By Lawal Ogienagbon
Is Omoyele Sowore Plotting To Overthrow Buhari Government
Give it to him. Omoyele Sowore, founder of the African Action Congress (AAC), has a way of drawing attention to himself. The SaharaReporters publisher is also good at forcing the hand of government. When a few weeks ago, he unveiled his plan for what he called #RevolutionNow protests, the former students leader set tongues wagging. Not a few asked: “What is Sowore up to this time?” As a veteran of many battles, he knew what he was doing, but many in government did not.
In his characteristic manner, he wanted to draw the government out and he succeeded in his mission. I had hoped that the government would just look the other way and allow him and his co-travellers to hold their rallies in the 21 cities they were billed for. Rather than do that, state security officers went to smoke him out of his hotel room in the wee hours of Saturday. Really, you do not talk of revolution and expect the security agencies not to act. But they should have known better.
Sowore may have used the word “revolution”, but going by his antecedents, he is the last person that will seek a forceful change of government, which is the meaning of revolution. What did he have in mind when he spoke of #RevolutionNow protests? The protests in the slogan should have given the game away. But the police and the Department of State Services (DSS) read it differently. They saw a revolutionary in the making and quickly moved to stop him before he could ‘’overawe’’ the government! The intention of the champions of #RevolutionNow was not to unseat the government.
Their plan was to draw attention to the shortcomings of the government more than two months after its second coming. Those in power read ulterior motives into Sowore’s move because he contested the February 23 election and lost to President Muhammadu Buhari. So, the thinking in government was that an election loser could not be up to anything good with such a plan. It was then decided that he must be stopped before he caused trouble. Sowore, like many of his compatriots have had it up to their throats with the government, but one thing is for sure, they will never seek to ‘’overawe’’ the President.
Losing an election should not be used as an excuse to stop a contestant from criticising the government. To seek to use that to stop people from speaking out against the government will amount to denying them their right to freedom of expression, thought and good governance. The government does not have the monopoly of wisdom. It needs ideas from others, especially the opposition for the good governance of the country. Speaking out against the government is not a crime and it must not be made to look like one. Sowore may have assumed too much with his slogan #RevolutionNow.
By that slogan, he was not out to lead a revolution; he was only using it to remind the people of the need to hold the government accountable. He knows that you cannot talk of a revolution with a sitting government in place, except the people are so resolved to push it out. The people may be disenchanted with the present administration, but they know they can only change it at the polls and not on the streets marching. For now, revolution is not the way to go and that may be why, the #RevolutionNow protests ended before it even started on Monday.
If only the security agencies had bide their time, they would have seen that the much expected #RevolutionNow was only full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Declaring it as treason, as Inspector-General Mohammed Adamu did, even before the day of the event, was a panicky measure. To compound things, the DSS arrested Sowore. At the end of the day, they may spoil an otherwise good case by their hasty actions. They should have allowed Sowore and his people be and let the citizenry determine the fate of the AAC founder as they did at the February 23 presidential poll. They have held Sowore for over 48 hours now, without bringing any charge against him. If he should go to court to enforce his right, chances are that he may win. In the course of writing this on Tuesday, DSS went to court to seek an order to keep him in custody for 90 days.
The security agencies should not assume that they can think for the people. Nigerians are no fools. They can no longer be led by the nose. They know when to take to the streets and those who can lead them out. More important, they know the cause they should support and the one they should not be part of. Sowore has called for his revolution and seen the answer. The people spoke loud and clear – revolution is not the way to go. The people, and not the police with their guns, stopped the protests on Monday. If the people had turned out in large number for the protests, the police would have been overwhelmed. No amount of shooting and teargas would have stopped such a people.
By the way, we should draw a line between revolution and protest. There is nothing wrong in protesting against government, but revolution is a different ball game. If a revolution fails, the consequences are dire for its champions. But has Sowore committed any offence under the present circumstance because of his call for #RevolutionNow protests? Was it a call for revolution or for protests? It was more a call for protests and not for the taking up of arms against the government. The government should rest this matter now and release Sowore and others arrested on Monday.