#RevolutionNow: Sowore’s arrest travesty, violation of fundamental rights ― Soyinka
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has described the Saturday morning arrest of Publisher of Sahara Reporters and convener of ‘#RevolutionNow’ protests, Omoyele Sowore, by the Department of State Services, as “a travesty and violation of the fundamental rights”
While also describing the arrest as “a terrorist midnight arrest”, Soyinka said Sowore’s utterances have not constituted any treasonable act against the claims of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu and the Department of State Services.
The presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 general election appeared to be at the vanguard of nationwide protests scheduled to hold on Monday, August 5.
Soyinka, in a statement made available on Sunday and titled: “Surely, Not Again!!!” said the “deployment of alarmist expressions” such as “treason,” “anarchist,” and “public incitement” by security agents was predictable and banal and that the expressions have become meaningless.
Likening Sowore’s arrest to the similar disruption of the planning of nationwide march under the command of late Sani Abacha, Soyinka added that Nigeria has failed to learn from history.
“Nothing that he said to me in private engagement ever remotely approached an intent to destabilise governance or bypass the normal democratic means of changing a government.
“I, therefore, find the reasons given by the Inspector-General for the arrest and detention of this young ex-presidential candidate totally contrived and untenable, unsupported by any shred of evidence.
“His arrest is a travesty and violation of the fundamental rights of citizens to congregate and make public their concerns.
“This is all so sadly déjà vu. How often must we go through this wearisome cycle?
“We underwent identical cynical contrivances under the late, unlamented Sani Abacha, when he sent storm-troopers to disrupt a planning session for a similar across-nation march at Tai Solarin School, Ikenne.
“This was followed up by a personalised letter that was hand-delivered by the State Security Services to me under their summons, at their Abeokuta so-called ‘Annexe,’ with near-identical wording to the threats contained in today’s release from the desk of the Chief of Police.
“At least, I was summoned, not subjected to a terrorist midnight arrest. Some irony!
“The same pattern Pavlovian conduct manifested itself under yet another supposed democratic ruler who personally declared that the gathering of civilians to deliberate on, and propose a constitution for the nation was ‘high treason’, and would be resisted by the full rigour of state power if we persisted.
“The Inspector-General of Police mobilised his forces and issued inflammatory proclamations, but PRONACO went ahead despite all the thundering from Aso citadel. Can the police ever learn anything also their tear-gassing and brutalising of grieving mothers who marched peacefully to protest the deaths of their children in a plane crash inferno?
“Their mission, under that same regime, which was simply to deliver a letter to government house in Lagos, demanding greater safety in airline operations, yet such a rational intent, born of traumatic circumstances, was quashed on the sidewalks of a supposed twentieth century nation.
“And yet again, even a faceless cabal under yet another civilian regime refused to be left out of the insensate play of power. A march on Aso Rock calling for an end to governance by a ghostly entity was slated to be crushed, but fortunately, a conflicting balance of interests decided in favour of a reduced trajectory of protest.
“And so on and on and on, in a nation which continues to speak at once through both sides of the mouth, spewing out the same Treason monotone, as if this was a magic incantation that could substitute for the venting of mass feelings, even as collective therapy.
“Religious bodies have urged such remedies, so have civic associations. The ready recourse to arrests, incarceration and threats to civilians are ultimately counter-productive. They alienate the citizens, erode their confidence in governance responsiveness, and thereby advance the very extremist nightmare that security agencies believe they are acting to thwart.
“If we cannot learn from the histories and experiences of other societies, let us at least learn from ours. Freedom is not so glibly qualified. It cannot be doled out like slops of charity from soup kitchens. Let the Police stick to their task of protecting and managing protests, not attempt to place their own meaning and declaration of intent on bogey words like – revolution,” he added.