By Emma AMAIZE
Regional Editor, South-South
BUT for the recent threat by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, to launch fresh attacks on Abuja, after the Independence Day twin bomb blasts, Charles Okah, would probably not have been arrested penultimate Saturday at his Apapa, Lagos residence by security agents.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that some people who are in the know of MEND’s operations suspected that the threat could only have come from a particular source and tipped off security agents accordingly.
Charles was subsequently arrested on Saturday and whisked to Abuja.
He was charged to court on Thursday along with his son and five others for their alleged involvement in the bomb blasts.
Apparently shocked by Charles’ arrest, the statement of MEND on Tuesday issued a three- paragraph electronic statement to say that it “will no longer entertain enquiries,” from the media until further notice.
This is the first time since MEND was formed in late 2005 that it is imposing self censorship, citing “security concerns” for the action. Through its email address, it had been no-holds-barred with both local and foreign media in the past six years.
The group in the last paragraph of the electronic warning said, “lastly, the arrest and detention of our respected brothers of the land and the assassination of their character has become a great concern that cannot be ignored”, which seems to have nailed to the counter any pretence that all is well.
Saturday Vanguard questionnaire that restrained MEND
Twenty-four hours before MEND’s statement Saturday Vanguard had sent a questionnaire to the group on the arrest of Charles Okah, the younger brother of Henry Okah, the assumed leader of the group, who is facing trial in South-Africa for the October 1 twin-bomb blasts in Abuja.
Saturday Vanguard in the questionnaire sought answers to four questions to wit: “Is it true that Charles Okah is one of the persons fronting as Jomo Gbomo in the use of MEND’s name and that with his arrest, MEND is now incapacitated in the communication department?; “What is MEND’s position on the arrest of Charles Okah, is he part of the MEND’s struggle?
With the arrest of Charles Okah, is MEND still going ahead with its further threat to bomb Abuja or is going to reconsider its stand? With the arrest of Charles Okah, don’t you think the end is near for the group, as those who have inside information about the group are not squealing the beans?
MEND vs Ex-militants
When ex-militant leaders, including Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo; founder of the Niger-Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, NDPVF and People Salvation Front, PSF, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari; former MEND commander, Eastern division, Farah Dagogo; Victor Ben Ebikabowei, alias “General” Boyloaf; and others visited Abuja after the October 1 bomb blasts and declared that MEND was no longer in existence, the group upbraided them, saying they were not in a position to speak for it since they were no longer members.
“General” Boyloaf; and another ex-militant leader, “General” Ezekiel Akpasubowei of the disbanded Deadly Underdogs in Delta State told Saturday Vanguard that those who constituted MEND had left and accepted amnesty, and so, there was no way the group could have carried out the Abuja attack.
Akpasubowei insisted that if any group was claiming the attack on Abuja , then it should not be MEND because the founders had disbanded it. Boyloaf told Saturday Vanguard that MEND was formed by Tompolo, Farah Dagogo and himself and since, “we are no longer there, there is no more MEND, anybody telling you that MEND is in existence or that it is still alive, is deceiving you”.
MEND, he argued, did not exist in the physical but in the minds of those that believed in it and that was why President Jonathan declared that it was not the militant group that carried out the Abuja attack because the leading minds behind the group had abandoned it, and whatever any person or group of persons was doing or purporting to be doing in the name of the group was a sham.
However, MEND maintained in a response to an inquiry by Saturday Vanguard on the matter that Tompolo and others were not in a position to declare that the group was still alive or not since they were no longer members. In the words of Jomo Gbomo,
“MEND has returned to the mangrove swamps in preparation for a resumption of hostilities. We will however cause pain to any government that thinks it can repeat the Saro Wiwa treatment on anyone that opposes it. We are watching to see how this case unfolds and the manner of arrests and intimidation of political opponents has shown us that Okah can not get a fair trial in Nigeria ”
Reminded that ex-militant leaders, including Tompolo, Boyloaf, Dokubo-Asari, Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo, etc have abandoned Henry Okah this time around in his fresh ordeal in South-Africa and whether MEND does not see it as a possible end of the road for him (Henry) and the group, he said, “The support of the individuals you have mentioned is irrelevant to his situation.
We believe that God is in control and will not allow this wicked conspiracy to succeed. Asari Dokubo, for instance, has never supported Okah and failed woefully in trying to tarnish his image the first time around. It is like believing that without the likes of Kanu, Amokachi and Finidi George that the current national team has hit the end of the road.
We have new commanders that have emerged and the group is stronger and re-branded to give Okah or any Niger Delta activist the support for a just cause they are fighting.”
Asked if the ex-militant leaders were reaching out to the group to stop further violence, he said, “How can you reach out to something that is no longer in existence? We have no business with a majority of them and the boys in the creeks regard them as traitors”.
“They have tried to give a false impression that they can guarantee peace in the region. They are acting as informants and giving outdated advice to the oil companies and government security forces. We are sure they must have been shocked to see the Al Jazeera footage of one of the several MEND camps after boasting that there are no more militants after them”, he added.