More prominent Nigerians have been calling for the release of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore, after the expiration of the 45 days granted by a Federal High Court, Abuja for his detention.
Sowore, who is also the publisher of Sahara Reporters, was arrested in Lagos in August by the Directorate of State Service (DSS) for calling for revolution against the Buhari administration. The DSS sought 90 days to detain the activist, but the court granted 45 days, which lapsed recently, and following which individuals and groups across the country have been calling for his release.
Just before the expiration of the 45-day-detention order by the court, which ended on Saturday, September 21, the Federal Government on Friday September 20, filed a seven-count charge of treasonable felony, cybercrime and money laundering against Sowore.
Among those who reacted to the persisting demand for Sowore’s release were former Senator, Shehu Sani; Oodua Youth Parliament (OYP); Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP); and a septuagenarian politician, Alhaji Tajudeen Ajibade. They were, however, divided on the need for the freedom of the convener of the contentious RevolutionNow protest.
Sani said President Muhammadu Buhari should drop all the charges against Sowore, cautioning that the move against the young politician and journalist would only dent his image.
“Sowore’s trial is unnecessary and uncalled for, it would only further stain the human rights record of this administration and diminish and dent the moral standing of our country.”
According to the ex-lawmaker, Sowore’s charges amount to electrocution of freedom, as the democratic credentials of any elected government are not simply about the legitimacy of its mandate, but about the degree of its tolerance of dissent and its compliance with the fundamental principles of freedom.
In a statement he made available to The Guardian, Sani further said: “There is a climate of fear, intimidation and intolerance in the country and this contradicts the philosophy of progressivism the ruling party establishment purports. The nation’s democracy is imperiled by a growing state culture of intolerance of dissent and opposing opinions.
“The president’s desire to build and leave behind an anti-corruption legacy and tower should not be sited in the human rights graveyard. If the ruling establishment is confident of its moral standing and support base, it should defeat Sowore with superior ideas and not persecute him.
“Our democracy is becoming inhabitable and inhospitable to its ideal content. When a state equates dissent to disloyalty, it progressively decays under the weight of its courtiers.”
The Oodua Youth Parliament told The Guardian that it was issuing a 21-day ultimatum for the government to release Sowore from detention, Nigeria being a democratic state.
The parliament’s speaker, Comrade Abdulmajeed Olademeji, said: “Our stand on the issue is that we are issuing a 21-day ultimatum for the Federal Government to release Omoyele Sowore. During the era of President Goodluck Jonathan, there were many threats to him and his administration, but he did not react. It is not all issues that a president must react to, there are some he should overlook. We are in democratic era and we are pleading with the government to release Sowore within 21 days.”
The secretary of the CUPP, Salisu Shuaib Dawaki, said Sowore, as a Nigerian, had the right to protest against an inimical system of government and as such his arrest and detention were unlawful.
“I am calling for his release because he has a right as a citizen to air his view or to gather people and protest. The protest is not unlawful. Due process should be taken in arresting people, they should not just be detained unlawfully.
“If the government doesn’t want protest, then they should do what is right in order to avoid reaction from the people against their policies. If Buhari fails to release Sowore, he is only displaying his dictatorship to the world and everyone is seeing him. He is not a real democrat. Nigerians don’t want a military dictator,” Dawaki said.
But in an interview with The Guardian, Ajibade said those calling on government to drop charges against Sowore should wait for the court verdict.
To him, Sowore’s arrest should not be seen from a political point of view, rather the issues should be looked at through an appraisal of what led to his arrest.
“Sowore, as a Nigerian, has a chance to protest against what he described as bad governance, but he and his likes should realise that the word revolution means a forceful change of government, which is equivalent to a coup in the military.
“No government in the world will fold its arms and watch someone calling for a revolution,” Ajibade stressed.