•Nigerians have right to protest — Oshiomhole
•Adewale Martins, MURIC disagree over necessity
•It’s an ingredient of democracy – NLC
•Poly students kick against action
•Police arraign ASUU member, four others in Osun
•You’ll regret clampdown on protesters – Sowore’s group tells FG
By Victor Young, Sam Eyoboka, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Daud Olatunji, Omeiza Ajayi, Shina Abubakar, Luminous Jannamike & Ezra Ukanwa
ABUJA — AS mixed views continue to herald last Monday’s #RevolutionNow protests in some states of the country and security agents clampdown on the protesters, National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday, said Nigerians have the right to protest but they must properly articulate their grievances.
Oshiomhole spoke on a day that the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, and Catholic Archbishop of Lagos Metropolitan See, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, disagreed over the necessity of the protest.
While MURIC passed a vote of confidence on President Muhammadu Buhari, arguing that the proponents of the protest have lost touch with reality, Most Rev Martins admonished the Federal Government to see the demonstration as a wake-up call from the rank of suffering Nigerians who are asking government for protection of their lives and properties.
Meanwhile, the police, on account of the protests have arraigned nine persons including a university teacher in Osun and Ogun states.
Also, as the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, endorsed the protest and called for the release of Sowore, who has been detained by the Department of State Services, DSS, since Saturday morning, the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, faulted the protests.
The group, which in 2017 gave Igbo in the North an October 1 ultimatum to leave the North, described the protest as an international conspiracy supported by South-Westerners to destabilize the country, and overthrow President Buhari despite being the “greatest beneficiary” of the same administration. Consequently, the northern coalition called for an end to all alliances with the South-West.
You can’t lose an election and call for revolution
Oshiomhole, who led many protests in the country as leader of the NLC, while briefing State House correspondents after a meeting of the APC National Working Committee, NWC, with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja, condemned Omoyele Sowore, the convener of the Global Coalition for Security and Democracy, for engineering the protest.
Oshiomhole said Sowore, who was the Presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, and publisher of Sahara Reporters decided to lead the protest after failing to win the February 23 2019 presidential election.
His words: “What was the reason for protest? Let’s be honest! I have led series of protests even to this villa. Whoever wants to protest should articulate the particulars of his grievances and make specific demands about the solutions that he wants.
“Sowore, the publisher of Sahara reporters, a presidential candidate, cleared by INEC to bid for power, had opportunity to ask Nigerians to vote for him. Now, Nigerians have voted, the votes were counted and he was not a favoured candidate. What does he want now? That Nigerians must make him the president? We all have to be careful, nobody should talk as if we have another country.
“We have challenges but somehow we have all resolved as a people that the way and route to power is the ballot box. Our task as a people is to continue to work to clean up the system so that only Nigerians alone shall determine who governs them at all levels. That I believe is a legitimate thing to fight for.
“But if you want to overthrow, if you want revolution, then, he should have spared us of the INEC putting him on the ballot paper.
“I don’t want to talk about this but I believe Nigerians have a right to protest, I believe people have a right to contest issues, people have the right to disagree. I have often said the government doesn’t have the right to dictate to people how to protest, but you must state exactly what you want.
“I ask you to name any country in the world where somebody stands up and says after the election that I contested and lost, I now want revolution.
“Go and check the dictionary and political meaning of a revolution. If it comes it will be like the Christmas turkey, nobody knows which one will be slaughtered first on Christmas.
“I think we need to take things seriously. We have serious issues in this country. I have my reservations about many things but we have submitted to this process and we must work hard to make it work. Nigeria must deliver to the poor, APC government must deliver.”
Oshiomhole explained that they were at the Villa to congratulate the President as it was the first time after the elections that the National Working Committee of the party was officially coming to congratulate him at the State House. He said the party leaders assured the president of their support and commitment to build institute for progressive studies for people to understand the essence of progressive politics and social democracy.
“So our party must be seen to be pro-poor, putting policies in place that will lift our people out of poverty and recreate the Nigeria middle class. Unless you recreate the Nigeria middle class, you are not going to have a stable and a peaceful society.”
