The undeniably violent, heavily armed, and merciless extremist group, Boko Haram, which has systematically decimated tens of thousands of Nigerians within the last 10 years, clearly remains 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, the 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 or combat hardware was ever discovered to actualise their vision.
Nevertheless, when IPOB was proscribed and declared a terrorist organisation, it was arrested and detained. However, after his release on bail, for the charge of treason, Kanu sensibly went underground, while several unidentified members were arrested, and in some cases, allegedly eliminated extrajudicially during the Operation Python Dance exercise conducted by the Army in the South-East in September 2016.
Although Kanu was widely rumoured to have been eliminated by government forces in the last onslaught on his father’s residence in Umuahia, Abia State, however, he 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, Kanu was again captured in a SaharaReporters’ video clip discussing the challenges to people’s freedom and welfare in Nigeria, with Omoyele Sowore who is the founder of SaharaReporters. 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 Jr 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, August 8, 2019, by the Department of State Services as exhibits 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 SaharaReporters’ video clip, of a brief chat with a popular old school musician, Edris Abdulkareem, Sowore gave notice of his plan to lead a mass protest, as from Monday, August 5, 2019, under the banner of #RevolutionNow.
Curiously, a few days after the release of this video clip, Sowore’s earlier prediction that “they would come after me” became clearly prophetic, as well-armed operatives from the DSS stampeded his hotel apartment in Ikeja, Lagos, in the early hours of Sunday, August 4, 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, August 5, with a plea that bail should be denied, so that the accused would remain in the DSS custody for 90 days for investigations to be concluded. Conversely, on Thursday, August 8, 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, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Prof Wole Soyinka, Major Adaka Boro, Chief Ralf Uwazurike, and Nnamdi Kanu, all of whom, evidently, still have mass following, even when their actions were considered to be treasonable by subsisting governments.
Although the above mentioned protagonists suffered incarceration for treason, they were ultimately released, often times, because of lack of evidence from their incarcerators. Regrettably, however, dissidents like Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and M.K.O. Abiola, who were also jailed for treason, did not survive their imprisonment. In contrast, Awolowo returned from jail to become the finance minister in Gen Yakubu Gowon’s regime, while Chief Olusegun 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 Awolowo and Obasanjo, or unexpectedly pay the ultimate price like Abiola and Yar’Adua who were also charged and convicted for treason!
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, in the worst case scenario, anytime spent in detention will probably give the media activist’s political equity, a huge boost. Conversely, his death while in incarceration may trigger unpredictable, destabilising consequences for our country’s future. Ultimately, the centre may not just hold! [PUNCH]