By Rotimi Fasan
IT has been several weeks since Omoyele Sowore, a leader of the #RevolutionNow Campaign and presidential candidate of the African Action Congress was taken into detention. As matters stand, Sowore is a prisoner of conscience and is being held for nothing more than the idea he espouses.
We must continue to call attention to him for he has done nothing to justify his incarceration. A man could and should not be arrested for merely ventilating. That is intolerance of the worst kind on the part of his persecutors.
The Buhari government is turning back the hand of the clock as it reverses some of the gains we have made as a people in terms of Nigerians’ right of free expression.
There is a growing culture of intolerance highlighted by Abuja’s readiness to label as hate speech or unpatriotic any serious criticism or critic of the Buhari-All Progressives Party-led government.
Nasir el Rufai, a close ally of Buhari, one who must count himself a part of the administration’s brain box, has virtually turned himself and his government into hunters of hate speech mongers with his warning to go after them.
This is even as many Nigerians see this governor of the very volatile Kaduna State as a perfect example of those he seeks to arrest.
Sowore with his associates had planned and were to have coordinated street protests across different parts of the country to call for a change of government as well as bring attention to the worsening state of the nation.
He was not allowed to carry out his threat before he was forcefully abducted by state security operatives and taken into detention.
Although Sowore called his campaign a revolution but that was, as people would say, a matter of semantics; clearly a sensational way to describe or go about his call for action.
Nobody starts a revolution on air or begins by announcing a date. Otherwise, Sowore had nothing to show that he had anything more than his words to fight Buhari and the Nigerian political class as a whole.
In other words, his revolution was at best nothing more than an attempt at mind-capture, to convince Nigerians of the urgent need to be more self-aware and to expect and demand more from their leaders. Yes, the #RevolutionNow campaign was to serve notice to the Nigerian ruling class that they have done enough for Nigerians to take notice and should be ready for a true change as opposed to the one some of them hope to foist on Nigerians.
That Sowore used the word ‘revolution’ to describe his protest was enough to have conjured images and spectres of bloodshed in the narrow mind of state officials who did not waste time to haul him into detention.
Indeed, at the time of Sowore’s call, Abuja’s back was already against the wall as it tried vainly to fend off criticism that it had lost control of the country’s security in every sense of that word – be it economic, social, religious and political, etc. Nobody appeared to be in charge.
Thus, the call for street protests christened revolution was in the over-excited imagination of the men and women in and around Aso Villa a call to arms; literally it amounted to setting fire to the huge tinder of grievances they had created by their poor governance.
Buhari that was a past beneficiary of the kind of street protests that Sowore and his associates had called was on edge and would not hear anything that could suggest Nigerians were not satisfied with his rule.
But he jumped the gun by going after Sowore without anything to show that the man was indeed out to execute a bloody revolution.
His attack dogs were very slipshod in the manner they went about and hopelessly unprepared for the arrest of Sowore. For after taking him into detention they went around scouting for evidence to justify his arrest. To perfume an odious case of illegal detention and violation of a citizen’s rights, they decided to hold him under a terrorism act that would guarantee he is held in detention indefinitely for a treasonable offence. Which kind of government but one afraid of non-existent enemies does this?
Nothing advertises Abuja’s knee-jerk response to Sowore’s call for a revolution than the total lack of preparedness for the suit brought against him. The State’s case was built on mere wind, nothing but hearsay and rumours.
Thus, it went to court claiming Sowore planned to levy violence against a properly constituted government with the support of foreign allies. He was accused of meeting with Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, an organisation outlawed by the Nigerian state. Sowore, according to the State, held a meeting to plan his unlawful agenda against Nigeria with his foreign associates in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirate.
Sowore has responded that he has never in his life visited Dubai and his Nigerian prosecutors and persecutors have so far provided no evidence to disprove him. How did this government zero in on Dubai as the centre of Sowore’s so-called treasonable meeting? Is it because Atiku Abubakar and his associates are alleged to have planned their strategies there? What more is there to show that the Buhari government is simply unprepared for the fight against Sowore and is like all autocratic governments simply afraid and intolerant of opposing views?
If a government that calls itself by whatever name, with all the investigative and intelligence apparatus at its disposal, is unable to get right a crucial point on which it hopes to secure conviction of a citizen, is it any wonder that it is unable to rise to the varieties of challenges posed by insecurity?
From Boko Haram in the North- East, bandits, cattle rustlers and terror herdsmen in different parts of the North-West and the rest of Nigeria, to Shiite partisans in Kaduna and Abuja, the Buhari government has demonstrated incompetence, often acting before thinking through its modus operandi.
This government has abandoned leprosy in search of a cure for ringworm. The enemy it seeks is right under its nose. The barefaced terrorists are not in Dubai or anywhere else. They have been left to roam our neighbourhoods and forests, often in the guise of grazing cattle. They come from as far as other West African states, according to state officials, and are being pacified with money and free land even when worldwide they have been called by their real name – terrorists.
But Buhari has chosen to do business with them by turning a blind eye to their activities while putting harmless Nigerians under surveillance and seeking to impose a culture of silence and mind closure. This is foolishness of a rare variety.