Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Adams Oshiomhole on Wednesday condemned the RevolutionNow protests, describing it as ironic that the leader of the movement who was part of the 2019 polls now wants to forcefully change the government after being rejected by Nigerians.
Briefing State House correspondents after a meeting of the APC National Working Committee (NWC), with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Oshiomhole said although he is in support of the fact that Nigerians have the right to protest, they must properly articulate their grievances before embarking on such protests.
According to the APC chairman, who recalled his days as a labour leader, when they protested against anti-people policies of a former president, he said the intention was never to push him out of power through undemocratic means unlike Omoyele Sowore, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Sahara Reporters publisher and the convener of the Global Coalition for Security and Democracy did, calling for a change of government through revolution having failed to win the February 23, 2019 presidential election.
Asked to react to government’s clampdown on people who also wanted to exercise their freedom of the right to protest, Oshiomhole said: “What was the reason for protest? Let’s be honest! I have led a series of protest even to this villa. Whoever wants to protest should articulate the particulars of his grievances and make specific demands about the solutions that he wants. So what exactly as far as you know as members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, that Sowore, the publisher of Sahara reporters, a presidential candidate, cleared by INEC to bid for power, who had opportunity to ask Nigerians to vote for him. Now, Nigerians have voted, the votes have been counted and he was not a favoured candidate, what does he want now? That Nigerians must make him the president?
“Because we all have to be careful, nobody should talk as if we have another country. We have challenges but somehow we have all resolved as a people that the way to power is in the ballot box. Our task as a people is to continue to work to clean up the system so that only Nigerians alone shall determine who governs them at all levels. That I believe is a legitimate thing to fight for. But if you want to overthrow, you want a revolution, then you should spare us the INEC putting him on the ballot paper.
“I don’t want to talk about this but I believe Nigerians have a right to protest; I believe people have a right to contest issues; people have the right to disagree. I have often said government doesn’t have the right to dictate to people how to protest, but you must state exactly what you want.
“Go and check the dictionary and political meaning of a revolution; if it comes, it will be like the Christmas turkey, nobody knows which one will be slaughtered first on Christmas Day.
“I think we do need to take things seriously; we have serious issues in this country; I have my own reservations about many things but we have submitted to this process and we must work hard to make it work.
“…There is no question that we have challenges but I don’t think if you were an American, British, Ghanaian or even a Nigerian, you were about to set up a farm or a factory and you hear that a revolution is in the making, in which country do you hear that? You go to any country including established democracies and say your business is to create revolution….
“Have you monitored what is happening in France, those yellow jacket people, who were organising those protests? Initially when they were organising those protests, they were asking for labour reforms that President Macron introduced but from there they went into something else, you must have seen on your television how the French authorities dealt with that.
“I think we have to be clear. I am a believer that the right to protest is a fundamental human right but it does not include the right to suggest that you want to overthrow a constituted order. No, there is a difference.
“As NLC president, when we were organising protest, when we had put down the head of the then president after one week protest, I think it was late Gani Fawehinmi that said instead of pushing him out we raised the head again, and I said our purpose was to defeat a set of anti-people policies that we have seen but recognising that, we are in a democracy and that the president was elected, our mission was not to remove him from office. There is a difference between the two.
“So, you can go and contest an election and when you lose you say you want to do revolution. It is not about this president, it is not about APC, it is recognising that we have challenges; are we prepared to allow none democratic means to effect a change?
“Nobody knows the value of democracy more than you the media because once upon a time two of your colleagues were convicted for allegedly plotting a coup with a pen. The accusation was that he was plotting to overthrow a military government with their pen. So we have come a long way; I am for a right to protest but you must state what you want out of the protest. But if what you want is a forceful change, then we have to look at the laws.”
Oshiomhole disclosed that the NEC presented the financial statement of his party’s spending in the 2019 general election.
The APC chairman, who was accompanied by members of the NWC said it was important to brief President Buhari as leader APC detailed expenditure on what benefited what and how the party financed the exercise as well as the results achieved.
He said they discussed the policy direction of the government in the next four years and what needs to be done to rescue millions of Nigerians out of poverty.
Oshiomhole said: “Our party must be seen to be pro-poor, putting policies in place that will lift our people out of poverty and recreate the Nigeria middle class. Unless you recreate the Nigeria middle class, you are not going to have a stable and a peaceful society.
“The tragedy for now is that over the period, people are either very poor or they are very rich. The president has to provide leadership working with the National Assembly leadership to see how we can over the next four years deliver, so that the current situation of extremely poor and extremely rich will is bridged by recreating the middle class.”