OMOYELE Sowore, the arrowhead of #RevolutionNow was clamped before the revolution could be televised on August 5. The DSS has since secured a 45-day detention order from Justice Taiwo Taiwo (Sowemimo jailed Awolowo in 1962!) while it looks for evidence to prosecute Sowore whom it already accused of a crime he was arrested for before he could carry it out.
The government has embarked on wild celebrations that the revolution failed after it smashed a few skulls and shattered some bones of protesters in some states where the “revolution “ took place unlike in sections of the country bereft of national consensus on any issue.
In a very Galatian manner, the government has focused all of this on Sowore and his “backers” without any deep reflection on why Sowore would arrive from his base in America, fix a day for a revolution and government would begin to run around in confusion.
The leader of the group calling the protest is well known from his student’s activism days at the University of Lagos, through his revolution (that word again?) in online journalism, to his yeoman job to bring this government to power in 2015 and up to his contest against the incumbent in 2019.
He had good friends among those running Nigeria who must be saying “why would Sowore of all persons want to break our pot of soup?”
This is where social scientists packed more sense when they stated that a social crisis is not resolved either by denying its existence or ascribing it to the wrong source. It would take an only inferior scholarship to see the August 5 event as being all about Sowore. Let him stay where they have put him for now as we focus on Mrs Sariyu Akanmu, a 70-year-old fufu seller in Osogbo who received severe beatings from the police for becoming a Bakayoko on the day of our “revolution”.
Bakayoko was that fictional character in Ousmane Sembene’s God’s Bits of Wood based on a railroad strike in colonial Senegal in the 1940s. The colonial authorities had mobilised Imams and Pastors to preach to the workers in the name of God to call off the strike. Bakayoko was angry and gave the clergy her tongue when she said: “Does it not occur to the Pastors and Imams that those who are hungry are likely to forget the ways that lead to churches and mosques?” Bakayoko drew her strength from the cold fireplace in an empty kitchen!
The interview conducted with the illiterate Mrs Akanmu by The Punch newspaper was not only very touching but very encouraging. To fully understand that it is the Nigerian situation that has produced this pedagogy of the oppressed, it is necessary to listen to her citation :
“I don’t know when I was born. My parents were not educated. But I knew when one of my friends who should be of same age celebrated her sixtieth birthday. That was 10 years ago. Since then I have been using her age as mine too. I am convinced we are of the same age. I will say I am 70 years old now. I am from Agboorule Compound, Osogbo. I have grown-up children. My husband is a farmer. I live in my husband’s family house. I don’t know any vocation. I make fufu (cassava flour) and hawk around Osogbo to sell.”
Her joining the “revolution” on August 5, was both accidental and coincidental :
“I was hawking fufu. I didn’t know that a protest was going on around Olaiya/Fagbewesa junction. I just ran into the protesters. Someone was to give me money for the fufu the person bought from me in a shop around there. I took Fagbewesa road to collect the money and that was when I saw the group of protesters who were mainly youths.
“…When I moved closer to the scene, I heard the protesters saying that Nigerians were suffering. I am a Nigerian and I am suffering. I dropped my fufu tray with someone selling soft drinks and biscuits nearby and joined the protesters. I joined them to express my feelings about the hardship in the country. The suffering in the country is too much.
“… I couldn’t continue hawking after listening to the protesters. Some of them were singing songs that exposed the suffering of masses in the country. I felt I should also join my voice to what was going on. If those young boys were not afraid of death and they stayed there, why should I run away? I am old and do not have many years more to live but I wish to enjoy my remaining years on earth.”
For those suffused in opulence because they are swimming in public funds, they should listen to the emergency revolutionary on her manifesto during the protest:
“ I was shouting that the hardship in the land was too much for the poor. We are hungry. The government should come to our rescue. The economy is bad. No light, no good road. I do not have a mattress. I always sleep on the bare floor. I only hear that life can be good when there are constant electricity, good road and other things. I want to experience these things. I sang and shouted with the protesters. I know I am suffering. I joined them because I know that the government can still make life better for me if they want to do it.”
For those in government who have to hire crowds for their cause and always spew the propaganda that people who participate in protests against government policies are hired, Mrs Akanmu is a lesson they need: “I was not given any money. They did not buy anything from me. I told you I just saw them. I don’t know anyone of them. I don’t think I can recognise anyone of them if I see them.”
The foolishness of the state thinking that cracking down on protesters would cow the citizens were exposed on the beating Mrs Akanmu was subjected to, which only succeeded in radicalizing her as she defiantly said what her words would be to the female police officer who participated in beating her if they met again: “I will thank her for assaulting me. I will tell her she should be ready to kill me next time there is a protest.”
The state of the country after four years of “change” was vividly painted by the revolutionary fufu hawker on the conditions of her children:
“Some of them have little education. I also have those staying with me who are educated. They do not have a job. One of them after schooling went to learn carpentry. My younger sister’s son also stays with me after his mother’s death. He has completed the National Youth Service Corps programme. He is now a bricklayer because he couldn’t get a job.”
Asked if she regretted her action, she didn’t have to think twice as she replied: “I don’t regret joining the protesters. If there is another protest, I will still join.”
The only thing she has yet to understand is the current character of the Nigerian state, about those who take other people’s lives. When asked if she was not afraid of being killed during a protest, she gave what should be the right answer in a normal polity: “Will the government not kill anyone who kills another person? I didn’t commit any offence. The government will kill anyone who kills any person.”
It is the condition that has raised the radical in Mrs Akanmu that the government shout address and not the number of days it can keep Sowore behind bars…She was asked if she knew Sowore and she had no idea who he is.
But she knows the conditions under which she lives and other citizens know as well.
When soldiers kill policemen
THAT the Nigeria Police has behaved more as a force against the people than their friends robbed the organisation the national outrage that should have followed the killing of three of its personnel in Taraba State last week.
The Nigerian Army on Wednesday night (shortly after the incident )confirmed that its troops attached to 93 Battalion, Takum, Taraba State, shot dead three policemen and one civilian after they were mistaken for kidnappers.
The officers were in the state to arrest a notorious kidnapper who has been terrorising communities in the state but alleged to be a largesse distributor to many in the area. Army spokesman, Sagir Musa, said the soldiers were responding to a distress call from members of the community to rescue a kidnapped victim. The army chief said the team of police in a white bus “refused to stop when they were halted by troops at three consecutive checkpoints”, hence prompting the army to suspect them as the kidnappers.
Accounts later indicated that the man the army reportedly freed and called a kidnap victim could actually be the kidnap kingpin the police officers came to arrest.
It is quite disturbing that all we are hearing is a joint investigation committee. To investigate what? The army already claimed responsibility for the killings of some of the best officers in anti-kidnapping in the country with stories of the arrest of notorious kidnappers and freeing so many victims, including recently kidnapped Daura District Head.
What is expected of the Commander-in-Chief is to order the Army Chief to produce the killers and the freed kidnapper without delay? The killers, as well as the kidnapper, must face the full wrath of the law.
For Nigerians who have no tears for the police on this incident because the police are also known for brutalities, the question to ask is: what will soldiers who did this to policemen do against innocent civilians?
My friend, Senator Shehu Sani, was right when he said that Nigeria has become a place where human blood is cheaper than pure water.
Rest in peace gallant officers! The Nigeria Police must turn a new leaf!