•Condemnations trail Sowore’s arrest by DSS
•His arrest won’t stop revolution, vow AAC, NIM
Chuks Okocha, Shola Oyeyipo and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The police high command yesterday said the planned revolution by a group, Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria, amounted to treasonable felony and act of terrorism. It was justifying the arrest, Saturday morning, of convener of the group and presidential candidate of Africa Action Congress (AAC) and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr. Omoyele Sowore.
However, the leadership of AAC described the arrest as an illegality that could not stop the proposed revolution, saying the mass rally against the President Muhammadu Buhari government would go on as scheduled. Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), a third force movement, also yesterday reaffirmed its commitment to the planned nationwide mass protests against poor governance in Nigeria scheduled to hold tomorrow.
In a similar vein, former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, condemned Sowore’s arrest as a move against free speech as guaranteed in the 1999 constitution.
A former spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, also frowned on the arrest. Frank said the protest was not about the convener, Sowore, but the survival of Nigeria, which he said was undergoing a lot of administrative misfortune.
Sowore, one of the conveners of the planned revolution march, was arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) in Lagos over what the secret police tagged treason and act of terrorism.
But his arrest attracted condemnation from Nigerians across the board.
The police, in their reaction to the arrest, said in a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Frank Mba, that they would not watch an “act of terrorism” take place without taking steps to contain it. The police said the Inspector General of Police had warned the planners of the march to desist from the planned action.
The statement said, “The attention of the Nigeria Police Force has been drawn to a video circulating on the social media by the ‘Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria and others’, inciting Nigerians, home and abroad, to join a planned ‘revolution’ march against the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Monday, 5th August, 2019 with the sole aim of forcing a regime change in the country.
“The Force wishes to state unequivocally that the call amounts to treasonable felony and acts of terrorism and will therefore not stand idly-by and watch any individual or group in the society cause anarchy in the land. While acknowledging the rights of Nigerians to embark on protest, the Force wishes to note that such rights should not translate to a violent and forceful change of government, which clearly is the meaning of ‘revolution’.”
The police further stated, “Nigeria is a democratic republic and has well-defined processes for change of government, exercised periodically during various cycle of elections.
“The Force therefore warns the organisers, sponsors, allies, supporters, associates and sympathisers of the group, Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria, to in their own interest, steer clear of any such planned protest, demonstration, acts of incitement and proposed ‘revolution’, as the full wrath of the law will be brought to bear on any individual or group engaged or found participating in the above planned criminal act.”
The statement also advised “parents and guardians to impress on their children and wards not to allow themselves to be used in whatever form by any person or group of persons to cause breach of law and order in the country. The Police will work with other law enforcement agencies and positive-minded Nigerians to protect, defend and secure our public peace and space.”
But in a quick pushback, AAC through its Legal Adviser, who also serves as Sowore’s lawyer, Mr. Inibehe Effiong, told THISDAY via WhatsApp that all necessary legal procedures would be employed to secure Sowore’s unconditional release.
According to Effiong, “The arrest is illegal, indefensible and morally repugnant. It is a reflection of the primitive and totalitarian disposition of the present regime.”
He noted that Buhari and the national chairman of his party, All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, while he was President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), had led several protests in the past.
“It is, therefore, the height of hypocrisy for the government of the day to resort to this militaristic response to the decision of Nigerians to exercise their fundamental rights to peaceful assembly and expression,” Effiong stated.
He added, “The #RevolutionNow Movement is not an armed struggle and has no trace of violence. It is inflammatory and a fraudulent misrepresentation for anyone to suggest that the planned protests is treasonous. That is fictional and represents disconnect between the government and the security agencies and the reality.
“Nigerians will no longer sit idle and watch scavengers destroy their country. No amount of intimidation will deter us. The SSS should be preoccupied with the troubling and deteriorating security situation in the country instead of allowing itself to be used cheaply as a tool of political repression.
“We will explore all available legal options to secure the release of Omoyele Sowore from custody, including protests and legal actions. There is no way we are going to allow cowardly elements to silence our voices.”
On his part, Atiku through his verified Tweeter Account said, “Freedom of speech is not only constitutionally guaranteed, it is the substructure of our democracy. These kidnappings in the guise of arrests stand condemned.”
Similarly condemning Sowore’s arrest, Frank, in a statement yesterday, insisted that the country needed such massive protests because of the killings, kidnappings, banditry, hunger, unemployment, economic disaster and sundry acts of mismanagement going on under the APC government.
