By Emmanuel Otiotio
Many Nigerians thought it was a joke the threat of Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria to stage a nationwide protest tagged #revolutionisnow. Until when the convener of the group, Oyewole Sowore and other members were arrested by the Department of State Service (DSS).
The agitation of the group and the arrest have led to increased discourse about the issue. The DSS has confirmed the arrest of Sowore and cited his “crossing the line” for making statements to incite the general public to violently overthrow the present administration.
The group claims that its major aim was to bring to the fore the ills and injustices prevalent in Nigerian society.
Meanwhile, the presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu condemned the proposed protests, linking them to past bloody revolutions and coups in other countries. He said the protesters were hiding behind the veil of social media modernity and void of legitimacy to attempt to wreak havoc in the polity. The presidency said it is wholly against any undemocratic leadership but posited that the protest leaders should utilise the existing avenues for governmental change – ballot boxes and elections.
While some groups and individuals have commended the initiative of the group, other condemned the protests.
The President of Nigerian Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said he respects the right of protesters to peaceful protests but insisted such demonstrations should be targeted at specific issues that have been thoroughly contested in the appropriate quarters of the National Assembly. This would give a clear picture of the agenda behind the intended protests.
Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers state also completely detracted the protests, outrightly instructing security agents to prosecute and arrest anyone who participated in the protests. He warned the conveners to stay away from the state as the state did not support or believe in whatever the agenda the protests were set up for.
Among those standing in support of the protests and speaking against the arrest of Sowore, the loudest voice is arguably that of prominent human rights lawyer, Femi Falana. He has criticised the government’s misinterpretation of the word “revolution”. He claims the government and its agencies have jumped on the word and are utilising it as a justification for arresting Sowore. He also believes the labelling of the protests as “terroristic” and “treasonable” is extreme and unnecessary.
Another prominent promoter is renowned literary giant Professor Wole Soyinka. He has outrightly condemned the arrest of Sowore and the prevalent narrative that the protest aims to violently overthrow the government.
He warned the current administration against repeating past mistakes and remove cynical decision-making against the time-tested and proven democratic practice of public demonstration. He cited the examples of oppressive methods of countering protests under the Sani Abacha regime and urged the present administration to take criticism with grace as opposed to using unconstitutional means to silence detractors.
Generally, many Nigerians view the timing of these protests as wrong and somewhat suspicious given the political involvements of Sowore. Nevertheless, others are of the view that the DSS is becoming a political tool for every party in power and protector of the landlord in the Aso Rock.
I strongly believe that a revolution at this stage should focus on changing the mindsets through reorientation and public awareness campaign on good governance as opposed to a mass demonstration.
This caution is born from the current state of tension in the nation and many believe such a protest could be the spark that ignites the Nigerian tinderbox.
*Otiotio is a student in the Department of Mass Communication,
Mountain Top University,