Activists Flay Sowore’s Arrest, say Planned Protests Will Hold

Activists Flay Sowore’s Arrest, say Planned Protests Will Hold

.. Decry Attempt to Shrink Public Space via Clamp Down on Alternative Views …Say Action is Endorsed by Soyinka, Musa, Ezekwesili …Revolution is an Act of Treasonable Felony…IGP Organisers of the planned protest for a better Nigeria say they have crossed the Rubicon and their nationwide demonstration tagged ‘RevolutionNow’, will hold despite the arrest of

.. Decry Attempt to Shrink Public Space via Clamp Down on Alternative Views

…Say Action is Endorsed by Soyinka, Musa, Ezekwesili

…Revolution is an Act of Treasonable Felony…IGP

Organisers of the planned protest for a better Nigeria say they have crossed the Rubicon and their nationwide demonstration tagged ‘RevolutionNow’, will hold despite the arrest of its prime mover and Presidential Candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Mr Omoyele Sowore, on Saturday morning.

The activists say the demonstration will commence as scheduled on Monday August 5, and will continue until their demands for a better Nigeria had been met. Their action has been endorsed by Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, former Kaduna State Governor, Mr Balarabe Musa and former World Bank Vice President, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili and many others.

In a release titled “No Retreat, No Surrender” signed by the two conveners of the Coalition for Revolution (CORE), Mr Baba Aye and Mr Sheeni Ajai, they reveal that, “Across the country, CORE activists remain undaunted despite surveillance of coordinators and leading members, including invitations by the DSS command in several states. The CORE stance nationwide remains No Retreat, No Surrender!”

They reiterated the demands of the Coalition which include:

  • an economy that works for the masses (and not a handful of individuals, banks and foreign multinationals).
  • an effective and democratic end to insecurity and insurgency
  • an end to systemic corruption and for total system change in the interest of all
  • the immediate implementation of the N30,000.00 minimum wage at all levels in the public service as agreed with the trade unions and
  • Education as an enforceable right and not a privilege

Programme of Action

The National Action Committee of the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) say the programme, tagged #RevolutionNow, is a movement of protest by the oppressed masses of Nigeria against the suffering and poverty imposed on them by the incompetent and irresponsible Nigerian ruling class that has misgoverned and despoiled the people of this country since 1960.

According to the Coordinator, Mr White Fang, the demands and goals of the #RevolutionNow movement are in three bundles. The first pertains to the current conditions of the oppressed and the working classes of this country; the second to the most offensive manifestations of the insensitivity and irresponsibility of the ruling class; and the third to the radical democratisation of the political and economic structures of the country.

The summaries of these demands and goals are:

* First Bundle: End anti-people economic policies

* Second Bundle: End special privileges for the ruling class

* Third Bundle: Return political power and national wealth to the working people

The details of these bundles are presented in the sections below.

First Bundle: End Anti-People Economic Policies

* Return of fuel prices and electricity tariffs to their levels in 1999, the immediate repair of all the refineries, pipelines and fuel depots in Nigeria and, an end to the importation of fuel.

* End to estimated and inflated billing by the electricity distribution companies and to their extortion of money from consumers for transformers, poles, cables, etc.

* No devaluation of the Naira.

* End to the insecurity and constant bloodletting in the country but by methods that respect human rights and justice and the sack of the current set of service chiefs for their self-evident incompetence in their duties.

* Abolition of tuition fees and inflated service charges in all public universities and secondary schools.

* Immediate payment of the N30,000 minimum wage, with annual increases pegged to the rate of inflation and to the national average rate of profit of multinational corporations operating in Nigeria and of all local private companies employing more than 100 workers (irrespective of the contract status of such workers)

* The immediate release of all political prisoners, including Shi’ite leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, and an immediate stop to persecution of people based on their political or religious beliefs or their ethnicity.

* The immediate payment of all outstanding salaries of workers and pensions of retirees.

* The immediate implementation of all agreements the government and private sector employers have signed with the trade unions at all levels and in all sectors.

* A massive public works and services programme in every sector and level of the economy as well as in the urban and rural areas to provide employment for unemployed youths.

Second Bundle: End Special Privileges for the Ruling Class

* All public officials in elective, appointive, or senior administrative positions must be banned from educating their children or dependants in private schools in Nigeria or in schools in foreign countries.

