By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Ben Agande, Johnbosco Agbakwuru Egufe Yafugborhi & Chinonso Alozie
ABUJA—The Presidency yesterday, in response to plans for a nationwide protest today, has said that the only way to change government in a democracy was through the electoral process.
Sowore, Presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, in the February 23 Presidential election, was planning a series of protests, under the aegis of #Revolution Now against bad governance in the country, as a result of which he was arrested by operatives of the DSS in the early hours of Saturday, and subsequently moved from its facilities in Lagos to Abuja.
The Presidency, in a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said that the government would always welcome peaceful protest by the citizenry to express their grievances, but noted that peaceful protest was different from incitement for revolution.
It further told those behind the planned revolution to reveal their identity and not to hide under the group to cause problems in the country.
The statement read: “Following calls circulating on social and digital media, an organisation that calls itself the “Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria” plans a “revolution” march tomorrow (today) August 5, with the aim of bringing “regime change” in Nigeria without recourse to a nationwide vote.
“The President of Nigeria and his administration respect and uphold the right of every Nigerian to peaceful protest and civil campaign– whether to raise awareness on issues, and even oppose the government. It is the inalienable right of all citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to do so.
“There is, however, a difference between peaceful call to protest and incitement for a
revolution. The organisation championing this planned action is not fronted by any serious public faces. We call on the sponsors and organisers to have the decency to come forward and make their identity known – out of respect to all Nigerians – so that Nigerians can be fully aware in whose name this “revolution” is being proposed and who the beneficiaries may be.
“Less than six months ago, Nigeria held simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections. Both contests were won resoundingly by President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress, APC, party.
“The campaign was observed, and results were confirmed by international election monitoring groups and observers. The result was even contested by the losing presidential candidate and his party in court.
“The ballot box is the only constitutional means of changing government and a president in Nigeria. The days of coups and revolutions are over.
“Those making the “revolution” call hide behind the veil of social media modernity. But without revealing the identity of their sponsors, this shadowy campaign is no better, and no more democratic, than the days of old.
“The President calls on all those who seek to use and hide behind everyday citizens to attain power through undemocratic and violent means, which has been alluded, to come out clearly and be identified.
“They should lead their march in person. Only then will they begin to have the right to call themselves leaders before the people of Nigeria.”
DSS moves Sowore to Abuja
However, the Department of State Services, DSS, yesterday moved human rights campaigner and presidential candidate of African Action Congress, AAC, in the 2019 elections, Omoyele Sowore, from its facility in Lagos to Abuja.
Sowore was arrested by the DSS in the early hours of Saturday for planning a series of protests, under the aegis of #Revolution Now, against bad governance in the country.
This is even as the DSS confirmed yesterday that it acted within its constitutional powers to have arrested Sowore for threatening the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria, just as Nigeria Intervention Movement, NIM, also known as Third Force, a group of Pro-democracy activists, reaffirmed its commitment to today’s protests across the country and called for his release.
Sowore’s movement to Abuja came as his arrest drew further angry reactions from Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, former Political Adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Akin Osuntokun, Senator Shehu Sani, among others. Sources at the DSS said Sowore, who has been held incommunicado since Saturday, was currently being detained in Abuja.
Confirming Sowore’s arrest yesterday, spokesman of the agency, Peter Afunnaya, said in a statement in Abuja that the DSS acted within its constitutional powers to arrest and detain anybody or group who threatens the unity and peaceful co-existence of Nigeria.
He said the secret police would not ‘’just sit idly and watch any individual, group and their cohorts rise and threaten the peace, unity, and constitutionalism of the country”.
“Though there is apprehension and anxiety among citizens already, we wish to assure friends of Nigeria, and other law-abiding citizens, that there will be no revolution of any kind come Monday, August 5, 2019,” he said.
“A democratically elected government is in charge, and we cannot allow any person or group to foment chaos or fan the ember of revolution.”
He, however, declined to comment whether Sowore was at their office in Lagos or Abuja but noted that Sowore’s call for revolution posed a national security threat.
No going back on today’s protest —NIM
But the Nigeria Intervention Movement, NIM, also known as Third Force, a group of Pro-democracy activists, aside from condemning the arrest of Omoyele Sowore by the DSS, demanded his immediate release, and reaffirmed its commitment to today’s protests across the country.
