Activities under the umbrella of the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) came out en masse in Ikeja, the Lagos State capital on Wednesday to protest the continued detention of activist-politician and journalist, Omoyele Sowore.
Sowore, the CORE Convener and National Chairman and 2019 presidential candidate of African Action Congress (AAC) has been in the Department of State Service (DSS) detention since August 3, 2019.
Sowore was arrested in Lagos by DSS operatives two days to the kick-off of the group’s nationwide peaceful protests on August 5, tagged #RevolutionNow, as a result of the court order obtained by the DSS to hold him for 45 days in the first instance.
Other activists also still in detention included Agba Jalingo, arrested on August 9 and Abayomi OLawale, aka Mandate arrested on August 5.
The CORE activists had been holding nationwide peaceful protests, demanding the Federal Government to provide dividends of democracy for Nigerians as they maintained that the quality of life among the citizens had been deteriorating under the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
They had planned to resume the protests on Wednesday as well as October 1 in major cities of the country as well as in some selected Nigerian embassies outside the country.
As early as 6.a.m on Wednesday, hundreds of policemen and operatives of the DSS in battle gear invaded the Rights House complex of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) along Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja, venue of the resumed protests by the CORE activists.
At the same time, the security operatives also invaded Sahara Reporters Offices also in Ikeja in what the activists described as a Gestapo style akin to the nation’s police and DSS. The prevented people, including workers at the complexes, from accessing the facilities.
However, there was no hint of any arrests during the invasions in both the CDHR and the Sahara Reporters offices. There was also no report of injuries.
Sahara Reporters is a popular international online news medium owned by the embattled Sowore, politician cum activist.
However, as the security men were still at the complexes, the activists quickly regrouped under the Ikeja under-bridge roundabout, singing solidarity songs as they held their rally close to midday, during which they renewed their call for the release of Sowore and the other detained activists.
Olaseni Ajai, CORE Co-Convener, the major speaker at the protest, in a prepared statement, lamented what he termed as the Federal Government’s antagonism against activists and free speech in a democratic setting, stressing that the administration had derailed and lost focus.
He said: “Early this morning, the police and other security forces invaded the national office of the CDHR and Sahara Reporters Offices, in another desperate attempt to forcefully stop planned peaceful agitation against detention of activists without trial scheduled to start by 11.a.m (Wednesday).
“The CDHR is a human rights organisation and the Sahara Reporters is a media agency. That their offices could be invaded and sealed in this Gestapo like manner this morning in anticipation of protest, only confirms that the civil rights fought for over the years are crudely been removed by Buhari’s APC government.
“The right to speech, associate, protest and even to think are no more guaranteed under this neo- regime.
“However, our agitation for the immediate release of Omoyele Sowore, Agba Jalingo, Abayomi Olawale (Mandate) and all others currently being held in Buhari detention centres, and for the revolutionary transformation of the country continues.”
According to him, “Over 65 comrades are still facing trial for participating in the August 5 protests nationally. All these are attacks on our fundamental human rights and we are determined to stand our grounds in defence of our rights. They can only take away our rights if we allow them to do so.”
He stressed that so far, none of the demands of the #RevolutionNow had been addressed in anyway, regretting that what the citizens had been witnessing was intensification of further economic attacks on the Nigerian masses and non-implementation of the N30,000 national minimum wage and increase of tariff on electricity.
“These attacks and further society collapse only strengthen our resolve to continue with our campaign for the release of all political prisoners and for #RevolutionNow demands. A revolutionary process is not a one-day affair. It starts with the concrete desire for change by the masses and youth.
“We have deepened our unity with the organisations and activists working together with the CORE across the country and united we are demanding for the immediate release of Sowore and all political prisoners.”
He renewed call for the Federal Government to give to Nigerian a living wage, even as he lamented that till date the administration had not implement payment of the N30,000, which had been approved as the National Minimum Wage.
He also lamented that the economy had become so bad, while electrify had continued to deteriorate as Nigerians were being forced to pay high tariff on power, stressing that democracy dividends had continued to elude the citizens.
However, speaking on the police invasion, Emeka C Kalu, National Director, Special Duties, Peoples Democratic Party Youth Alliance (PDPYA) and Director-General, Atikulated Agenda Worldwide, said “It is bad to infringe on citizens’ right to exist or peaceful protest. This is against the norms of democracy and sounds dictatorial.
“Any country that uses force to infringe into citizens’ rights is nothing, but practising dictatorship. Every citizen has the right to indulge in a peaceful protest . Nigeria is setting a bad precedence. Their job is to even provide security to protect the protesters, not to stop them unless they become violent.”
Charles Anike, National President Eastern Union (EU), stated: “The invasion of the headquarters of CDHR is absolutely uncalled for. Is the government by that action think it can silence everybody? And prevent protests? That is the height of ignorant on the part of the APC government. The only solution is good governance.
“Nigerian people are too enlightened to be silenced just like that, forgetting the fact that the masses are still disorganised. The actions of the Buhari-led government are gradually forcing the people to get organised for inevitable revolution. Whether the government likes it or not, people must protest to resist its lawlessness. This is a government that is lawless that forces law abiding citizens to also be lawless.
“I think this government doesn’t know the fundamental principles of democracy and rule of law If a group of persons wishes to carry out a peaceful protest, what is wrong with that?. If a government is preventing people from protesting, it then means such governments have a lot to hide.
“They must bear in mind that he who makes peaceful change impossible will of course make violence change inevitable.This is a government that doesn’t believe in the judiciary once judgment is not in its favour, but influences the judiciary to pervert justice
Austin Ozobo. National President, Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative (IPDI), retorted, “This is unlawful act of Buhari-led government. It is highly condemnable.”
When contacted, Venerable Funso Awe, the 2019 governorship candidate of National Conscience Party (NCP), stated: “The Nigerian state has built a monster that will eventually consume it. The many years of mismanagement of governance is already staring us in the face.
“The millions of youth without any visible means of livelihood and the image of the Arab Springs in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria and the present happening in Hong Kong is what our government is afraid of. They forget to learn a lesson from the saying that: ‘Those who make peaceful change impossible will make violent change inevitable’.
“The solution to a revolution that will eventually gather enough momentum that will see the end of this political ineptitude is not in using the force of government to break the people, but is in providing good government, justice, human right and freedom to the people.
“Some people fought for independence from the foreign colonialists and as long as the people are not free many will fight for independence from the present localised colonialists who had cornered the commonwealth of the people.
“Like the struggle for independence it will start with peaceful protests but I do not rule out arm struggle. It might not be Sowore, it might not even carry a face, it will be spontaneous. I weep for my nation, I pray for Nigeria.”
However, Chibuike Iwu, Lagos State Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), said, “I believe the rule of law should be obeyed in all circumstance. If the organisers of the said protest followed the due process, thereby informing all relevant agencies for a peaceful and law abiding protest, the alleged invasion by the police should be condemned.
“It is the right of any citizen or group to protest against the government or its institutions seeking a change or redirection. For the past three months, the people of Hong Kong have been on the street protesting just because of one bill. The current government should also obey the rule of law.”