Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
The Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, has called on the Federal Government to release the former African Action Congress (ACC) presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore, who was arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) over a planned revolutionary protest scheduled for Monday, August 5.
Adams argued that the arrest of Sowore, a Yorubaman, publisher of online newspaper Sahara Reporters and convener of Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria, portends grave danger for Nigeria’s democracy.
Authorities had said Sowore was arrested for an alleged plot to force a regime change in the country.
Adams, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Aderemi, described the arrest as a huge abuse of human right to freedom, stating that the planned revolutionary protest could not be said to be treasonable since it was yet to be implemented before Sowore was arrested by the DSS.
He faulted the rationale behind the arrest, saying that it was unfortunate that Nigerians usually forget events and memories of the past, noting further that Nigeria’s problems emanated from the legacy of the country’s past military dictatorship’s habit of gagging the press and preventing freedom of speech and expression.
Adams said that information at his disposal indicates that Sowore did not consult many of the civic society groups, and that the planned protest would have presented to Nigerians an opportunity to express their feelings in regard to President Muhammadu Buhari.
He noted that Nigerians are entitled to express their feelings inasmuch as the protests are peaceful and represent the feelings of Nigerians.
“Not everybody can have access to the presidency in Abuja. This is democracy, not militarism, where people are cowed and jailed over issues relating to their welfare,” the Yoruba leader said.
Adams argued that:
“Sowore is an activist, and he was part of the struggle for this democracy. Therefore, he is entitled to express his feelings and that of Nigerians in a democratic setting.
“I think the FG must consider his freedom as a panacea for peace. For instance, I wonder how a peaceful protest by armless citizens will now turn to a treasonable felony.
“It is unfortunate that many of the people at the corridors of power today were part of the protests against former president Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, but today the situation has changed.
“I am afraid they wanted to draw the nation backward to those years of the military, where people’s rights to freedom and other fundamental human rights were alien to the military
“Even in countries that have good institutions and good welfare policies, the citizens still organise peaceful protest and the government will surely listen to them.
“As an activist and promoter of peace, I have engaged in various rallies and protests. On each occasion, we consulted widely, taking into considerations so many factors,including the rights of Nigerians to embark on protest, noting also that such rights should not translate to a violent or forceful protest.
“Nigeria is a democratic republic, therefore, unlawful detention of a people can lead to further crisis and the Federal Government must try as much as it is possible to avoid this by listening to the cries of Nigerians.
“The Federal Government must free Sowore and formulate policy programmes that have direct impact on the mass of the people.”