Insisting that the mass protests against bad political system and mal-governance in Nigeria, tagged: “#Revolution Now’’ will go on as scheduled in major cities of Nigeria today, the NIM in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Dr Olusegun Obe, said: ‘’This historic nationwide revolutionary action initiated by Nigerian masses and youths, under the banner of Coalition For Revolution, CORE, 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.’’
‘’Therefore, we have directed all our members, allies and supporters in the Third Force Movement, especially of the Nigeria Intervention Movement, NIM, Alliance for Defence of Democracy, ADD, and some revolutionary political parties to join and support the historic mass action for a new Nigeria as already endorsed by icons, such as Prof Wole Soyinka, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, among others
‘’It is for this reason that we condemn in unequivocal stance the subversive arrest and detention of one of the key facilitators of #Revolution Now, Sowore Omoyele; the leader of the Take It Back Movement, TIB, who was forcibly abducted in his home at about 1.25 am on Saturday and whisked away to an unknown destination.
‘’We, hereby, demand from the Presidency and the Department of State Security, DSS apparatus, the immediate release of Omoyele Sowore, as his continued incarceration will not deter our forces and cadres from embarking on the planned mass action against the oppressors of the Nigerian peoples on Monday as earlier scheduled.’’
Buhari’s govt behaving like Abacha’s — Soyinka
Reacting to Sowore’s arrest yesterday, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, condemned it in scathing language.
“Beyond the word ‘revolution, another much mis-used and misunderstood word, nothing that Sowore has uttered, written, or advocated suggests that he is embarking on, or urging the public to engage in a forceful overthrow of government,” Mr Soyinka said in a statement.
He compared the actions of the security agencies that arrested Mr Sowore to what happened during the tenure of the late dictator, Sani Abacha.
The statement read: Deployment of alarmist expressions such as “treason”, “anarchist”, “public incitement” etc. by security forces have become so predictable and banal that they have become
‘’Beyond the word ‘revolution, another much mis-used and misunderstood word, nothing that Sowore has uttered, written, or advocated suggests that he is embarking on, or urging the public to engage in a forceful overthrow of government.
‘’Nothing that he said to me in private engagement ever remotely approached intent to destabilize governance or bypass the normal democratic means of changing a government.
‘’I, therefore, find the reasons given by the Inspector-General, for the arrest and detention of this young ex-presidential candidate totally contrived and untenable, unsupported by any shred of evidence.
‘’His arrest is a travesty and violation of the fundamental rights of citizens to congregate and make public their concerns.
‘’This is all so sadly déjà vu. How often must we go through this wearisome cycle? We underwent identical cynical contrivances under the late, unlamented Sani Abacha, when he sent storm-troopers to disrupt a planning session for a similar across-nation march at Tai Solarin School, Ikenne.
‘’This was followed up by a personalized letter that was hand-delivered by the State Security Services to me under their summons, at their Abeokuta so-called ‘Annexe’ with near identical wording to the threats contained in today’s release from the desk of the Chief of Police. At least, I was summoned, not subjected to a terrorist midnight arrest. Some irony!
‘’The same pattern Pavlovian conduct manifested itself under yet another supposed democratic ruler who personally declared that the gathering of civilians to deliberate on, and propose a constitution for the nation was ‘high treason’, and would be resisted by the full rigour of state power if we persisted.
‘’The Inspector-General of Police mobilized his forces and issued inflammatory proclamations, but PRONACO went ahead, despite all the thundering from Aso citadel. Can the police ever learn anything, also their tear-gassing and brutalizing of grieving mothers who marched peacefully to protest the deaths of their children in a plane crash inferno?
‘’Their mission, under that same regime, which was simply to deliver a letter to Government House in Lagos, demanding greater safety in airline operations, yet such a rational intent, born of traumatic circumstances, was quashed on the sidewalks of a supposed twentieth century nation.
‘’Yet again, even a faceless cabal under yet another civilian regime refused to be left out of the insensate play of power.
‘’A march on Aso Rock calling for an end to governance by a ghostly entity was slated to be crushed, but fortunately, a conflicting balance of interests decided in favour of a reduced trajectory of protest. And so on and on and on, in a nation which continues to speak at once through both sides of the mouth, spewing out the same treason monotone, as if this was a magic incantation that could substitute for the venting of mass feelings, even as collective therapy!
‘’May I invite the Inspector-General to wade through the daily journals of the past few weeks and months, read and digest the calls by numerous sectors of society – across professions and national groupings – for demonstrations against the parlous conditions of society, all identifying ills to which attention must be drawn, and urgently, through mass action?