He stated, “If the arrest is not resisted now, it will become order of the day to the extent that even the labour unions and the media will no longer be free to air their views.
“Even the Abacha government did not do what this current government is doing. In Sudan, Hong Kong and other nations, citizens are protesting against their governments and nobody is arrested or intimidated. General Buhari should know that this is democracy and if it’s hard for him to cope, he should step aside.
“This revolution is long overdue. It is not about the convener but about the unworkable system, which has resulted in all these avoidable killings of innocent Nigerians and all manners of evil in the land.”
The Bayelsa-born activist and politician reminded Buhari of how he had led protests in 2003, when he was in the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and 2014 before he emerged president. He said all over the world, citizens were expressing their disaffection without being arrested by their governments.
Frank said it was the constitutional right of the citizens to protest whenever they were dissatisfied with anything in a democratic government.
He urged activists, whom he described as “fathers of protest”, including Pastor Tunde Bakare, Professor Wole Soyinka, Femi Falana, and Olisa Agbakoba, to support Sowore’s idea if they were still for the masses.
“I therefore call on like minds, the media, the real comrades and the known fathers of protest like Olisa Agbakoba, Femi Falana, Tunde Bakare and others to act now or their names will become history for keeping quiet in the face of evil,” Frank stated, adding, “I also call on the international community, especially the American government to speak up, because Sowore is also an America citizen fighting for the betterment of our society.”
In the meantime, NIM has confirmed its commitment to the planned protests and condemned Sowore’s arrest. The movement said it had directed all its members, allies and supporters, especially in the Alliance for Defence of Democracy (ADD) and some revolutionary political parties, to join and support the historic mass action for a New Nigeria.
This was revealed in a statement its National Publicity Secretary, Dr Olusegun Obe, issued yesterday. The statement noted that the mass action had received the endorsement of Professor Wole Soyinka, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, and Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, among others.
“The Coalition for Revolution (CORE), an initiative of Nigerian masses and youths, is purely aimed at overthrowing the corrupt and warped political system being operated by the country as well as changing the oppressive ruling class in Nigeria,” the group stated.
It asked the Presidency and DSS to release Sowore immediately, saying his continued incarceration “will not deter our forces and cadres from embarking on the planned mass action against the oppressors of the peoples on Monday.”
The statement noted that peaceful protest or public demonstration against state or government policies “is a constitutional right of every citizen of Nigeria. So, it is illegal to criminalise or victimise any citizen for openly expressing contrary stand against government’s policies and programme.”
Meanwhile, a source that witnessed Sowore’s arrest by the DSS gave an exclusive account of how he was picked up by the security operatives to THISDAY.
According to the source, who did not to be named, “Early on Saturday morning, Sowore was arrested by men of the Department of State Services, who invaded his apartment. Since then information about his whereabouts has remained scanty, but here’s what we know so far. The forceful arrest of Sowore took place between 1:15 am and 1:25 am (WAT).
“The thudding knocks on his apartment door woke them up and alerted to the presence of heavily armed DSS men. The men, numbering eight, cordoned off the building and arrested the rights activist after a slight altercation in the gym. He was then driven towards CMD, Shangisha, Ketu, Lagos, which was his last known location.”
Also calling for Sowore’s release from custody is People’s Alternative Front. In a statement issued by its General Secretary, Eze Alloysius yesterday night stated that Sowore had not committed any crime to warrant his arrest. “The attention of the People’s Alternative Front has been drawn to the detention of Mr. Omoyele Sowore, the national Chairman of the Action Congress by security forces on account of his involvement in the mass protests of Monday, August 5, 2019.
Since Nigerians have the fundamental right to protest for and against any of the governments in the country Mr. Sowore has not committed any criminal offence by associating with other Nigerians to hold a peaceful rally against insecurity, unemployment , corruption etc.
Therefore, in demanding for the unconditional release of Mr. Sowore from illegal custody without any further delay we are compelled to urge President Buhari to call the heads of the security agencies to order.
It reminded Buhari that he “had taken part taken part in public protests against the rigging of the 2003 general election by the Olusegun administration and against insecurity in the country in 2014vunder the Goodluck Jonathan administration.”
Other Nigerians, who had taken to their social media pages to condemn the development, included Oby Ezekwesili, Deji Adeyanju, Shehu Sani, and Kadaria Ahmed. They voiced deep disappointment at the action of the Buhari government.