The government has its hands full with a litany of issues, especially the worsening security challenges and the economy begging for answers and cannot afford to add more. It should therefore release the detained Sowore and the protesters now and avoid listening only to the advice of party loyalists, who are mainly playing to the gallery
By Goddy Ikeh
THE mixed reactions that have trailed the aborted “RevolutionNow” protest and the arrest of the convener Sowore have brought to the fore the crisis of confidence in the country. It is not unusual in a highly polarized country to have largely divided views and support for any policy of government and that is what democracy is all about.
But the problems of the government and the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, stem from the perceived misrule of the last four years and the hopelessness of the “Next Level” which Nigerians are still trying to unravel the mystery behind it.
As Nigerians were still struggling to figure out if the controversial RUGA policy was actually suspended or not, a list of 43 ministers was foisted on them. This list triggered off more anger from all segments of the society, including the disappointed women and the youths. The list was presented to the Senate and the nominees were hurriedly “screened” and approved for inauguration by the president.
The list has some Nigerians, who had served as state commissioners before being elected as state governors and senators, while there is another class of former governors, senators, minister in the first term of this government and are nominated for another term as ministers. Obviously, this recycling of persons is not uncommon in Nigeria, but for a government that claims to be fighting corruption and interested in the common good of the ordinary Nigerians, it is a huge disappointment that it will use ministerial appointments to compensate party members, who lost governorship and senatorial elections. A country of over 180 million people, with a number of qualified and highly skilled workforce deserves better governance.
The former military leader, Abdulsalami Abubakar, has recently joined the “unpatriotic few” by lamenting the growing anger in the country and convening a meeting of some eminent Nigerians to tackle the various challenges threatening the peace and unity of the country.
Then came the youthful group of Nigerians, who forgot so soon how the security forced were unleashed on voters in some states of the country during the last general elections, with the idea of “RevolutionNow” protest, which was expectedly crushed by the security forces and the convener arrested and detained.
Impressed with the clampdown of the protesters, the presidency quickly expressed delight that many Nigerians did not support the protest.
Despite the position of the government on the clampdown of the protesters and the arrest of the convener, Omoyele Sowore, many prominent Nigerians have criticized the undemocratic stance of the government.
Reacting to the arrest of Sowore, a Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mike Ozekhome, accused the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of not being tolerant to criticism.
Ozekhome in a televised programme said that the current government was “allergic to plurality of voices and criticism”.
“Dancing on the street saying we don’t want bad governance how does that amount to treason, unreasonable felony?
“This government is allergic to plurality of voices, this government is allergic to criticism, this government is allergic to opinions. This government should know that Nigeria is a country with many colours.
“You cannot sample opinions. We cannot all sleep on the same bed. This government should learn to be tolerant,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, condemned the arrest, calling on the Federal Government to call the security agencies to order.
For the Socio-Economic Right And Accountability Project, SERAP, Sowore’s unconditional release would be “first step to stop Nigeria’s precipitous human rights slide”.
On his part, a civil rights activist and former member of the Senate, Senator Shehu Sani, faulted those he described as political elites allergic to the freedoms they once stood for.
He also accused the so-called elites of sponsoring protest and attacks on human rights organisation, Amnesty International.
Similarly, former minister Oby Ezekwesili called on well-meaning Nigerians to stand with Sowore and defend his right and freedom to protest any matter of governance that worries him.
In his reaction, Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, condemned the Buhari government over Omoyele Sowore’s arrest.
He described the act by the Department of State Services (DSS) as “a terrorist midnight arrest”.
Soyinka, in a statement to the media titled: “Surely, Not Again!!!”, said the “deployment of alarmist expressions” such as “treason,” “anarchist,” and “public incitement” by security agents was predictable and banal and that the expressions have become meaningless.
The Nobel Laureate wrote in part: “Nothing that he said to me in private engagement ever remotely approached an intent to destabilise 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 personalised 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!
“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,” he said.
“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,” Soyinka stated.
In its reaction, the National Working Committee, NWC, of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, noted that insecurity and rising political uncertainties have escalated under President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC.
“It is clear that the APC and the Buhari Presidency have held Nigerians hostage,” the PDP said.
