Saturday, 16 October 2010

I Claim Henry Okah

"Not just with MEND, with everybody who is fighting and to whichever way they are fighting. You don't just give people an amnesty and ask them to forget about the reason why they are fighting. Every one of us is fighting for something and if what we are fighting for is not addressed, it ushers problem in the area. You understand. It is not about Jonathan being president or about an amnesty being given. I mean, why will you steal my land and you give me an amnesty and then you expect me not to continue fighting you? Why would that happen?"

This is Henry Okah talking to Aljazeera just last week, a couple of days after his arrest by the South African state forces. He maintains that the Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan,is trying to put the blame for the bomb attacks on Northern rebels, who oppose his presidency. Henry Okah refused to go along with that scheme, and this, he avers, is why he was arrested in Joburg.

Okah holds a BSc in Marine Engineering, his family were and are wealthy by any standards, and yet this man has spent years trying - pretty damned successfully if you ask me - to disrupt the systems of global oil producers which destroyed his landbase.

He is, to put it simply, a well-educated, conscious and ethical hero, to me and to many of the people of the Niger Delta region. He is claiming that there are people in the Nigerian government who want him dead for not acceding to their smear campaigns and you know, I'm pretty sure he's right.

But how do the media in South Africa treat the story of his arrest and trial? With smug hypocrisy.
He's a terrorist, according to the News departments of the SABC, 702 and News 24. He's also a Nigerian and hey you know those dirty drug-dealing Nigerians, don't you?

I claim Henry Okah as an authentic African Hero, one who is in and of the Land. And you know, we don't have too many of them, in any country.

And yet again, I am deeply ashamed of the trite, superficial, ignorance of the South African Press - who you'd think would know their guerrillas from their drug dealers, wouldn't you?