Prodded further on the protests, Oshiomhole, who acknowledged that we have challenges, said there is no part of the world where revolution is created.
He said: “Have you monitored what is happening in France, that yellow jacket people, who were organizing those protests? Initially, they were asking for labour reforms that President Macron introduced but from there they went into something else, you must have seen on your television how the French authorities dealt with that.
“I think we have to be clear. I am a believer that the rights to protest is a fundamental human right but it does not include the right to suggest that you want to overthrow a constituted order. No, there is a difference.
“As NLC president when we were organizing protests, we had put down the head of the then President after one week protest. I think it was late Gani Fawehinmi that said instead of pushing him out we should raise the head again. And I said, our purpose is to defeat a set of anti-people policies that we have seen but recognizing that we are in a democracy and that the president was elected, our mission was not to remove him from office. There is a difference between the two.
“So, you cannot go and contest election and when you lose, you say you want revolution. It is not about this president, it is not about APC, it is recognizing that we have challenges. Are we prepared to allow use of undemocratic means to effect a change? Nobody knows the value of democracy more than the media because once upon a time two of your colleagues were convicted for allegedly plotting coup with a pen.”
S/West of conspiring to overthrow Buhari – CNG
Speaking on the issue, CNG explained its decision not to be part of the botched #RevolutionNow marches across the nation, because “the North will not be part of any international conspiracy supported by South Westerners to destabilize the country.”
While it specifically accused the South-West of being in the forefront of agitations to overthrow the Buhari administration in spite of being the “greatest beneficiary” of the same administration, the northern coalition called for an end to all alliances with the South-West.
“It is quite unfortunate that the South-West which has been the single major beneficiary of the Buhari administration should also be in the forefront of efforts to discredit and bring him down by all means. This can be seen in the manner in which the bulk of political, cultural, religious and traditional leadership is standing solidly against the government with its open support for call for violent overthrow of the Buhari government by the #Revolutionow organizers.
“In particular, such individual beneficiaries of the government as Bola Tinubu, Fashola, Fayemi, Aregbesola, and others largely from the South-West were nowhere to be seen when their people and the southern-based media ignited tensions over the government’s Ruga initiative.
“These same beneficiaries appear today in implicit support of the proposed insurrection by maintaining a conspiratorial neutrality while other southern influencers like Wole Soyinka, Bisi Akande, Falana, etc explicitly back the organizers”, the northern coalition stated.
End Yoruba, Northern alliance
“We also wish to ask the president if in all honesty he still considers the South Western players as true friends who are genuinely desirous of his success. He should ask himself if the treatment he is receiving from them is worth the attention he had given the South West which involved colliding with his northern brethren to the point of elevating the status of June 12 as appeasement.
“To the entire northern leaders and elite, we categorically say that the current political alignment with the South-West is not paying and it never will.
“The vital task at this point is for the northern political leadership to renegotiate its current alliance with the South-West which has never been North’s political ally The alliance is already turning out to be unhealthy.
“We are calling on the northern elders and leaders to review the region’s position by realigning with our traditional political friends which had served the whole nation for decades before the coming of this unholy and unprofitable union with the South-Western block.
“This has become necessary with the way the South-West is going about the current friendship by being more openly antagonistic to northern interests even while they are the major beneficiaries of the Buhari administration. They, at the slightest of pretenses, openly denigrate the North, its people, its leadership and culture which must not be allowed to continue.
“The CNG, therefore, calls on the current leadership of the Northern Elders Forum under Professor Ango Abdullahi to mobilize relevant stakeholders towards bringing an end to the political partnership with the South-West and embracing the North’s initial political allies”, CNG added.
The coalition was however quick to concede that the President Buhari administration has not lived up to expectations and should as a matter of urgency apologize to the nation.
“We submit that instead of just sitting back to thank Nigerians for not joining the overthrow plan, President Buhari should rather sincerely apologize to the nation by reflecting on how he dragged the country into such a desperate situation, own up to his inadequacies and take genuine steps to address the mounting national grievances.