* These officials, their immediate family, and their dependants must be banned also from obtaining healthcare in private hospitals in Nigeria or in hospitals in foreign countries.

* These officials must also receive basic salaries and allowances not higher than those received by the highest paid professors in public Nigerian universities.

* An immediate end to the use of police or military personnel as private security guards for these officials.

* Except for the President and Governors, these officials and their immediate family must not live in class-exclusive estates or other similar places of residence but among the working people who they serve.

Third Bundle: Return Political Power and National Wealth to the Working People

* The complete and uncompensated repossession by the working people of all national resources stolen by the ruling class and their foreign masters through the fraudulent privatisation of public resources since 1986

* The complete and uncompensated seizure by the working people of all private wealth accumulated by public officials (as defined above) during and after their tenure of service whose value exceeds their total lawful and demonstrable income during and after that tenure.

* The complete socialisation of all land in the country and declaration of access to land as a basic right, by this means to break the monopoly of the ruling class on ownership and access to land in the country and thus make land available to the poor who live by farming and those who need to build their own houses.

* To break the stranglehold of the ruling class on political power by banning from politics all who have stolen the people’s money and property since 1960 and those who have been in elective or appointive political office for more at any time before and since 1999, ending the influence of money and god-fathers in politics, imposing term-limits for national and state lawmakers, completely liberating local governments from state government control, returning power from the national and state levels to governing councils controlled by citizens at the town, city, and village levels, etc.

* To reduce the cost of governance by abolishing the Senate, thus establishing a uni-cameral legislature with only the House of Representatives; and by abolishing constituency projects to end the theft of public money through such projects.

* Abolishing the death penalty except for the embezzling or privatisation of the public wealth.

* Producing a new constitution for Nigeria by a democratic and people-led process involving open discussion, debate, and determination of proposals and suggestions by the working people in towns and villages, in factories, on farms, in the Diaspora, on school campuses, in neighbourhoods, market places, workplaces, mass media, social media, etc.

They also decried the poor health system and the arrest of Sowore. “This arrest is not surprising to us. We know that the presidency has tried everything in their powers to discredit and dampen our struggle,” Kunle Ajayi, a leader of the movement, said in a statement.

“For the past three days, the Presidency has paid hugely to social media influencers and such others to discredit the #RevolutionNow all to no avail!

“The Presidency even went as far as attacking Amnesty International believing that their blackmails would appeal to Nigerians.

“They also paid some ex-activists to counter us publicly but the mass of working people stood by #RevolutionNow!

The Lagos branch of the African Action Congress (AAC) says it “condemns Sowore’s arrest and Buhari’s stubborn and cruel antidemocratic credentials. We believe that the #RevolutionNow will outlive all forces of repression, particularly the Buhari Presidency.

“We call on the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) and other organisers to continue with mobilisation. A failed government cannot use force to make the mass of people to accept its failure,” the statement said..

How Sowore Was Arrested

Mr Sowore was arrested by heavily armed operatives from the State Security Service (SSS) at about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, according to a close associate who witnessed it.

The associate said Sowore was forcibly taken to the Department of State Security (DSS) office in Shangisha Lagos, and has been kept incommunicado ever since.

“At around past 1am, the armed men knocked on the door. I noticed immediately that these knocks were strange. And didn’t open. I looked and I saw men armed to the teeth. They started forcing their way in like armed robbers. But I knew they were DSS men, knowing fully well the attention RevolutionNow has garnered.

“Sowore wanted to open at first but I immediately told him who they are. He retreated and like magic, he was not in the room when they forced their way in- 8 of them. That was when he managed to tweet.  By this time, I had been beaten and handcuffed. Phones were snatched from me. An order to block all exits came from the leader when Sowore was not found inside.

“He was later arrested at the gym in a Gestapo manner and dragged after a bit altercation. They removed my handcuffs and I quickly seized that opportunity to drive his car (I drive him) to block their SIENNA and Hilux they came in. They hit the Lexus Jeep like kidnappers would do to make way for themselves. I followed them immediately till we got to CMD road around Ketu when one of them came down from the SIENNA and corked his gun, threatening to shoot me. I had to escape at that point,” he said.