According to a statement by the PPD’s spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party has reviewed the biting economic hardship as well as prevailing tension in all parts of the country and is compelled to raise alarms that “the nation is collapsing”.
The PDP said that it was deeply worried that the nation, which was a prosperity hub and a reference point for democracy, personal freedom and good governance, now has all the trappings of a failed state with government, under President Buhari, being unable to guarantee any of its fundamental duties to the extent that citizens are now desperate to take their destinies in their hands.
The statement noted that the national leadership of the party rose from a crucial meeting with the resolution that the red flag has become urgent following what they termed “manifest total loss of faith by Nigerians, across the board, in the ability of the Buhari Presidency to provide a democratic leadership that can engender a peaceful and secure nation”.
According to the PDP, Nigerians are now being treated like a conquered people, arguing that Nigerians can no longer freely exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
“Executive high-handedness have become a state policy just as the APC Government, burdened by challenges of illegitimacy, has lost direction and only thriving in vindictiveness,” the party said.
The PDP also stated that due to the “prevailing anti-democratic proclivities” of the Buhari Presidency, the nation’s once cohesive and thriving economy has come under distress on all fronts.
“Today, the Buhari Presidency cannot guarantee the security and safety of citizens. Bloodletting and violence have become the order of the day. Invaders, insurgents, kidnappers and killers have taken over major highways and communities; our nation’s security machinery have become overstretched; Nigerians now live in palpable fear; they cannot freely travel within their country and the government has no answers.
“On the economic front, President Buhari has ruined our economy and led our nation to become the world’s capital of poverty, while condoning the humongous corruption that has become the hallmark of his failed administration.
“Sadly, President Buhari’s anti-development policies, the corruption in his government as well as its failure to provide security have scared away foreign investors from our nation.
“Only recently, the United Nations declared that 43 percent of our nation’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has taken flight to other countries. Unemployment has gone out of proportion and there is no hope in sight.
“Our worry is that the prevailing situation of hopelessness under President Buhari and the APC is threatening our national cohesion and corporate existence as a nation.
“The PDP, therefore, calls on all Nigerians of good faith as well as the international community to come to the rescue by speaking out against the prevailing situation in Nigeria before it is too late,” the statement said.
However, the ruling party and the APC governors reacted differently to the RevolutionNow protests, saying that the call for disorder is condemnable.
For instance, the progressive governors’ forum, which spoke through Kebbi state governor, Atiku Bagudu, who is the chairman of the forum, said that no government would condone civil unrest in the country.
Bagudu noted that there are better ways to channel grievances rather than the call for revolution.
According to Bagudu. the governors elected on the platform of the APC have condemned the #RevolutionNow protests called by global coalition for security and democracy in some parts of the country.
In his reaction, the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole said that Sowore called for a revolution because he lost his bid to become president during the 2019 presidential election.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting of the APC National Working Committee, NWC, with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Wednesday, Oshiomhole said that Sowore had the right to protest, but must properly articulate his grievances.
However, Oshiomhole said: “… 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, you want a revolution then he should have spared us 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, now, therefore, I want revolution.
“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,” he said.
However, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, which had remained silent, except for the issue of minimum wage, has urged the Federal Government to release Omoyele Sowore and 26 other protesters arrested on account of the protest.
NLC General Secretary, Peter Ozo-Eson said in a statement on Wednesday, Aug. 7 said 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.
According to him, the NLC view the violent attack on the peaceful protesters by security forces as a total violation of their fundamental rights as guaranteed by the constitution.
“Besides, peaceful protests against perceived anti-people government policies is one of the critical fundamental rights that expands the entrenchment and growth of democracy.
“Sowore and other protesters were not carrying arms against the state and we therefore demand their immediate release unconditionally,” the statement added.
Following the condemnation of the action of the government in the arrest and detention of Sowore and the other protesters, the government should quickly release them and tackle the issues raised by them. Already, the government has a litany of issues, especially the worsening security challenges and the economy and avoid listening only to the advice of party loyalists, who may be ‘playing to the gallery’.
– Aug. 10, 2019 @ 17:45 GMT |