“Unless this is done, with the growing angry mood that pervades the entire country, the likelihood of a more serious dissent remains imminent”, the coalition warned.
You’ll regret clampdown on protesters — Sowore’s group tells FG
However, activists under the ‘#RevolutionNow’ movement have said the federal government will regret its decision to clampdown on organised protests, if it persists in silencing dissenting voices.
According to them, Nigerians are frustrated by several anti-policies of government and the structured protests by civil activists provide healthy outlets for pent-up tensions within the ranks of the masses to be released.
They expressed fears that if the federal government persists in silencing those speaking up through organised civil actions, the masses may be left with no other choice but to fight for survival by rising against the authorities in crude ways.
Speaking with Vanguard last night, a key coordinator of the movement in Abuja, Mr. Ariyo Atoye, said: “The government should know it cannot stop people from thinking, speaking and demonstrating against its bad policies. We want the government to put it on record that if it does not allow structured agitations and protests, time is coming when the tsunami will hit this country, and it is going to come from the fringes and localities such that it will be begging activists to help curtail it and we will say ‘no.”
MURIC gives Buhari vote of confidence
Kicking against the protest, the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, in a statement by its Director/Founder, Professor Ishaq Akintola, pooh-poohed the protesters.
It said: “While it is on record that we have called for the release or arraignment of Omoyele Sowore, we affirm that the #RevolutionNow camp has lost touch with reality. How do you judge an administration which is yet to take off in its second term? What are the criteria the #RevolutionNow group used to arrive at its hardline position?
“This is an administration that was ambushed, strangulated and Sarakitised from the first day of its inauguration in May 2015. Are they blind to history? Today was born from the wombs of yesterday. Why can’t they take a glance at where this administration is coming from?
“Have they forgotten how the 8th National Assembly held the Buhari administration by the jugular for four good years?
“So what has changed since then? How much time has Buhari spent in his second term? He has not even taken off. Wednesday, August 21, has just been fixed for the swearing-in of ministers. Why won’t they allow this government to settle down? Who is afraid of Buhari? Whose cupboard is full of skeletons? Why are they in so much haste?
“Does it mean that both the leaders and supporters of #RevolutionNow were pleased with the Sarakitisation of Buhari’s first term? Where really do they stand in the war against corruption? Where were they when the 8th Senate delayed budget for seven whole months?
“We put it to #RevolutionNow that it has misplaced its priorities and failed to identify the true enemies of Nigeria. #RevolutionNow should have organized its uprising against the 8th NASS. By the way, where were they during the general elections that brought Buhari to power?
“We submit that #RevolutionNow is fighting a proxy war for looters. It has allowed itself to become a willing tool in the hands of corrupt politicians and bad losers. By the way, what alternative do the champions of #RevolutionNow have for Nigerians as they seek violent regime change? Whether they call their #RevolutionNow violent or nonviolent, is it time yet for another election? Have they forgotten Libya? Can’t they see what is happening in Syria and Iraq? Real activists respect democratic ideals but the reverse is the case with our friends.”
See protest as wake-up call, Martins urges Buhari
Reacting to the the development, Archbishop Adewale Martins, in a statement by the Acting Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, urged the Buhari-led government to see the agitation as an opportunity to directly hear the complaints of Nigerians and redouble its efforts towards fulfilling her constitutional role of securing the lives and properties of the people.
Archbishop Martins, while expressing his displeasure over the rising cases of insecurity across the country, particularly the kidnapping and killing of innocent Nigerians by armed bandits, warned that except urgent and concrete measures are taken to reassure Nigerians of the safety of their lives and properties across the country, things may soon get out of hand.
“People may be forced to resort to self-help if the government and the security agencies continue to fail them. The on-going protest by some groups is a reflection of the growing decay in the land and should be a wake-up call for President Buhari to be more creative and decisive in addressing the various agitations bothering the minds of Nigerians,” he stressed, adding that clamping down on the protesters will not make the problems disappear.