Earlier before he was arrested, Sowore had told an online medium that the protests “will take place nationwide. Over 25 states have signed into it. The protests will hold in major cities like Lagos, Abuja, Abeokuta, Akure, Owerri, Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Nsukka, Onitsha, Awka, Benin City and several others. It has been exciting preparing for it.”

“An eminent personality like Professor Wole Soyinka has endorsed it. His presence will be felt on Monday August 5 when the revolution will officially take off. We are going to shut down major towns in Nigeria. August 5 is the first day and it will be continuous. We expect that workers will stay at home. International travels will respect our airspace. We expect respect for our desire to shut everything down,” he said.

But the Social Media Aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mrs Lauretta Onochie in her tweet, commended the DSS, over the arrest, noting that they (DSS) saved Sowore from harming himself. Her words: “This Is What DSS Saved Sowore from. With talks about setting himself ablaze, it’s in order for the security operatives, whose role it is to safeguard both lives and properties, to take him into custody to prevent him from harming himself and get him the help he needs.”

Protests is Treasonable Felony

The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, says the planned ‘revolution’ march against the Nigerian government by the Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria amounts to ‘treasonable felony,’ warning that acts of terrorism would not be tolerated.

Adamu, who gave the warning in Abuja, said the Police would “not stand idly-by and watch any individual or group” cause anarchy in the country.

Although he conceded that Nigerians have the right to protest, the IGP however warned that such rights should not translate to a violent and forceful change of government which, he said, would amount to a “clear revolution.”

In a statement signed by Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Frank Mba, IGP Adamu says:

“The attention of the Nigeria Police Force has been drawn to a video circulating on the social media by the ‘Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria and others’, inciting Nigerians, home and abroad, to join a planned ‘revolution’ march against the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Monday, 5th August, 2019 with the sole aim of forcing a regime change in the country.

“The Force wishes to state unequivocally that the call amounts to treasonable felony and acts of terrorism and will, therefore, not stand idly-by and watch any individual or group in the society cause anarchy in the land. While acknowledging the rights of Nigerians to embark on protest, the Force wishes to note that such rights should not translate to a violent and forceful change of government which clearly is the meaning of ‘revolution’. Needless to state that Nigeria is a democratic republic and has well-defined processes for change of government, exercised periodically during various cycle of elections.

“The Force therefore warns the organizers, sponsors, allies, supporters, associates and sympathizers of the group ‘Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria’ to, in their own interest, steer clear of any such planned protest, demonstration, acts of incitement and proposed “revolution”, as the full wrath of the law will be brought to bear on any individual or group engaged or found participating in the above planned criminal act.

“Parents and Guardians are, therefore, enjoined to impress on their children and wards not to allow themselves to be used in whatever form by any person or group of persons to cause breach of law and order in the country. The Police will work with other Law Enforcement Agencies and positive minded Nigerians to protect, defend and secure our public peace and space.”

Take It Back Movement

The Take It Back (TIB) Movement in a statement by its Director, PR, Media and Communications, Ms Rachel Onamusi-Kpiasi, says it is “appalled at the government’s latest attempt to crush the voice of hope and uprising in Nigeria by the violent arrest of our convener, Omoyele Sowore, by the DSS in the early hours of today, 3rd August, 2019.

“While we are angered by the government’s continued insistence on quashing basic human rights, we are not surprised that the tools of governance remain oppression, suppression, injustice and brutality,” it notes.

“A government with no respect for dialogue, debate or justice has no business leading any group of people, talk much less the most populous, the most vibrant African nation.

“When all else have fled, Omoyele Sowore has maintained his commitment to the people of Nigeria – engaging them at grassroots level while still meeting with community leaders and individuals who are still interested in changing the narrative for Nigeria’s future. He has urged citizens to fight for their fundamental human rights; to demand more from the people they elected, and to have a fair chance at living worthy lives.

“The APC-led government has responded the only way they know how: by utilising the Department of State Services – a department that is meant to be the primary domestic intelligence agency of Nigeria – as their personal attack dog for harassing and intimidating any individual who opposes them and their debased, corrupt conduct.