‘’Demonstrations and processions are time honoured, democratic ways of drawing not only the attention of government to ills, but of mobilizing the public towards a proactive consciousness of their condition, and thereby exhorting civil society also to devise means of ameliorating their condition through their own efforts?
‘’Religious bodies have urged such remedies, so have civic associations. The ready recourse to arrests, incarceration and threats to civilians are ultimately counter-productive.
‘’They alienate the citizens, erode their confidence in governance responsiveness, and thereby advance the very extremist nightmare that security agencies believe they are acting to thwart.
‘’If we cannot learn from the histories and experiences of other societies, let us at least learn from ours. Freedom is not so glibly qualified. It cannot be doled out like slops of charity from soup kitchens.
‘’Let the Police stick to their task of protecting and managing protests, not attempt to place their own meaning and declaration of intent on bogey words like – revolution.”
Steer clear of Rivers, Wike warns #RevolutionNow promoters
However, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State yesterday warned promoters of ‘RevolutionNow protest’ to steer clear of the state should they attempt to carry out the planned protest in the nation.
Wike in a statement in Port Harcourt, ordered immediate arrest and prosecution of anyone who attempted to stage the said protest within Rivers State.
The governor declared: “Rivers does not subscribe to what RevolutionNow protest represents. Rivers is not part of the protest. All council chairmen are directed to be at alert. If they suspect any illegal gathering, they should report to security agencies for immediate action”.
He charged parents not to allow their children to be lured into what he described as a march to participate in the illegal protest.
It’s a signal of bad democratic temperance — Afenifere
On its part, the pan-Yoruba socio-political orgnisation, Afenifere, described the arrest as a “signal of bad democratic temperance in the land.”
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: The arrest of Sowore is a signal of bad democratic temperance in the land .
‘’That a citizen announces plan to protest is not different from the announcement made by APC in 2013 that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Bola Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande were going to lead a street protest over Anambra election.
‘’The one-paragraph statement by a then chieftain of the party, Dino Melaye, said: ‘Fellow citizens, please join Chief Bisi Akande, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Prince Tony Momoh, Chief Tom Ikimi, APC governors, members of the National Assembly and other patriotic Nigerians as we protest to INEC HQ in Maitama, Abuja, tomorrow morning (Thursday), November 28, 2013, by 10am.
“We will take off from APC national secretariat at Wuse 2, Off Ademola Adetokunbo in Abuja. We must stop electoral fraud garnished with impunity. In an unjust society, silence is a crime. The time that silence is no longer golden is now. God bless Nigeria.”
“Not been silent is now a crime that the shoe is on the feet of yesteryears protesters. Except they were locked up ahead of their own protest in 2013, they should free Sowore now.”
It’s typical leadership incompetence –Osuntokun
Also flaying the Federal Government’s action, Mr. Akin Osuntokun, former Political Adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Akin Osuntokun, described the move as leadership incompetence.
Osuntokun said: This is a typical leadership incompetence which pervades and define all aspects of the political leadership of the Buhari government.
By their own mismanagement, they have escalated the potentials of an otherwise innocuous initiative. ‘’How many Nigerians know the meaning of revolution, let alone of revolution now? As a matter of fact, I was not aware of the event until I was rudely awakened with the alarm that someone has been arrested for treason.
‘’I would have thought that the security environment of Nigeria is bad enough and has no need of being compounded by haphazard police mismanagement.
“Look at the El Zakzaky and Shi’ites precedent. Would you imagine that anyone familiar with the Boko Haram insurgency and its origins will blunder into this familiar path? You don’t have to be a soothsayer to predict the mutation of the Shi’ites crisis into something bigger down the line.”
Our democracy is like a block of ice floating on warm waters –Shehu Sani
Also reacting, Senator Shehu Sani maintained that the federal government should be able to engage dissenting voices if it can sit to have coffee with bandits in search of peace.
He said: “The arrest of Omoyele Sowore stands unreservedly condemned. Our democracy has become a block of ice floating on warm waters. We are leapfrogging into totalitarianism.
“A nation that can sit and have a cup of coffee with bandits in the search for peace should not find it difficult to engage dissenting voices.
“It’s ironic for our nation to walk in the sun and be allergic to shadows. The voices of dissent are the heartbeats of democracy. Let not our prisons be filled with those that speak but with those that kill.”
Sani also accused the ruling elite of becoming intolerant of truths that had once served as the
“moral chariots that validated their ascension to power.”
