My Father Is Innocent, The Judiciary Knows But They Don’t Want To Give Up- Charles Okah’s Daughter

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Daughter of Charles Okah who was arrested in connection with
the 2010 Abuja bombings that resulted in the killing of several people and now
facing trial has said her father is innocent and every evidence that has been
brought against him in the court of law has been nothing but laughable ones,
but the judiciary system just don’t want to give up easily. Tarila Okah who
left Nigeria 12 years ago for Canada said her father is innocent and should be
left to come back home and reconnect with his family. Below is her interview
with Fidelis Soriwei.



You just wrote a court in Abuja to expedite the ongoing
trial of your father. Why did you decide to write the judge?

As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. My
family needs my father. This ordeal has gone on for far too long. He’s missing
many family milestones; he’s missing experiencing his children growing up. The
pain for all is unbearable. For others like the judge and the public at large,
there is no emotional attachment to the case; hence it’s easier to care less as
the case lingers on. But for my family, it is too much to bear especially when
one knows that he is innocent. Continue…
Why didn’t you write through your father’s lawyer? He told
the court that he was not aware of the move you made.
  
I feel bad that I circumvented due process. In hindsight I
should have informed the lawyer of my intentions. But it did not even cross my
mind at the time. I just wanted to get to the judge desperately. The clock is
ticking and I felt that was my last resort. As soon as I thought of the idea, I
wrote the letter and headed straight to the post office without really
consulting anyone. I was shocked by the cost of mailing that piece of paper
light as a feather. It is the most expensive thing I have ever mailed, but also
the most important. I thought what did I have to lose? In no way am I asking
the judge to pervert justice. Never! All I want is for the trial to wrap up
soon. I think it’s only fair. I will be utterly distraught if my father, who is
alive, can’t walk me down the aisle on my wedding day.
What are the issues you have with the ongoing trial and do
you think your father will not get justice in the Nigerian judicial system?
The delay. I’m usually told about each proceeding. And
sometimes I’m amazed (not in a good way) about the whole thing. Some of the
so-called witnesses the prosecution has brought are laughable at best, and
upsetting at worst. At this point, it appears the prosecution feels it has come
too far to give up. And so to save face, it is coming up with all sort of
unrelated approaches. It is pretty pathetic. I wish the trial was being aired
on TV for the country to watch so they could see for themselves that the
charges against him are clearly trumped up. However, I choose not to be a pessimist.
I choose to have faith in the judicial system.
  
What do you do in Canada?
I left Nigeria after I finished secondary school 12 years
ago. I just completed my Masters degree, and I now work for a technology
company.
What kind of person is your father?
My father is very hardworking, smart and calm. He has a good
sense of humour. He never raised his hands on us whenever we fell short. His
disciplinary approach was always to talk to us and advise us and sometimes
ground us. He never believed in beating his children or inflicting physical
harm to get his point across. In the same light, he will never believe in
orchestrating a grievous attack on the nation, and in effect taking lives, in
order to get a point across. That is not who he is.
What was your response and indeed the response of your
siblings when he was arrested in connection with the 2010 Abuja bombings that
resulted in the killing of several people?
It did not make sense. I could not connect the dots (but as
I have now found out, there are indeed no dots to connect). I had questions, I
needed answers. I have been following the case intently to see what evidence
they have. So far, nothing credible! My younger siblings, were shielded from
it. All they knew was that daddy had gone away and he would be back soon. They
have lost their sense of what ‘soon’ really means.
Do you think your father is innocent?
Absolutely. Without a doubt. Any unbiased observer who has
gone to most of the court proceedings will easily see why. It is only during a
fair trial in an impartial court that the so-called evidence will be revealed.
It is then we will determine if the evidence being brought has any relationship
or relevance to the charges of treason and terrorism levelled against my father
or if what they have been holding onto for the past five years have been
nothing more than fabricated lies.
Why would people implicate him if you think he is not
involved in the incident?
Let’s not play naive. This is Nigeria we are talking about.
Anything can happen. Anything goes. When people in positions of authority and
power want something, they will pull whatever strings they need to and
implicate whoever they want. Things went sour between my uncle and the
government for reasons unknown to me. Knowing how close my dad is to his
brother, he was the perfect bargaining chip. My dad refused to accept the terms
of negotiations from the past government in exchange for his freedom. Now he’s paying
the price for not biting into the rotten system.
What was your father’s relationship with the former
administration? Can he be said to have had a relationship with former President
Goodluck Jonathan? If he did, at what point did they fall apart?
I didn’t even know they had a relationship, if any. Like I
said, I left Nigeria 12 years ago.
Did he have a relationship with militant groups in the Niger
Delta and politicians?
I’m not sure what kind of relationship he would have with
militant groups. My dad is a legitimate businessman who is always looking out
for opportunities to expand his business. I know he had had relationships with
politicians and governments in the past with regards to contracts for his
business. Most recently (before his arrest), he was looking forward to securing
a contract for building floating docks in the Niger Delta region and bringing
some semblance of development to the area.
What are your misgivings about the judicial system?
Sadly, the Nigerian judicial system is not always very
reliable. If I’m being completely honest, sometimes I get very concerned and
worried. The prosecution never brought its case before the court bona fide in
the first place, instead it is relying on assumptions, hear-say, wild
conjecture, and a shoddy investigation. I just hope that at the end of all
these, an innocent citizen would be seen vindicated, discharged and acquitted.
Then, justice would have prevailed. Above all, my faith is stronger than my
worry thus, all I have to do is pray and let go.
What is your message to the government and Nigerians?

His arrest was not warranted. Since they chose to prosecute
him, I would have hoped they would get right to the point and lay out all their
evidence in a clear and concise manner, rather than manipulating random people
into testifying and formulating a watery case. In an ideal world, they will own
up to messing up and apologise for the wrongful arrest. But we know that this
will never happen. They impounded his goods of legitimate import at the time of
his arrest and have still refused to release them even after their search of
the containers amounted to nothing. I encourage Nigerians to slow to condemn,
but quick to intellectually observe, ask questions, and gather facts.
Unfortunately, In Nigeria, the mere act of filing charges – even trumped up
charges – carries along with it a strong presumption of guilt. Many Nigerians
lack a strong comprehension of the concept of innocent until proven guilty. The
average Nigerian is generally quick to castigate and throw stones. The
government presents someone as a scapegoat and instead of asking questions and
seeking to gather the facts; they rely on hearsay and make very strong opinions
based on things that the government leads them to believe, forgetting that this
is Nigeria, where corruption on different scales runs high. At the end of the
day, my prayer is that this ordeal is over very soon. Thank you for reaching
out to me. May God bless our beloved country.

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