth is that he decided to stay, thinking he could get arms to collect money. I thought he said he would go for kidney treatment before he would return to meet the stakeholders, why did he suddenly change his mind, so his so-called ill- health is no longer important to him.
That is how you know who is a criminal and who is genuine. His plan was to quickly set confusion in the presidential amnesty programme make some money for himself and run away.
What is your advice to fellow militant leaders
I hereby advise every leader in the struggle not to be confused by anybody in the interest of our people. The amnesty has come to stay and we think itâ€™s genuine, the president has given his words and we hold him to it. Our region has to be developed.Â Itâ€™s our focal point and our slogan in the struggle.