The Department of State Security arrested Mr Omoyele Sowere from his home in Lagos last weekend for alleged acts of treason and terrorism. The presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 general elections and founder of an online leaks newspaper, Sahara Reporters, burnt his fingers by giving a hashtag #RevolutionNow to a protest by the Coalition for Revolution (CORE).
Riding on the crest of the violent imagery that classical revolution evokes, the DSS justified Sowore’s incarceration by saying, “These threats include threats of subversion, threat of terrorism and, of course, ethnic agitations, separatist, economic sabotage and others…We must understand the meaning of revolution. Primarily, it means a revolt, it means insurrection, it means insurgency, it means forceful takeover of government and we are operating democratic system in Nigeria.”
The CORE claimed to have planned a three-phase protest, none of which alludes to violent overthrow of government. The first stage tagged “end anti-people economic policies,” calls for redress in contemporary social issues, like immediate payment of N30,000 minimum wage, putting a stop to the devaluation of the Naira; stop estimated electricity billing; immediate release of El-Zakzaky; payment of outstanding salaries and pensions, etc. The second phase is tagged, “end special privileges for the ruling class,” and it calls for a ban on all government officials from using policemen as security guards and sending children to private schools or foreign universities, etc. The third phase is “returning political power and national wealth to the working people.” Though this is inclined to Socialism, it does not call for an abolition of democracy. One of the aims in this phase is: “to reduce the cost of governance by abolishing the Senate, thus establishing a uni-cameral legislature with only the House of Representatives.”
To give the devil his due, these are no elements of the kind of violent overthrow of regimes witnessed in Europe in the age of the Anarchists through the era of Socialist reign. Perhaps, the choice of the word revolution was too extreme or inappropriate for this kind of movement. Revolution could be emotive. Its use in a civil protest could spur participants to engage in acts of violence or sabotage. It may be on this account that the DSS decided to incapacitate Sowore and cripple the attempts to actualize the protest in several cities in the South last week.
We call on the Buhari administration to consider Sowore’s ‘Revolution’ as a wake-up call to the fact that the masses are trapped in the floodgates of difficulties – kidnapping, armed banditry, poverty, unemployment, and general economic downturn. Apart from those who live in ivory tower and access cheap funds from government treasury, millions of other Nigerians are languishing in socio-economic quagmire. It is high time Buhari and his ministers put both feet on the ground and come up with practical and sensible measures that could tackle the besetting problems.
The DSS has dragged Sowore to court and obtained an order to keep him for 45 days. The order is supposed to give security operatives the opportunity for unfettered investigation into CORE’s supposed unconstitutional acts. We call on the DSS to be thorough and open-minded in this investigation to gather evidence to prove or disprove their hypothesis of terrorism and treason in the #RevolutionNow protest. If there is no evidence, they should let Sowore off the hook.