He, however, warned that Nigeria’s democracy would remain questionable until citizens “learn to tolerate things that are legal within the ambit of the law but unpleasant to our ears.”
“The government should defeat Sowore by beaming a bigger light than his and not by switching off his rays. Sowore should be released.”
North not part of call for revolution protest — CNG
In its reaction, a coalition of Northern groups dissociated itself from the planned revolution match by a group of activists, saying those behind the protests were couriers of a foreign destabilization plot that do not mean well for the north.
Addressing a press conference in Kaduna yesterday, spokesman of the group, Abdulaziz Suleiman, said: “CNG is not disposed to participating in, supporting, encouraging or in anyway promoting actions that are potentially violent, sponsored by obscure organizations with suspicious motives”.
The Abdulaziz Suleiman’s Coalition of the Northern Groups had infamously issued a three-month ultimatum to Igbos living in the north to quit the region in 2017.
He told journalists at Arewa House, same venue he issued his three months’ notice to Igbos two years ago that CNG remains unshakable in its understanding that every civil disagreement can be resolved through honest, sincere and open discussions without unnecessary recourse to actions liable to further inflame tensions without achieving lasting results.
He said: “We have failed to see how the interest of, particularly the northern people, can be served by a movement led by those who have been directly or remotely connected to the decades-old agenda for the emasculation of the North.
“The CNG calls on all northerners to disregard the calls and resist the temptation of being dragged into participating in any way in a movement that would turn out to the disadvantage of the region.
“While the CNG categorically dissociates itself from the organization, promotion and participation in any conduct capable of worsening the already dicey situation the country, in particular the North, is in today, we reassert our commitment to the propagation and protection of the rights of all northerners and never to fall into the traps set by its traditional internal and external traducers in whatever guise.’’
Pro-Biafra groups disown protest
Similarly, a coalition of pro-Biafra groups yesterday said it would not be part of the planned revolutionary protest in the country today.
Some of the pro- Biafra groups which spoke in Owerri included the Biafra Independence Organization, BIO, Igbo Revolutionary Movement, IRM, Eastern Peoples Renewal, EPR, and Biafra Clergy Network ,BCM, through their Administrative Secretary, Emeka Ibekwe.
Their reason was that the planned protest would derail their vision of the actualization of a Biafra Republic. They also called on all their members across the southeast region to avoid the said protest.
“A coalition of pro-Biafra groups, namely Biafra Independence Organization(BIO) Igbo Revolutionary Movement(IRM) Eastern Peoples Renewal(EPR) Biafra Clergy Network (BCM) and others have resolved not to partake in the scheduled revolutionary protest organized by some failed politicians.
“Ndigbo should be very careful, engaging themselves in a subtle adventures that will derail our Biafra restoration agenda.
“We must learn from history and not allow ourselves to be used by hypocritical enemies who always capitalized on our ingenuity to self-determination in pushing us out of our primary target of Biafra actualization and restoration agenda to a camouflaged protest for Nigeria democratic survival.
“The so called street Revolutionary protest slated for Monday, August 5, is not for the people of Biafra, it is masterminded by people and failed politicians that don’t regard our people. It is another scheme to waste blood of innocent Biafrans because the security agents may not attack the Yoruba and Hausas that are involved.
“The people of Biafra must be wise enough to discern when our our oppressors are using our enemies to lure us into unnecessary deaths.
“The coalition of pro-Biafra agitators advises all members of Biafra agitating groups to decline involvement and participation in the revolutionary protest in Aba, Onitsha, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Abakiliki because the blood of Biafrans are too precious to be wasted for the sustenance of Nigeria democratic survival.”
Govt won’t sit idly by — ACF
Reacting also, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, said a government would sit idly by and allow any group to organise protest with intent at overthrowing it.
Secretary General of the ACF, Anthony Sani, said in a statement last night: “If what I read in the media is anything to go by that the planned protests is revolution to overthrow the government, I wonder what you expect the government to do, considering that we are in multiparty democracy which allows the people to choose their leaders at various interval through the ballot box.”
National protest against ruling class, its policies
All governments must pay the N30,000 minimum.
Abolition of tuition fees in universities and secondary schools.
Stop the killings in the country and sack all the incompetent service chiefs.
Stop all estimated billing by the power companies, provide pre-paid meters for free, and communities must have the right to audit the electricity bills they get, and review the licenses of all discos.
Free all political prisoners now, including El Zakzaky and his wife.
Employment for the youths.