Soyinka Deplores Clampdown on Sowore, Likens it to Abacha Era

Soyinka Deplores Clampdown on Sowore, Likens it to Abacha Era

…Says His Arrest is a Travesty, Violation of Fundamental Rights of Citizens to Congregate, Express Concerns …Buhari Govt is Stifling the Opposition…JAF, HURIWA Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has described the Saturday morning arrest of Publisher of Sahara Reporters and Convener of ‘#RevolutionNow’ protests, Mr Omoyele Sowore, by the Department of State Services (DSS), as

…Says His Arrest is a Travesty, Violation of Fundamental Rights of Citizens to Congregate, Express Concerns

…Buhari Govt is Stifling the Opposition…JAF, HURIWA

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has described the Saturday morning arrest of Publisher of Sahara Reporters and Convener of ‘#RevolutionNow’ protests, Mr Omoyele Sowore, by the Department of State Services (DSS), as “a travesty and violation of the fundamental rights”

While also describing the arrest as “a terrorist midnight arrest”, Soyinka said Sowore’s utterances have not constituted any treasonable act against the claims of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu and the DSS.

Soyinka, in a statement made available on Sunday and 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.

Likening the arrest of Sowore, also presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 general election to the similar disruption of the planning of nationwide march under the command of late Sani Abacha, Soyinka added that Nigeria has failed to learn from history.

“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!

“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 mobilised 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 brutalising 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.

“And 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.

“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,” he added.

Also the Joint Action Front (JAF), a pro-labour civil society partner of Organised Labour in the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), has strongly condemned the arrest and continuing detention of Sowore and the ongoing systematic repression and decimation of the opposition, as well as the media, in the country by the President Buhari led APC ruling Government.

JAF in a statement signed by its Chairman, Dr Oladipo Fashina and Secretary, Mr Biodun Aremu, says it “received the report of the brutal and dehumanising arrest of Omoyele Sowore, a frontline radical activist and Presidential Candidate of the African Alliance Congress (AAC) in the 2019 General Elections and the continuing denial by the security operatives, of access to his lawyers, family and comrades and he has remained unjustly and illegally detained.”

“Rather than address the legitimate demands of the working people, students and youth as demanded by the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) in its clarion for street protests scheduled for August 5, 2019, the President Buhari led APC deceptive ruling party has intensified political and socio-economic attacks and violence against the poor masses of Nigeria.

“We recall as JAF and restate our commitment to the struggle for SYSTEM CHANGE, which we have consistently articulated since 2003 in the various interventions and mass struggles, in which we have collaborated with organised Labour, including the 2012 January Uprising, which JAF heralded on 3rd January, 2012 with a MASS ACTION. It is therefore instructive to recall that:

• In the run up to the 2015 general elections, when the Buhari-APC appealed to the Nigerian people, with its alleged change-mantra, JAF at a press Conference held on March 9, 2015 cautioned that: “Irrespective of the party that wins the presidential election, the crisis in the economy is bound to continue because the economic agenda of the two major parties (PDP and APC) remains dependent on oil and capitalist policies of privatisation and deregulation. These policies are operated and championed by servants of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose main business is to steal our national wealth for the use of the exploiters in Europe, United States of America, Japan, Asia, etc. These agents cannot defend the working people, the poor and the oppressed anywhere”.

• On the eve of the 2019 General elections, JAF equally stated: “With close to four years of the APC-Buhari Government, what are the prevalences in the polity? The crises in the economy are deepening, manifesting in hike in fuel prices, destruction of the value of the Naira, inflation and high prices of goods and services, rising unemployment and job losses, excruciating poverty, poor power supply and super exploitation of consumers through estimated billing, auctioning of public infrastructure and national assets, arrears of unpaid workers’ salaries, violence and insecurity of life across country, etc. Beyond organizing resistance against all these anti-people policies and impunity in Governance, there is the fundamental issue of what should be done to truly transform the country socio-economically and politically. For us in JAF, we have resolved to continue the mobilisation of all organizations of the working people and the poor masses in Nigeria to join forces towards putting forward A POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE to the Nigerian People”.

“We hereby demand on the anti-people and repressive President Buhari Government to end all forms of repressive measures, illegal and unjust arrest and detention, intolerance and executive recklessness and attacks against dissenting voices, activists and the opposition.

JAF also strongly demands as follows:

• The immediate and unconditional release of Omoyele Sowore

• The rights and freedom of all opposition to exist and organise activities, including protests, must be guaranteed and respected by the anti-people APC-Buhari Government.

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has also condemned as unconstitutional and illegal the arrest of Mr. Sowore, by the DSS just as it called for his immediate freedom.

The arrest of Sowore, the rights group said, is a culmination of the systematic clampdown and organised brutish attacks targeting persons and groups with divergent opinion from the status quo just as HURIWA restated her alarm that the current administration has embarked on the shrinking and deliberate stifling of the civic spaces. HURIWA accused the DSS of illegally bugging telephones of prominent civil rights leaders.

HURIWA, which submitted that the fundamentals of the practice of constitutional democracy are animated by the protection and promotion of the basic constitutional freedoms of speech and the opening of the civic spaces, has raised alarm that since coming to office, President Muhammadu Buhari has adopted anti-democratic postures that constitute grave threats to constitutional democracy.

According to HURIWA, “It is an undeniable fact that civic space is the bedrock and the fundamental of any open and democratic government which is guaranteed under the chapter four of the Nigerian constitution of 1999 (as amended); all other global human rights conventions and laws do also support the fundamental freedoms as espoused in chapter 4 of the constitution.

“May we remind President Buhari that his attacks against those fundamental freedoms constitute grave threats to democracy because when the civic space is open, the citizenry and civic society platforms are then able to organise, participate and communicate without hindrance or impediments that the open threats to lives and freedoms of the practitioners have now become.

“This can only be the case if government is compelled to discharge her obligations to the citizenry. The freedoms of association; peaceful assembly and expression are no doubt the strategic elements of an open civic space. These critical elements are systematically put under attacks by the President Buhari’s administration and unfortunately the free World is watching as constitutional democracy is about to collapse in Nigeria.”

HURIWA stated that the report that Mr Sowore, was arrested by operatives of the DSS to thwart the holding of nationwide protests against mis-governance and unprecedented insecurity shows that the current administration lacks the frame of mind to tolerate dissenting voices.

“Does anyone in this government benefit from these killings by all kinds of armed freelance killers and bandits so much so that the government is afraid of street protests to condemn these killings?”

HURIWA which described the arrest of Mr. Sowore on Saturday morning at his home as clandestine and primitive, also demanded his immediate release and public apology by President Buhari.

According to the rights group, “Why invade the residence of a citizen in the wee hours of the morning like thieves or kidnappers to whisk away a citizen? This is reminiscent of the dictatorial style of the diabolical military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha which is totally not in consonance with the principle and practice of constitutional democracy.”

HURIWA emphatically accused the DSS of seeking to destroy free speech because the act was made to frustrate the plan to stage series of planned civil protests just as the rights group said this may be as a result of his (Omowole Sowore’s) plans to mobilise people in Lagos and many parts of the country for a revolution protest tagged ‘Days of Rage’ to demand a better Nigeria.

HURIWA also observed that since Sowore tweeted: “DSS invades Sowore’s” and was subsequently not allowed to speak to his lawyer shows that the DSS is yet to come to terms with the fact that Nigeria has for 20 years practiced constitutional democracy with inbuilt provisions in chapter 4 for the protection of the fundamental freedoms of the citizenry, including the right to a legal representation and a right to the dignity of his personhood as recognised by international and local human rights  laws.


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