The organisers of the #RevolutionNow protest has said it will not be deterred by the arrest of its leader and presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Mr Omoyele Sowore.
One of the organisers, who is the General Secretary, United Action for Democracy and member of the Socialist Workers and Youth League, Mr Kunle Ajayi, vowed to go on with the mass action.
“#RevolutionNow: They think they can stop an idea whose time has come. You have plenty to arrest. We will show you all that our generation cannot continue with your state madness. We will hand over a better world to our children. The time to act is now!!!” Ajayi said via his Twitter handle, @AjayiWizeman on Saturday.
Ajayi’s post was accompanied with a picture showing five members of the protest group holding a banner with the inscription, “#RevolutionNow. Time to act is now!”
“This arrest is not surprising to us. We know that the Presidency has tried everything in their powers to discredit and dampen our struggle,” he said.
Ajayi earlier in a statement on Saturday spoke on behalf of the Lagos chapter of the AAC, calling for more mobilisation in defiance to the government.
He said, “The Lagos branch of the African Action Congress condemns Sowore’s arrest and (President Muhammadu) 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 and other organisers to continue with the mobilisation. A failed government cannot use force to make the mass of people to accept its failure.”
Another group, the Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, vowed that the mass action planned to commence on Monday would go on as planned despite Sowore’s arrest.
In a report by Sahara Reporters, the group’s convener, Mr Ariyo-Dare Atoye, described the #RevolutionNow protests as civil advocacy and democratic action convened to challenge “the ravenous revolution of the ruling elite that have for decades put our nation and the common man in bondage.”
Atoye said, “We make bold to say that since General Buhari in opposition fully exercised his rights to criticise previous governments and lead a protest in the country, his government cannot under any pretension stop us from holding his administration to account for bad governance. This is just the beginning.”
How Sahara Reporters’ publisher was arrested at 1am
Sowore, who is the leader of the #RevolutionNow movement, had declared August 5 as the commencement of a revolutionary protest tagged, “Days of Rage,” across the country to demand a better Nigeria.
He said the protest would be sustained until the country was put on the right path, saying the government’s action in the 2019 general elections propelled the protest.
He complained there was no level playing field in the elections and said for the country to have free and fair elections in the future, there must be a showdown and people must define who should be their electoral officers.
“The revolution has, therefore, become inevitable. We didn’t choose to go for revolution, they chose it by ensuring that there was no level playing field in the last elections.
“As you know, they did it in Sudan and it was started by some women. They were making fun of them, but they did not stop until doctors joined them, the labour union joined them and what started with five people became 5,000 and 500,000 and became five million and the regime fell,” he said.
However, two days to the planned protest, early on Saturday morning, Sowore was arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services.
According to Sahara Reporters, its publisher’s residence was invaded between 1.15 am and 1.25 am.
An associate of the activist said the knocks on Sowore’s apartment door woke them up and alerted them to the presence of “heavily armed” DSS men.
The operatives, numbering eight, were said to have cordoned off the building and arrested the activist after a slight altercation in the gym.
He was then reportedly driven towards the CMD Road at Shangisha, Ketu, Lagos which was his last known location.
He has since been kept incommunicado.
Pressure groups, Amnesty, CSOs demand release
Meanwhile, Sowore’s arrest has sparked widespread condemnation across the country as various pressure groups have demand his release.
As of Saturday night, #FreeSoworeNow was among the trending topics on Twitter.
Among those who condemned the DSS’ arrest of the activist were the Peoples Democratic Party, Middle Belt Forum and the Trade Union Congress.
According to them, protests are an integral part of democracy.
The PDP said it would be wrong for the Federal Government and the security agencies to silence actions considered unfavourable to its policies.
The main opposition party said the government should allow Nigerians to express their grievances through protests, adding that doing so would help deepen the country’s democracy.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, said, “Protests everywhere in the world is normal. In fact, a protest is party of democracy. You cannot shut out the opposition from embarking on a peaceful protest and they also do not need any police permit to do that.
“Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari once led some key members of this government to protest in Abuja. They went from street to street to register their grievances and nothing happened. The then government even gave them police protection.’’
