By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa
Henry Okah, the man who is widely believed to be the driving force behind the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, is being touted as more of a Lagos boy than a Bayelsa, having been born in the nation’s commercial capital.
He is currently standing trial in South Africa for allegedly sponsoring the Independence Day bomb explosions in Abuja.
His younger brother, Charles, and six others including Charles’ son also appeared before an Abuja Chief Magistrate Court on Friday for their alleged involvement in the blasts.
Henry has reportedly denied being a militant, but a gentleman.
Sources in Bayelsa State says his father, the late Commander Wilson Okah hailed from Amassoma in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The elder Okah, a British trained naval officer was described as a disciplinarian who brought up his nine children in the strictest manner.
Henry is the fourth child of his father and attended one of the best private schools in Lagos, Corona Nursery and Primary School Lagos.
He later proceeded to one of the Federal Government colleges and later obtained HND in Marine Engineering.
Okah after his primary education also had the privilege of attending one of the unity schools before proceeding for his higher education at Maritime Institute, where he obtained HND in Marine Engineering.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that because of his fascination for the sea he had a brief stint with the Nigerian Merchant Navy. Sources told Saturday Vanguard that he was a shrewd businessman who enjoys the patronage of the erstwhile militant leaders in the region.
It was for this singular reason that he was regarded as key factor in the Niger Delta struggle and the erstwhile militants put a lot of pressure on government to force it to set him free and stall his treasonable felony trial when he was arrested two years ago in Angola.
He was officially released on 13 July 2009, as part of an amnesty announced by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and unofficially as a pacifier to the militants.
Family sources are surprised at his involvement in militancy since he and his siblings grew up far away from home and were “British” in their orientation.
Okah and his siblings were said to have grown up in Lagos, attending some of the best private schools and enjoying the luxury their parents’ wealth could afford.
“Aside his father’s privileged position as a senior naval personnel Okah’s mother, late Mrs. Helen was a wealthy businesswoman with several cold rooms in Lagos and was one of the richest Amassoma women of her time,” one source who would not want his name in print for security reason added.
Okah’s first visit to the family home in Bayelsa did not occur until he was 19 year, according to the source.
“That was even after his mother’s death,” he recalled with nostalgia when the community was still at its rustic settings and could only be accessed by water.
The trip to his ancestral home and the noticeable contrast of living conditions in the swampy environment with that of his privileged surrounding may have upset him and made him sympathetic to the radical militant wings in the region, said a source.