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Nigeria Is Back To Repressive Days Of Abacha’s Tyrannical Regime — Soyinka

Noble Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka

**Laureate’s statement, unpardonable blackmail, presidency replies

**Falana: Protest marches not treasonable

**Wike orders arrest of #RevolutionNow protesters

Davidson Iriekpen, Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos, Chuks Okocha and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

The federal government came under more attacks yesterday over the arrest of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore, as Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, described the detention of the activist-turned politician as reminiscent of the oppressive regime of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.

Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), also lampooned the government and faulted the argument of security agencies that the call for revolution by Sowore amounted to treason.

Abacha came to power in November 1993 in the wake of the agitation for the revalidation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election results after sacking the Interim National Government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan.

He unleashed brutality against the people, arresting and killing protesters and opponents of his regime. Some of the critics of his dictatorship, including former Head of State then, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo; former Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, Maj.-Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, human rights activists, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti and Chief Gani Fawehinmi, among others, were roped in in contrived coup plot and sentenced to various jail terms.

Soyinka, in a statement yesterday, said Sowore did nothing to suggest he was “urging the public to engage in a forcible overthrow of government” as explained by the police.

Sowore is the convener of ‘#RevolutionNow’ protests, which has been scheduled to hold nationwide today.

He was, however, arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) at his Lagos residence in the early hours of Saturday.

The Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, also tagged the planned protests an act of treason and terrorism, whose sole aim is to “force a regime change in the country.”

However, the DSS, which confirmed Sowore’s arrest yesterday, defended its action, saying the activist was taken into custody for calling for a revolution in Nigeria.

On his part, Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, yesterday warned that the state government would not tolerate any protest just as he ordered security agents to arrest anyone found taking part in today’s planned protest.

But Soyinka deplored the arrest, describing it as a “travesty” and violation of the fundamental rights of citizens to congregate and make public their concerns.

According to him, protests are democratic ways of drawing government’s attention to ills and mobilising the public towards a proactive consciousness of their condition.

He said the arrest, incarceration and threats to civilians involved in such cause were “ultimately counter-productive.”

“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.

“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.

“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’s Mayflower School, Ikenne.

“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 yet again, even a faceless cabal under yet another civilian regime refused to be left out of the insensate play of power.

“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!,” the laureate said.

Soyinka urged 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.

According to him, demonstrations and processions are time honoured, democratic ways of drawing not only the attention of government to ills, but of mobilising 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,” he added.

Soyinka’s Statement, Unpardonable Blackmail, Says Presidency

However, the presidency described Soyinka’s statement as an unpardonable blackmail that would not deter the police and law enforcement agents from doing their work.

Reacting to the criticism of Soyinka, following THISDAY inquiry, a presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, said renowned critics like Soyinka who often accuse the police of dereliction of duty when there is a breach of law and order are also the ones castigating law enforcement agents in their current moves to protect the law.

He described the accusation that the president is autocratic as an unpardonable blackmail, saying that Nigerians can only call for a change of government in accordance with constitutional stipulations.

According to him, calls for violent change of a democratically elected government is unacceptable in a setting where the guidelines for change of government have clearly been spelt out in the constitution.

He said: “You mentioned the name of Professor Wole Soyinka. Some of these critics of government are people whom we have great respect and admiration for. When things are going wrongly with law and order in the country, they say the police are not doing their work. They raise their voices, asking that “the culprits to be booked and expeditiously punished in the most severe manner.

“The police under a new leadership is now rising to the occasion, saying ‘we cannot take any more atrocities against the law in our country and they are saying don’t do anything. They are calling out President Buhari and comparing him to autocratic leaders.’ This is an unpardonable blackmail that cannot stop the police and other law enforcement agencies from doing their work.

“A Nigerian is by right empowered to call for a change of government using constitutional means; to protest peacefully against government policies and decisions. But to call for the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government and president and worse – were those calling for it to attempt to do so – is not acceptable under any law in Nigeria. Violence will never be accepted again as a way to change governments in this country. Those days are gone.

“Nigeria has a well-crafted constitution and elaborate laws governing elections that guide an orderly succession in government. We have a judicial system that actively serves as a watchdog of the people’s rights.

