- Soyinka blasts FG for threatening to arrest organisers of public demonstrations
By Ejiofor Alike and Chiemelie Ezeobi
Barely 24 hours to the proposed nationwide protest against bad governance, one of its foremost promoters, Innocent Idibia, has cancelled the march to the utmost shock of his followers and supporters.
However, despite his stand, the co-conveners of the protest, ‘Enough is Enough (EiE)’ coalition, yesterday said the protests must go on as planned even though Idibia had opted out.
From all indications, Idibia was determined to lead the protest as he had reiterated on different occasions when rumours surfaced that he was being pressurised to drop out.
However, the game changer was the meeting with the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, who explained the security implications of protesting on the same day with the pro-Buhari campaign group.
Giving in to reason, the popular musician called off the protest in a short video, where he explained that the protest is under serious threat of hijack by interests not aligned with their ideals.
Despite the reasons he gave for pulling out, some people were still not satisfied and they took to several social media platforms to condemn his move.
One of such groups of persons was the EiE group which said the planned protests scheduled to hold in Lagos and Abuja on February 6 will still hold.
Also reacting to Idibia’s action, the National Publicity Secretary of Nigerian Wailers, Ibrahim Sani Ringim, said it was false and just the wishful thinking of the anti-Nigeria dark minded people.
In a statement made available to THISDAY, they said: “Our attention has been drawn to the news making the round that the planned nationwide protest slated for February 6 has been called off.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Innocent Idibia popularly known as Tuface was never the initiator of the planned #IstandWithNigeria, #RescueNigeria protest, he is one of the Nigerians who showed interest to take a leading stage in the march and was accorded such role because of his person.
“The Nigerian people appreciated his effort for doing so but the video he released depicting cancelation is false and totally untrue.
“Idibia lacks the powers to cancel the protest because he was never the initiator, his actions have betrayed the expectations of millions of other Nigerians who held him in high esteem because one would have expected that if he wanted to exit the protest, he should have done so personally without speaking for millions of other Nigerians by causing misinformation.
“Therefore, we call on Nigerians to come out today in greater numbers from every states as scheduled to protest against everything you don’t want because it is your fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution.”
Also, prolific Nollywood producer, Chico Ejiro, said: “I am disappointed in Tuface, he is a coward. I am advising him not to start a struggle that he cannot sustain. How can you pull out 24 hours to the protest?
‘If you can’t see it through, next time keep your mouth shut, because right now, the struggle is bigger than you. God bless Nigeria! Its only God Almighty that can fight our battle.”
Another Nollywood director, Charles Novia, who had already volunteered to join the protest because of the Idibia’s passion for change, expressed his displeasure.
He said: “It’s a disappointment really that Tuface was stared down over this February 6 demonstration. He’s done more harm to his brand than good.”
Legal counsel and rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, also joined the call for Nigerians to turn out en masse for the protest, urging them not to be deceived or intimidated because the right to protest is a constitutional right.
Quoting Section 39 of 1999 Constitution he said, “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas.”
Meanwhile, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has condemned the federal government for giving orders to stifle the rights to freedom of expression by threatening to arrest the organisers of the demonstration planned for today.
In a statement issued yesterday, Soyinka argued that the attempt by the Inspector General of Police to halt today’s planned public demonstration amounts to reversing the hands of the democratic clock.
Soyinka stated that the military and civilian administrations of Buhari, Babangida, Obasanjo and Jonathan had also in the past stifled the rights to freedom of expression.
He said the efforts by the present Buhari’s administration to stifle the rights to freedom of expression would always be resisted, adding that freedom of expression is a moral issue that has been settled in other parts of the world.
According to him, Nigeria cannot be an exception, not as long as her citizens refuse to accept the designation of second, even third-rate citizens.
He said the action of the Nigeria Police was even “more appalling at a time when open demonstrations are taking place all over the world against the policies of a recently elected president of the United States, whose democratic formula this nation allegedly serves as Nigeria’s adopted model”.
“Across numerous states of that federated nation, ongoing at this very moment, is the public expression of rejection of a president’s policy that has also pitted the Executive against the judiciary. We have heard of no preventive action by the police, nor arrests of demonstrators,” he added.
Soyinka described the action of the IG as a huge disappointment, and a disservice to the cause of democracy, tolerance of dissent, and principle of inclusive governance.
“An unnecessary but important reminder: the battle for the right of lawful assembly of citizens in any cause, conducted peacefully, has been fought and won several times over. It is time that this contest is gracefully conceded. It must be consolidated by its routineness as a choice of action at the front of any people’s democratic participation. This battle has been won legally, constitutionally, and even morally. It enjoys near global acceptance as one of the means of actualizing the protocols of a people’s Fundamental Human Rights,” Soyinka explained.
He further argued that the action of the police is “a deep embarrassment, and a national shame that this latest attempt at denial of these protocols rears its head at a time when one of the largest gatherings of humanity is taking place in one of the former totalitarian states of Eastern Europe – Romania.”
Soyinka revealed that he had sent a message to the IG, through the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, urging them to respect and safeguard the constitutional rights of the people.
“I hope that, even at this eleventh hour, legality and the democratic imperative will prevail. Finally, I shall be less than honest if I do not add the following, mostly directed as warning to the very polity on whose behalf the democratic war is joined, again and again,” he added:
“Minus a minuscule but highly voluble minority, mostly of pitiably retarded polluters of the common zones of public interventions, I do not know of any citizens of civilised community who do not subscribe to the fundamental Right of the Freedom of Expression in any form, as long as it is peaceful, and non-injurious to humanity. I would hate to conclude that the security agencies, or the government they serve, at this stage of national development and recent history, would choose to align themselves with such an unteachable minority,” Soyinka explained.