The Movement say it “demands, in no uncertain terms, the unconditional release of Omoyele Sowore. We take this opportunity to make it clear to the old guards that they may arrest one person, but they cannot arrest an idea whose time has come. Globally and nationally, Nigerians and our sympathisers are rousing from their slumber and are taking it upon themselves to join the struggle for a Nigeria that works for all. The Buhari government cannot silence this awakening. If Nigeria is to progress, Nigeria must first be free.”

Atiku Abubakar & Oby Ezekwesili

While condemning the arrest on his Twitter page, Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Atiku Abubakar, maintained that freedom of speech is the ‘substructure of democracy.’

He tweeted, “Freedom of speech is not only constitutionally guaranteed, it is the substructure of our democracy.“These kidnappings in the guise of arrests stands condemned.”

Also echoing the same view, Presidential Candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili calls for Sowore’s immediate release.

Reacting to this development in series of tweets, Ezekwesili, also a former Education Minister, said “all well-meaning Nigerians should stand with Sowore and defend his constitutional right and freedom to protest any matter of governance that worried him.”

She said Sowore’s convening of the citizens to protest poor governance through the #RevolutionNow– is constitutionally guaranteed.

“If our Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government and Aso Rock are not completely out of touch with the reality of distress of majority of citizens of this country, they would handle Sowore’s right to convene #RevolutionNow wisely.

“Many of us his fellow officers of the citizen stand with him. I therefore join the voices of all well-meaning Nigerians to ask Aso Rock, Buhari to free Sowore now!

“Aso Rock ought to know that they cannot sustain this unconstitutional habit of repression against citizens’ rights. All these persistent acts of the Nigerian President to shrink the public space with rabid level of intolerance for dissension will surely fail,” she said.

CDHR Demands Sowore’s Release

The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Lagos State Branch also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Sowore, also publisher of Sahara Reporters.

According to statement signed by the Chairman, Mr Alex Omotehinse, the organisation says, “We must remind this Buhari Government that the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended gives Sowore or any other Nigerian right to protest and freedom of expression with right to lawful assembly.”

“If Sowore arrest is because of the plan protest, why can’t they wait till the day of protest, or why are they in a hurry?

“We need to remind Mr Buhari  what brought him to office maybe he must have forgotten so quick that it was PEOPLES REVOLUTION from 2014 to  2015  that led to his emergence as the President of Nigeria.

“During the last administration led by His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Nigerians protested against his government day and night but Jonathan never prevented nor arrested anybody for protesting against his government.

“The President must be called to order by the National Assembly and he must know that this is a Democratic government not a military government.

“When Jonathan was President in this country, Buhari himself has led protest against Jonathan government, Buhari has insulted and accused several seating Presidents in this country for mis-governance and he was not prevented or arrested for exercising his constitutional right.

“This government has failed Nigerians, therefore it deserves to be condemned. Since return to civil rule in 1999, Buhari regime has recorded the highest arrest of critics. Buhari government has failed in all ramifications, security of life and property is zero, we can no longer travel safely on our roads, killings everywhere and kidnapping in high rate. Boko Haram insurgence are still killing our soldiers and innocent Nigerians in the north and herdsmen are killing villagers  Buhari and his DSS did not deem it fit to address that, but they are most concerned about innocent citizens that are complaining,” the CDHR said..

Third Force Reaffirms Support

Meanwhile, the Third Force Movement of Nigeria which operates under the umbrella of Nigeria Intervention Movement, NIM has reaffirmed its commitment to the planned nationwide mass protests against bad political system and malgovernance in Nigeria tagged “#Revolution Now!” starting on Monday, 5th August 2019

In a released signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Dr Olusegun Obe, the NIM says, “For the avoidance of doubt, this historic Nationwide Revolutionary Action initiated by Nigerian Masses and Youths, 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 like 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 forcefully abducted in his home at about 1.25 am today, Saturday and whisked away to an unknown destination

“We hereby demand from the Nigerian Presidency and its witch hunting 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

“Finally, we wish to state strongly that peaceful protest or public demonstration against State or government policies is a Constitutional right of every citizen of Nigeria and so, it is illegal to criminalise or victimise any Citizen of Nigeria for openly expressing contrary stand against government’s policies and programme as currently being done by the Nigerian Presidency against the Monday mass protests of the Nigerian peoples,” the NIM said.

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