“Yet, we are daily witnesses to obscene display of delight in the killing of our soldiers and policemen, an open contempt for the country’s laws and its people, accompanied by loud cheers from the so-called New Media. Is this the way to grow a country?”

Protests Not Treasonable Offence, Says Falana

In his reaction, Falana, in a statement yesterday, said protest marches in Nigeria were not treasonable offences.

According to him, the police have capitalised on the use of the word “revolution” to criminalise the protests.

He said: “No doubt, the Nigeria Police Force has capitalised on the use of the word “revolution” to criminalise the protests. If revolution has become a criminal offence in Nigeria, why were the leaders of the APC not charged for claiming to have carried out Nigeria’s democratic revolution, which terminated the 16-year rule of the PDP in 2015?

“Why was Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, the presidential candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) not threatened with treason when he asked Nigerians to rise up for revolution via the 2019 general election?

“Did all Nigerian senators led by APC members not commit treason or terrorism when they spent one-and-a-half hours on May 14, 2019 to debate Senator Chukwuka Utazi’s timely motion on “Bridging the gap between the haves and have-not to nip in the bud the seeds of a looming violent revolution?”

Falana also criticised the Buhari administration for clamping down on individuals perceived as its critics.

“It is worrisome that the Buhari administration has decided to extend the ambit of the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act to cover individuals and organisations that are critical of official policies or perceived marginalisation within the federation,” he added.

DSS: Sowore in Custody for Calling for Revolution

Amid the criticisms, the DSS yesterday defended its arrest of Sowore, saying he was taken into custody because he called for a revolution in Nigeria

“I want to start by saying; the Department of State Services is a responsible security and intelligence agency operating in Nigeria. And operating also in a democracy and it adheres strictly to the fundamental principles and tenets of democracy. The DSS as we are all aware is charged primarily with the detection and prevention of crimes and threats against the internal security of Nigeria and fundamentally more importantly, the service is also charged with the responsibility of managing, containing, curtailing, eliminating threats against the national security of Nigeria. These threats include: threats of sabotage, threats of subversion, threats of terrorism and of course, threats of espionage and all others, including ethnic agitations, economic sabotage and all of that,” DSS spokesperson, Mr. Peter Afunanya, said.

According to him, Nigeria is not a banana republic and anyone calling for revolution is only inciting others join in insurrection, insurgency and to forcibly take over the government.

But Afunanya was unable to say whether or not the DSS has any credible intelligence that confirmed Sowore has the capacity to execute a takeover of government.

He, however, said the DSS was “aware” that Sowore had been in touch with foreign actors to destabilise Nigeria.

The DSS declined to say where Sowore was being kept and when he would be arraigned in court.

Wike Orders Arrest of Protesters

Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, has warned that the state will not tolerate any protest as fear rose yesterday over the planned #RevolutionNow, billed to begin today, and ordered security agents to arrest anyone found participating in the protest.

Wike said Rivers State was not part of the protest and whatever illegal agenda it sought to pursue.

“Rivers State does not subscribe to what the #RevolutionNow protest represents and Rivers State is not part of the protest,” he added.

He directed security agencies to arrest anybody involved in the #RevolutionNow protest and also take all necessary steps to prosecute such persons.

Police Ready for Protest as IG Puts CPs on the Alert

Also yesterday, the Police High Command said it was prepared for any eventuality that would arise from today’s planned revolution march.

As part of its preparations to handle the situation, the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, has ordered Commissioners of Police in the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to maintain law and order in their areas of responsibility.

Force Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mr. Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), said the police nationwide were on red alert.

“Commissioners of Police nationwide are under strict and specific instruction to ensure the maintenance of law and order within their areas of responsibility,” he told THISDAY in a telephone interview.

Also, the FCT Police Commissioner, Bala Ciroma, said the command had put adequate measures in place to contain any breakdown of law and order.

“We have adequate security arrangement in place. Everybody should go about his lawful, normal businesses,” he said.

