By Ayo Fadimu
The Presidency on Sunday declared the Publisher of Sahara Publishers, Omoyele Sowore as a person of interest to the Department of State Security Services.
While reacting to the re-arrest of Sowore by the DSS after spending 124 days in detention, the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu said the DSS does not necessarily need the permission of the Presidency in all cases to carry out its essential responsibilities that are laid down in the Nigerian Constitution – which was the foundation for the restoration of democracy in our country in 1999.
“However, it should not surprise anyone who has followed his actions and words that Sowore is a person of interest to the DSS. Sowore called for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria”
Sowore’s release followed a court ruling ordering DSS to release him in the next 24 hours.
However, on Friday morning, the secret police re-arrested Sowore in the premises of the Federal High court in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital and reportedly took the activist to the DSS headquarters.
Apparently displeased with Sowore’s travails, some Nigerians accused President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government of sliding into a dictatorship “through the attempt to silence critics”.
The Presidency insisted that Sowore was planning massive civil unrest in the country and then flee to the United States where he runs his widely-read digital newspaper
The statement went further, “He did so on television, and from a privileged position as the owner of a widely-read digital newspaper run from the United States of America.
“He founded an organisation, Revolution Now, to launch, in their own words, “Days of Rage”, with the publicised purpose of fomenting mass civil unrest and the elected administration’s overthrow.”
According to the Presidential spokesman, Sowore is not an ordinary citizen expressing his views freely on social media and the internet.
The Presidential spokesman said no government will allow “anybody to openly call for destabilization in the country and do nothing.”
Comparing Sowore’s activism to the insurgency in the north-east, the Presidential spokesman said: “The Boko Haram militants, who are behind the violence, also fancy themselves to be fighting for some sort of revolution.”
“He was a presidential candidate himself, who ran – and lost – as the flag bearer of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the February 23 general elections,” Shehu said.
The Presidential spokesman added: “Nigeria’s democracy was a long time in the making, and was achieved after decades of often harsh, military-led overthrows of government: the kind of situation Sowore was advocating.
“To believe in and desire armed revolution is not normal amongst ‘human rights activists’, as Sowore has been incorrectly described.
“Nigeria is already dealing with an insurgency that has left millions of people displaced and desperate in the northeastern region of our country.
“Nigerians do not need another spate of lawlessness and loss of lives all in the name of ‘revolution’, especially not one that is orchestrated by a man who makes his home in far-away New York – and who can easily disappear and leave behind whatever instability he intends to cause, to wit, Nnamdi Kanu. This is a matter for the DSS, acting under its powers.”
In the meantime, a United States Senator from New Jersey, Bob Menendez has criticised President Buhari over the fresh arrest of the convener of Sowore.
The US senator said the controversial arrest of the activist is “unacceptable in a country that calls itself a democracy”.
Menendez said the harassment by the state security agents is becoming symptomatic of the increasingly closing political and civic space in Nigeria.
He said, “The United States is watching and the world is watching. I fear that the DSS harassment on Mr Sowore, an activist and journalist, whose only crime appears to be exercising his rights to free expression is becoming symptomatic of the increasingly closing political and civic space in Nigeria.
“The Nigerian court has twice ordered his release on bail and the state security agencies openly defied the court order each time leading me to conclude either that Nigeria no longer respects the rule of law or President Buhari is woefully out of touch with what the agencies of his government are doing in his name. This is unacceptable in a country that calls itself a democracy”.
Meanwhile, the activist’s mother, Mrs Esther Kehinde Sowore has pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to free her son.
In a video interview with CNN on Friday, the dejected mother said she can’t eat, adding that the issue is now affecting her health.
She said, ‘What shall I do again? So, they are not yet ready to release him. Who are (those) doing all this work? So, he’s with them in detention again. What did they see again that they have not seen before? I can not eat, I can not sleep. It affected my health. It has been four months. I plead to Buhari in the name of Allah to release my son”.
In similar vein, Sowore’s co-defendant, 22-year-old, Olawale Adebayo, AKA Mandate, has spoken out from his secret hiding.
The #RevolutionNow co-convener started the video by stating the reason he had to go into hiding. He claimed the Department of State Security Service has been on his trail, ever since the court-granted bail of he and Sowore that was flouted by the agency.
In the video uploaded on Youtube by DJM Records, the agitated activist encouraged Nigerians to join in the fight for freedom and accused the government of criminalizing protest and criticisms.
He said, “My name is Adebayo Bakare publicly known as “Mandate”. As you all know Omoyele Sowore has been arrested by DSS. I am also in the middle of nowhere because the DSS officials are on my tail.”
He also stated their (Sowore and Bakare) demands to the government.
They are as follows;
That the oppressive ruling class should return power to the democratic control of the people.
A secure and just society for all as well as decent life for every Nigerian.
Sowore’s Co-Accused called out the oppression enablers in Nigeria. According to him, those who keep silent in the face of this oppression are as guilty as the oppressors themselves.
“Our enemies are those who allow the destinies and dignity of millions of Nigerians to be stolen by the few oppressive class”
“Our enemies are the onlookers in this face of injustice and oppression” he said.
Bakare made a clarion call to well-meaning Nigerians to make a collective effort “to rid themselves of the political gladiators” masquerading as leaders of the nation.