The undeniably violent, heavily armed, and merciless Extremist Group, Boko Haram, who, have systematically, decimated tens of thousands of Nigerians, within the last 5 years or so, clearly remain the present major security threat to the Nigerian government; although, other ethnic, regional or political associations such as IPOB, MASSOB, Afenifere and PANDEF have at various times, openly decried perceived injustice and inequity in Government policies, these pressure groups have, so far, never been known for such violence nor do they resort to self-help. Admittedly, IPOB Leadership, under Nnamdi Kanu, has been more openly confrontational and even demanded self-determination, with the excision of the ‘Igbo nation’ from Nigeria, no consolidated military formations nor combat hardware was ever discovered to actualize their vision. Nevertheless, when IPOB was proscribed as a terrorist organization, the IPOB Leader was arrested and detained; however, after his release on bail, for the charge of treason, Kanu, sensibly went underground, while several unidentified IPOB members, were arrested, and in some cases, allegedly, eliminated extra-judicially, during the OPERATION PYTHON DANCE exercise, conducted by the Army, in South-East Nigeria, in September 2016.
Although Kanu, was widely rumored to have been eliminated by Government forces in the last onslaught on his father’s residence in Umuahia, Abia State, remarkably, however, the IPOB Leader, resurfaced several months later, in Israel, on media images which suggest that he must have embarked on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, after escaping from Nigeria. However, in July this year (2019), Nnamdi Kanu was again captured in a Sahara Reporters’ video clip, discussing the challenges to people’s freedom and welfare in Nigeria, with Omoyele Sowore who is the founder of Sahara Reporters. Although, there was no insinuation of treason or rebellion in that broadcast, the subterranean nuance was that both Sowore and Kanu agreed to put aside their individual differences, and work together, to emancipate Nigerians, from the clutches of corrupt and oppressive cabals and politicians, who have mismanaged our country’s political and economic space, since the 1996 Military Coup. Notably, however, there was clearly, no discussion of any plan on how the duo intended to achieve their goals.
Soon after the above meeting, another social media house, Objectv, also released a media clip of a gathering, in which Sowore was a Guest Speaker. In that clip, Sowore stated as follows: “After the (noble) legacy I left in the University of Lagos, (I showed) that I could sacrifice my life to protect all those who needed a future. I have brought myself out again and this is very instructive, “listen to it: they are going to come after me, there is no question about it. But it’s too late now. Like Martin Luther King said, “I have been to the mountain top and I have seen the Promised Land. It doesn’t matter what happens to me now. We will make sure that we get you there. Obviously, Sowore had no illusion that Buhari’s government would condone any reasonable advocacy for progressive change, that is not part of his government’s present, clearly, inchoate strategy to take Nigerians to the “Next Level.” Incidentally, the Objectv video clip was one of two clips, submitted on Thursday, 8th August 2019, by the DSS, as exhibit, in their case of Treason against Sowore in an Abuja High Court.
Similarly, in another chat with Arise TV, Sowore also reiterated his readiness, to lay down his life, in his bid to ‘digitally’ disrupt the Nigerian economic and political space, to the benefit of our country men and women. Remarkably, in his response to a question about his own safety, the media Activist declared, that, his life was no more valuable than the lives of countless, unheralded Nigerians, whose lives are mangled and snuffed out daily, by Government’s negligence and irresponsibility in the management of Nigeria’s affairs. Furthermore, a few days before his arrest, in another Sahara Reporters’ video clip, of a brief chat with a popular, old school musician, Idris Abdulkareem, Sowore gave notice of his plan to lead a mass protest, as from Monday 5th August 2019, under the banner of “#RevolutionNow.”
Curiously, few days after the release of this video clip, Sowore’s earlier prediction that “they would come after him” became clearly prophetic, as well-armed operatives from the Department of State Security, stampeded his hotel apartment in Ikeja, Lagos, in the early hours of Sunday, August 4th, and immediately ceased his mobile phone and briskly carted him away. Sowore was taken to Abuja later the same day, before any legal challenge could be made against his arrest. Furthermore, the DSS proceeded, thereafter, to an Abuja High Court on Monday, 5th August, with a plea that bail should be denied, so that the accused would remain in DSS custody for 90 days for investigations to be concluded. Conversely, on Thursday, 8th August, Justice Taiwo Taiwo ruled that, in the first instance, Sowore should only be detained for not more than 45 days, but agreed that detention could be extended, if necessary, after 45 days.
Incidentally, by his clearly, calculated declaration of #RevolutionNow, and the present charge of the crime of treason, Sowore now finds himself in a revered circle of respected and celebrated Nigerians, which include Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Professor Wole Soyinka, Adaka Boro, Ralf Uwazurike, and Nnamdi Kanu, all of whom, evidently, still have mass followership, even when their actions were considered to be treasonable by subsisting Governments. Although, the above mentioned protagonists, invariably, suffered incarceration for treason, but the were ultimately released, often times, because of lack of evidence from their incarcerators. Regrettably, however, dissidents like Shehu Musa Yaradua and M.K.O. Abiola who were also jailed for treason, did not survive their imprisonment. In contrast, Awolowo, returned from jail to become Finance Minister in Gowon’s regime, while Obasanjo was later released from prison to become Nigeria’s elected President, after the Military interregnum, in 1999. The ultimate question, however, must be, whether or not Sowore will escape an extended prison term, or worse still, death, if he is ultimately convicted for treason. Notably, however, the charge of treason against Sowore is pivotally predicated on his bid to promote a protest branded as “REVOLUTIONNOW” within Nigeria’s political space. Arguably, however, without any obvious capacity, or visible evidence of a supporting military force, whether overt or covert, or the requisite combat hardware, there can be no tangible evidence that could suggest a capacity to forcefully overthrow government. Nevertheless, the indications are, that, government will invariably still rest the crime of Treason on Sowore’s adoption of the caption “#RevolutionNow” to brand his protest.
Expectedly, Legal Authorities have surfaced on both sides of the divide to argue on whether or not Sowore’s message of revolution can be taken to accommodate a violent or forceful intervention to change Government, rather than a simple demonstration of his inalienable right to freedom of expression! Invariably the die is cast, and the ultimate outcome is whether or not Sowore would survive an extended prison sentence like some of his predecessors, such as Obefemi Awolowo and Olusegun Obasanjo, or unexpectedly pay the ultimate price like Abiola and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who were also charged and convicted for treason! Remarkably, however, for everyone, so far, convicted for treason in Nigeria, no evidence of military formation or impressive hardware or capacity to carry out a change in Government, was ever found to incontrovertibly prove guilt!
Curiously, the DSS may have, been led into a trap, as it is inconceivable, that Sowore did not predict the treasonable interpretation that security forces would give to his call for #RevolutionNow. Arguably, however, in the worst case scenario, anytime spent in detention will probably give the Media Activist’s political equity, a huge boost. Conversely, Sowore’s death while in incarceration may trigger unpredictable, destabilizing consequences for our country’s future. Ultimately, the centre may not just hold!!