(This day)

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REVOLUTION PROTEST: Anyone Involved Will Be Treated As Terrorist, Police Warns |The Republican News

….the “March a treasonable Felony”, IGP warns

The Nigeria police has issued a strong warning to anyone directly or indirectly involved in the August 5th planned “Revolution March” adding that anyone involved in the protest will be treated as a terrorist.

In a terse statement issued by the force, they warned anyone involved in the act to “steer clear of any such planned protest demonstration, acts of incitement and proposed revolution.” They went further by stating that “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.”

The Statement reads;

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 sympathisers 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

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Though In Presidential Race, I Don’t See Myself As A Politician – Sowore (AAC Presidential Aspirant |RN

SOWORE         Omoyele Sowore, AAC presidential aspirant

In this interview, Sowore gives the full account of the “drama” that played out when he visited the Ooni of Ife recently.

Ayo Alonge

 

The convener of ‘Take It Back Movement’ and presidential aspirant on the platform of African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore, has said that he is not afraid to be in the presidential race even when the action might pitch him against some politicians he has had to fight in the past.

In this interview, Sowore gives the full account of the “drama” that played out when he visited the Ooni of Ife recently. He also bared his mind on the state of the nation, the forthcoming general elections and his unrelenting quest to unseat President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.

How was the transition from being an activist and a social crusader to being a core politician to the extent that you are now in the 2019 Presidential race?

I do not see myself as a politician, and I have not in any way transited from being an activist to a politician. I know what it means to be called a politician in Nigeria. You have to be corrupt and all that. I only see myself as a revolutionary leader. As such, I have not derailed from my core activism. People like Obama are never called politicians. Nelson Mandela was never called a politician till he died.

On the whole noise on Take-It-Back everywhere on the social media, what are you actually taking back?

I am taking back our country and dignity and all that has been taken from us that could have made us a better country. We are taking back what the minority has taken from our country. We are taking back our education sector, road infrastructure and everything else that you can take back. Even in the US, Barack Obama is part of the campaign that is bent on taking back what belongs to the people.

Using your media platform, you have had to expose a lot of corrupt politicians. Does it occur to you that this same set of people might come for your jugular at this time?

To ask if that is going to be a barrier is the very reason I came out to contest. I am not afraid of them.

What do you hope to do differently, if you become the next president?

I want to make this country different so that we can meet up with other nations all around the world, in terms of poor infrastructure and the way we fight corruption. We want to cause a revolution that will better the lots of Nigeria in agriculture, tourism, and many more. These are the basics. If you follow very closely, you will see that I have been the one initiating the ideas that have now become a big topic of discussion for politicians.

Could you talk about what really transpired in the palace of the Ooni of Ife where you were reportedly teargassed?

We were invited to meet the Kabiesi by 12 noon that day and we arrived at 11:48 a.m. Three hours later, we were still left unattended to.

You mean you were actually invited, and not that you chose to pay him the visit on your own?

If you are not invited, you can’t go into the palace. So, we were actually invited. Three hours later, we were still waiting when I had so many other engagements. Three hours after, nobody explained anything to us as to why we were kept waiting for so long. I respect him a lot. If he was kept waiting, even in the US, I will be the first person to protest against that. So, we were introduced and I went to him and bowed which is what I do to all the traditional rulers that we meet and have met, including the Emir of Kano and the Alaafin of Oyo, even the Olofa of Offa. The person that was moderating the event got upset that I didn’t prostrate for the Oba and you could see that he was so annoyed with us. I was given the microphone and I told the Oba my mind. I said, I wish someone explained to us why we were kept for over three hours. I am a very honest person and I told him that my way of protesting that was to come before you and bow. And I said now that you have explained, we will pay you homage. We were about a hundred that were in the palace. We did that and yet someone said that I didn’t roll on the floor. This was after we prostrated to everyone all around the palace. As we were doing the last prostration, they just teargassed us. I thought it was a joke, but the person who was doing it did not stop. We just couldn’t breathe and even one of the female students with us just passed out. We went out to catch some fresh air and as we did, some guys were already waiting for us and started pushing and manhandling me. I was surprised and asked if that was actually the palace of the Ooni of Ife. So, I turned back to go to complain to him that I had just been assaulted. It occurred to me that this was the same thing they did to Bola Ige before he was killed. He was assaulted at the palace of the Ooni of Ife. I asked the Kabiesi what’s going on. I’m your guest and even if you are upset with me, you can’t treat me like this. We were still gasping for breath and the Ooni said they should take me to a private room, but I refused. I said if anything will happen to me, let it happen to me right in your presence. I heard you wanted to meet a young presidential aspirant like me and that is why I came. At a point, he was insinuating that one of us did the teargassing. That was weird. He also said that the reason I was attacked outside was because people thought that I was leaving him in anger. How do you justify people being attacked for whatever reason within the sanctity of your palace? Anyway, we completed the event and headed for OAU because we needed to meet with the students who were already angry that we were attacked. I had to calm them down and we can back to Lagos.

