By Henry Boyo
THE undeniably violent, heavily armed, and merciless Extremist Group, Boko Haram, who have, systematically, decimated tens of thousands of Nigerians, clearly remain the major present security threat to the Nigerian government; although, other ethnic, regional or political associations such as IPOB, MASSOB, Afenifere and PANDEF have at various times, openly decried perceived injustice and inequity in government policies, these pressure groups have, so far, never been known for such violence nor have they resorted to self-help.
Admittedly, IPOB Leadership, under Nnamdi Kanu, has been more openly confrontational; nevertheless, when IPOB was proscribed as a terrorist organization, the IPOB Leader was detained; however, after his release on bail, for the charge of treason, Kanu sensibly, went underground, while several unidentified IPOB members, were arrested, and in some cases, allegedly, eliminated extra-judicially, during the Operation Python Dance exercise conducted by the Army, in South-East Nigeria in September 2016.
Although Kanu, was widely rumoured to have been eliminated by government forces in the onslaught, Kanu, remarkably, resurfaced after several months, in Israel, where media images suggested that he went on pilgrimage, after his escape from Nigeria.
However, in July this year (2019), Nnamdi Kanu was again captured in a SaharaReporters’ video clip, discussing challenges to people’s freedom and welfare in Nigeria, with Omoyele Sowore of SaharaReporters. Although, there was no insinuation of treason or rebellion in that broadcast, the sub-terrain nuance was that both Sowore and Kanu agreed to put aside their individual differences, and work together, for the emancipation of Nigerians, from the clutches of corrupt and oppressive cabals and politicians who have mismanaged Nigeria’s political and economic space since the 1996 Military Coup. Notably, however, there was clearly, no discussion of any plan on how the duo intended to achieve their goals.
Soon after that meeting, another social media organ, Objectv also released a media clip of a gathering, in which Sowore was a speaker. In that clip, Sowore stated as follows: “After the (noble) legacy I left in the University of Lagos, (I showed) that I could sacrifice my life to protect all those who needed a future. I have brought myself out again and this is very instructive, “listen to it: they are going to come after me, there is no question about it. But it’s too late now. Like Martin Luther King said, “I have been to the mountain top and I have seen the Promised Land. It doesn’t matter what happens to me now. We will make sure that we get you there.”
Obviously, Sowore has no illusion that Buhari’s government would condone any reasonable advocacy for progressive change that is not part of his government’s loosely defined strategy to take Nigerians to the “Next Level.”
Incidentally, the Objectv video clip was one of two clips, submitted on Thursday, August 8,2019, by the DSS, as exhibit in their case of Treason against Sowore.
Indeed, in another chat with Arise TV, Sowore also reiterated his readiness, to lay down his life, in his bid to disrupt the Nigerian economic and political space, for the benefit of the majority of Nigerians. Remarkably, in his response to a question about his own safety, the media activist declared, in the Arise TV broadcast, that, his life was no more valuable than the lives of countless, unheralded Nigerians, whose lives are mangled and snuffed out daily, by government’s negligence and irresponsibility in the management of Nigeria’s affairs.
Furthermore, a few days before his arrest, in another SaharaReporters’ video clip of a brief chat with a popular musician, Idris Abdulkareem, Sowore gave notice of his plan to lead a mass protest, as from Monday, August 6, 2019, under the banner of “#RevolutionNow.”
Curiously, soon after the release of this video clip, Sowore’s earlier prediction that “they would come after him” became clearly prophetic, as well-armed operatives from the Department of State Security, stampeded his hotel apartment in Ikeja, Lagos, in the early hours of Sunday, August 4, and ceased his phone and briskly carted him away.
Thereafter, later the same day, Sowore was whisked to Abuja before any legal challenge could be made against his arrest. However, the DSS proceeded to an Abuja High Court on Monday, August 5, and pleaded that bail should be denied Sowore, so that the accused would remain in DSS custody for 90 days. Conversely, on Thursday, August 8, Justice Taiwo Taiwo ruled that Sowore should be detained for not more than 45 days, in the first instance, but suggested that detention could be extended, if necessary, after 45 days.
Incidentally, by his clearly, calculated reported declaration of RevolutionNow, and the present accusation of the crime of treason, Sowore now finds himself in a revered circle of respected and celebrated Nigerians, which include Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Professor Wole Soyinka, Adaka Boro, M.K.O. Abiola, Ralph Uwazurike, and Nnamdi Kanu, all of whom, evidently, have mass followership, even when their actions were considered to be treasonable by subsisting governments.
Incidentally, however, all above mentioned protagonists, invariably, suffered incarceration for treason, but were ultimately released, often times, because of lack of evidence from their incarcerators. Regrettably, however, dissidents like Shehu Musa Yaradua and M.K.O. Abiola did not survive their terms of imprisonment.
The ultimate question, therefore, must be, whether or not Sowore can escape an extended prison term, or worse still, death, if also convicted for treason. Notably, however, the treason charge against Sowore is pivotally predicated on his remark to promote “REVOLUTIONNOW” within the Nigeria political space. Arguably, however, without any obvious capacity, or visible evidence of a supporting military force, overt or covert and the related combat hardware, there would be no tangible evidence that could suggest a possible government overthrow; however, indications are that government may still rest the accusation of Treason on Sowore’s adoption of the caption “RevolutionNow” to brand his protest.
Nonetheless, legal authorities have surfaced on both sides of the divide to argue on whether or not Sowore’s message of revolution can be taken to accommodate a violent or forceful intervention to change Government or a simple demonstration of his freedom of expression!
Invariably the die is cast, and the ultimate outcome is whether or not Sowore would survive an extended prison sentence like some of his predecessors, such as Obefemi Awolowo and Olusegun Obasanjo, or unexpectedly pay the ultimate price like Abiola and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who were also charged with treason!
Remarkably, however, for everyone, so far, convicted for treason in Nigeria, no evidence of military formation or impressive hardware or capacity to carry out a change in government, was ever necessary to prove guilt!
Arguably, however, the DSS may have fallen into a trap, as it is inconceivable, that Sowore could not predict the interpretation that security forces would give to the call for #RevolutionNow.