Rather than tagging the planned protests as “treasonable felony”, Secondus said the police should give the organisers protection and make sure the agitation “is not hijacked by hoodlums”.
Condemning Sowore’s arrest, the South-West chapter of the party described it as evidence of the alleged tyrannical tendency of the Buhari administration.
A statement by its Publicity Secretary, Ayo Fadaka, alleged that the arrest was the first in a series of arrests the government planned to carry out in the days to come.
A legitimate govt should not fear peaceful protests – MBF, others
Like the PDP, the Middle Belt Forum knocked the Federal Government for opposing the planned protests, saying a legitimate government would not consider peaceful protests as terrorism or treason.
MBF President, Dr Bitrus Pogu, stated, “When a government starts opposing protests, it means the government is unstable, it feels threatened and that its legitimacy is in question. A legitimate government would not consider peaceful protests as terrorism.”
Similarly, the National Secretary, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, Dr Alfred Mulade, pointed out that the intimidation of the organisers of #RevolutionNow protests was unnecessary, describing the theme of the protests as “a matter of semantics”.
“I don’t think anybody has the capacity to carry out a revolution,” he said.
The Third Force Movement of Nigeria under the umbrella of the Nigeria Intervention Movement also described a peaceful protest as a constitutional right of all citizens.
The group said this in a statement on Saturday by its National Publicity Secretary, Olusegun Obe.
It said it was illegal to criminalise or victimise any citizen for openly opposing government’s policies.
Also, the President, National Council of Tiv Youths, Dr John Akperashi, said, “We are in a civil Republic with guaranteed human rights. Nigerian citizens have a right to stage a solidarity march for what they are in support of.”
The African Democratic Congress also said there was nothing wrong with peaceful protests, adding that the situation of Nigeria was not palatable.
Spokesperson for the ADC, Mrs Yemi Kolapo, however added that embarking on a protest of ‘revolution’ would not be acceptable by the government.
Executive Director, The Cece Yara Foundation, Grace Ketefe, said, “Nigerians have the right to protest, it is a constitutional right, it is called right to peaceful assembly under the 1999 Constitution. The police cannot outlaw it.
The Chairman, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Lagos State Branch, Mr Alex Omotohinse, said in a statement on Saturday that Sowore was arrested at his Lagos residence at about 1.25am by the DSS and taken to an unknown destination.
Omotohinse called for the immediate and unconditional release of Sowore, who is also the founder of Sahara Reporters, an online media platform.
Amnesty International also asked the Federal Government to immediately charge the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, or release him.
The rights group made its opinion known in a series of tweets on Saturday.
The tweet read, “AI is concerned about the arrest of Omoyele Sowore by the DSS operatives. We urge the authorities to respect his rights and follow due process. If not charged for any offence, he should be released immediately.”
The Transition Monitoring Group also faulted the ban on protests by the police.
The Chairperson of TMG, Dr. Abiola Afolabi, said the Inspector- General of Police should be ready for more protests.
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Saturday, condemned the ban of the protests planned by some Nigerians to take place on Monday.
Falana said the announcement by the Force Headquarters dubbing the planned protest as an act that could constitute treasonable felony gave the impression that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was bent on crushing every critic of the government as terrorists.
He said the government had done this by designating the Indigenous People of Biafra, and recently the Islamic People of Nigeria (Shiites), as terrorist organisations.
He maintained that no law in Nigeria gives room to charge “placard-carrying protesters” with treasonable felony as threatened by the police.
IGP calls revolution treasonable felony
The police had warned against the planned #RevolutionNow nationwide protests, which they described as treasonable.
The force stated that the protests were meant to incite Nigerians against the Federal Government “with the sole aim of forcing a regime change in the country”.
Force spokesman, Frank Mba, in a statement on Saturday, cited a video circulating on social media asking Nigerians to join the planned protests.
It said, “The force wishes to state unequivocally that the call amounts to a treasonable felony and act of terrorism and will therefore not stand idly by and watch any individual or a group in society cause anarchy in the land.”