It was recently reported that a coalition of young aspirants against Buhari hit the rocks. Why do you think that happened?

There was no coalition that I am aware of. I attended an event of young aspirants in a hotel in Abuja. I wanted to convince one of the young aspirants to join our train. When next we got to the conference, I met over 18 young aspirants and when they proposed the coalition to me, I said I cannot be part of it, but I can always attend their meetings on the basis of availability. I told them straight up that I don’t trust coalitions. One of the things we agreed on was that the individual aspirants needed to go and obtain their nomination forms from their different parties so that we know that we are dealing with people who have parties. We later got to Charley Boy’s house, upon my suggestion. We got there and some people started coming up with some strange ideas and that was how people started making vows. We also agreed to protest for the extension of voters’ registration and PVC collection, but when the day came, they didn’t show up. All I am trying to say is that I was never part of any coalition. I am surprised that they are saying I was part of the coalition. They even cooked up a propaganda saying that I was defeated by Fela Durotoye. I knew from the beginning that it won’t work.

In your view, what indices are there to determine the conduct of the 2019 elections?

Over 40 million people are registered to vote in this election as announced by INEC. The last election was won by about 14 million. That tells you that we have a lot of disgruntled people. That’s one. Another is that people are tired of the two major political parties, which are marred by corrupt practices. You will see a shocker. People want their country back, but we know that there is a plan to rig the election, but I will tell you something. The person that won Ekiti in 2014 didn’t win the presidential election. The person that won the presidential election in 2015 didn’t have as much money as the then incumbent, President Jonathan. If you look at all these parameters, you can readily point to where things are heading to.

What winning strategies do you have in place to win in 2019?

People are ready to bet their lives to get what they desire. I have touched 29 states, reaching out to people and I have no doubt that we will win. Not only would we win, we would also have set up a strong political base in the country. In terms of the concrete ideas, maybe you should leave that out. Let me not unravel that. You know in this part of the world, people steal ideas a lot and there are no consequences for such. Just like there are no consequences for stealing money.

Voting-buying is prevalent in the political system today. How do you hope to match money for money in the contest, particularly as the presidential race is competitive in terms of spending money?

We are not going to be involved in that. That’s not who we are. We are selling ideas. People who buy ideas are going to last longer than people who take money. When you take money, you are foregoing your next road, hospital, salary, etc.

What is the future like for the Nigerian youth taking over leadership, against the backdrop of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run mantra?

I believe that there must be a generational shift. Democracy must pass through different levels for it to be well consolidated. We have started by removing the military usurpers. We must also have a situation where the minority has a say and the majority has their way. If that doesn’t happen, democracy becomes a fait accompli. There must also be a party-to-party transfer of power. The final process is a transgenerational handing over of baton. The old generation must give way for the younger generation.

How do you mobilise funds for your campaign?

We do that openly. We are using technology. This is a tech-driven campaign. We are crowdfunding. We go online and ask people to donate voluntarily. So far, we have raised over $70,000. Some even donate through our account with our bank here. Sometimes, I get donations from friends and I also put in my own money. Because we are not buying Gala, Ankara and branded rice, it is costing us less. With a dollar, we can have more impact than our opponents with a thousand dollars.

What is your next option, if you don’t win?

I don’t see how we won’t win that election. The country, Africa and the entire world are looking forward to it. Our liberation can get the rest of Africa liberated too. If I don’t win, that could be a product of providence and I will be sad.    (The Sun)

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