“Rather, I would urge him, as the father of the nation, to pay attention to the issues that bother the citizens. The fears being expressed about the state of the nation are genuine and they deserve to be looked into urgently so as to save this nation from further distress. President Buhari needs to address the nation on these issues and give people the much-needed reassurance and hope. If this is not forthcoming, people feel free to interpret events as they wish,” he cautioned.
The Prelate, while calling for a speedy arraignment of those arrested in connection with the protest in the court of law, if there are enough grounds to do so, warned that the continuous detention of the protesters without trial may further paint the government as only paying lip service to the tenets of democracy.
The Archbishop noted that the proper and real dividends of democracy include freedom of expression and assembly, including the freedom to protest.
NLC demands immediate release of Sowore, other protesters
Demanding for the immediate release of Sowore and other protesters, the NLC in a statement in Abuja insisted that peaceful protest against bad governance or perceived anti-people government policies is one of the critical fundamental rights that expanded the entrenchment and growth of democracy. It said the security agencies must not be allowed to continue to portray themselves as anti-democracy forces.
NLC in the statement by its General Secretary, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, said: “It is with deep consternation that we view the attacks and arrests of peaceful protesters in some parts of the country by security agencies and military personnel on Monday during a protest by some Nigerians in Lagos, Osogbo, Ibadan, Abuja and other cities. There is nowhere in our constitution or laws that the security agencies are empowered to so brazenly attack peaceful protests and hound its organisers into detention as the right to peaceful protests, assembly and association is fully guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under sections 39 and 40.
“We view the violent attack on the peaceful protesters by security forces as a total violation of the fundamental rights of not just the protesters but all Nigerian citizens as guaranteed by the constitution as well as various reported judgements of our Courts.
Police arraign ASUU member, four others in Osun
The Police, yesterday, arraigned five men allegedly involved in the #RevolutionNow protest before an Osogbo magistrate court.
One of the suspects was said to be a member of the Academic Staff Union of Osun State University.
They are: Owolabi Olawale, 32; Fagunwa Temitope, 29; Oluwafemi Johnson, 26; Owoeye Olaoluwa, 22; and Omoloye Stephen, 21.
They pleaded not guilty to the three-count charge preferred against them bordering on conspiracy, unlawful assembly and breach of public peace.
The prosecutor, DSP Felix Okafor said: “The accused persons assembled themselves in a manner capable of causing persons in the neighbourhood to fear and disturb the peace of the community.”
He said they committed the offence at the Olaiya area of the state capital on August 5, 2019 around 1:30 pm.
Okafor said the offence was contrary to section 517, 249(D) and 69 punishable under section 70.
The counsel to the accused, A.O. Adegoke while praying the court to commit to bail in the most liberal terms, said one of the accused persons is a member of the Academic Staff Union of Osun State University and was randomly picked at the scene.
The magistrate, A. O Ajanaku admitted the accused persons to bail in the sum of N50,000 with a surety each in like sum and adjourned the matter to October 16 for hearing.
Ogun Police arraign four protesters
In like manner, Ogun State Police command arraigned four protesters before an Abeokuta Magistrate court for alleged unlawful assembly .
The accused persons, Daniel Abraham, 29; Afofun Festus ,18; Kolawole Seun, 25; and Okoro Romeo, 38, were charged for conspiracy, unlawful assembly and conduct likely to cause breach of public peace.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the three- count charge.
The prosecutor, Benson Emenike, told the court that the accused persons had on August 5, 2019 at Abeokuta unlawfully assembled and engaged in a conduct likely to cause breach of public peace.
He said the action is contrary to and punishable under section 516 of the criminal code laws of Ogun state (Revised edition ) 2006.
Counsel for the accused, Bumni Adelabu, during an oral bail application, prayed the court to grant the accused persons bail on liberal terms.
The magistrate, Olarenwaju Onagoruwa granted the accused persons bail in the sum of N100,000 each and two sureties in like sum.
Onagoruwa ordered that the accused be remanded in prison until they perfect their bail application and adjourned the case till August 15 for definite hearing.