By Henry Okonkwo
Segun Awosanya is a popular social media activist, who spearheaded the fight against police brutality through the #EndSARS campaign he convened alongside other rights activists.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Awosanya otherwise known as Segalink, condemned the DSS’s continued arrest of Omoyele Sowore, saying that Nigeria is fast becoming a pariah state under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. He also spoke on the Social Media Bill, the rule of law and other national issues.
What do you think are the implications on Nigeria with the continued detention of Sowore by the DSS?
Our government with their actions are disappointing the country, and tending to become a global pariah. Because you cannot do this to your country, and expect the international community to respect your citizen. Now, you arrest people because you feel they are against your policies or rule, or doing something that threatens your perpetuation in office, so you accuse them of one thing or another, and then continue to disobey court orders and discrete the judiciary. This is not done in a democracy and anyone supporting this should not be seen as a Nigerian, rather they are enemies of our democracy.
The NBA (Nigerian Bar Association) have come under severe criticisms and accused of appearing lukewarm, and docile in speaking out against the continued intimidation of the judiciary under this administration. Why do you think the NBA now appears weakened?
The truth is that we have weak institutions in our country. Today, we find ourselves in a position where all institutions have been balkanized. In other words, the leadership of institutions have been suppressed to the point that people that have been appointed to lead most of these institutions that are very sensitive, are now cronies of the administration, who would not do anything professionally, but do things based on their stomach, and proof of allegiance to those who put them their. So, this is what is going on in Nigeria today, every sensitive institution in Nigeria has been balkanized thus have become partisan.
What is your view on the Social Media Bill that is currently being considered in the Senate?
The bill itself is inimical and they know it. The citizens have started sending messages to their representatives to actually begin a process of rejecting this bill to make sure it doesn’t go further. Of course, a bill can pass first reading which is just the presentation of what the intent of the bill is, second reading is the official deliberation of the bill to see if it would scale through public hearing and other things. But right now, Nigerians have shown that this bill is not for them, they don’t want it, they never requested for it, it is unnecessary, it is duplicitous and it has nothing to do with the progress of Nigeria. It is an ambiguous bill put together in order to shut down the voice of the people. Because they are being inconvenienced now people are speaking out. You see before the media were just central, the opinions and the hearts and minds of the people were being controlled and suppressed by the press that have been bought over or easily intimidated by the government. But now, the youths of today, that constitute 70 per cent of the population, don’t go to the newspapers, they have their own platforms, and that is where they dissect and express their opinion and that is where the attack is focused on. There have been two missiles fired, both from the Hate Speech Bill and from the angle of Social Media Regulation Bill that they have passed. And all these things, if it is actually genuine all these people need to do is to look at the Cybercrime Act of 2015, most of these provisions like watching out for malicious mendacity online have already been taken care of by the Act. So, why are you duplicating these things? It’s to show that they are trying to smuggle something that is inimical to the people into legislation. So that tyranny can have a full swing in Nigeria.
And to me as a person, I believe this is a final attempt to kill the voice of the people. And we’ll not allow it to gain strength and would not allow that bill to be passed, unless they are ready to face the repercussion of their action, which is the total shutdown of the entire assembly. And that is very possible, all Nigerians need is the right leadership to make it happen. That would be the end of the whole thing. We are just waiting to see if these people would grow common sense within themselves and recalculate, coordinate this dangerous trajectory that they have found themselves in.
But some have said that the bill is highly needed at this time…?
Who are the people?
People like the First Lady and many others insist that the bill is highly needed because the social media space has become a platform many people use incite hate; hence the need to bring some caution into the fray. Don’t you buy that argument?
I don’t because the people making the argument are people from the first family, who benefited heavily from hate speeches, mendacity, lies and propaganda that were used to oust another administration. So, where were they when these hate speeches were benefitting them. So, because people are responding to your foolishness online, and giving you feedback based on your lack of consciousness or compassion, does that now prove you want to start going after people to shutdown their voices? Are they aware that there is actually a bill that takes care of lies, mendacity and cyber crimes online? These are not people we should reckon with when it comes to matters of state. They are only speaking because of their personal interests and Nigeria does not belong to the first family. They are meant to lead Nigerians, not to rule over, suppress or oppress Nigerians. They should look inwards, because if the head of your family is bullying the entire country, suppressing the constitution, destroying and denigrating the rule of law, then what exactly are we talking about bullying online? Isn’t that worse than bullying online? So, they just keep their opinions to themselves and let Nigerians be. One of the rights of the citizens is to speak out and to hold the government to account. Most of the people supporting that bill are those benefiting from the rot. And most of them are families and cronies of this administration weaponizing poverty over 200 million people. So, I don’t think I have enough words to show how inimical this bill is to Nigerians, and how much it has proved that the Senate does not represent the people, and that they are just there to rubber-stamp whatever rubbish or inanity that have been sponsored by the presidency. We are determined that our children would not inherit the madness in this country, we don’t want them to inherit this balkanization, oppression of our rule of law. This is unsustainable and we would not allow it to thrive. All it takes is active citizenry, because a weak institution shows a weak country. That is what we want to achieve in our organization – the Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation (SIAF).
Many have alleged that you criticize the government because you have strong ties with the opposition PDP. How true is this?
Where are the strong ties? The APC that they are slaving for, and have made them become fiefdom monsters, who strategized the merger of the APC? Find out from them. Call Alhaji Lai Mohammed and ask him my role in the merger of APC. They tried to merge severally and failed, asked them how they succeeded. So, if at all I’m affiliated whatsoever, however, remotely to any political party in Nigeria, it would be the APC. Because the PDP where complacent at some point and shut out their humanity to their cause believing that nothing is going to happen. It was then we felt Nigeria cannot be under one single ruling party without any opposition and that is why that opposition was created. Unfortunately, partisan politicians who have other agenda snatched that vehicle and turned it into the monster that you see today. So, there is no such thing as ties, if I was with monsters saying all those rubbish, I would have been a minister today. But I’m not doing this because of my personal interest. SIAF is self funded and have been impacting on lives regardless of their partisanship, sexual orientation, gender or social stratification. We have succeeded where others have failed without asking for anything from anybody. If I have a skeleton today I wouldn’t be speaking out. You see this government, and how vindictive they can be, they could have found something and be knocking on my door. But they know there is nothing to rope me in. And they know if I have a skeleton in my cupboard I wouldn’t be speaking out the way I do.