RevolutionNow! Wole Soyinka, Femi Falana Condemn Sowore’s Arrest

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….as Organizers Release Rules of Engagements for Protests

SWITZERLAND, AUGUST 5- Opinion leaders and human rights activists including Nobel Laureate Wole SOyinka and Lawyer, Femi Falana have comdemned the arrest of Wole Sowore for organizing protests scheduled for Monday, tagged Revolution.

The government had explained that the use of the word ‘Revolution’connotes an attempted overthrow of the government.

In a statement available to Today’s Echo, Soyinka slammed the government, saying Buhari is behaving like the late dictator, Sani Abacha.

Deployment of alarmist experessions such as “treason”, “anarchist”, “public incitement” etc. by Security forces have become so predictable and banal that they have become meaningless. Beyond the word ‘revolution, another much mis-used and misunderstood word, nothing that Sowore has uttered, written, or advocated suggests that he is embarking on, or urging the public to engage in a forceful overthrow of government. Nothing that he said to me in private engagement ever remotely approached an intent to destabilize 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 personalized letter that was hand delivered by the State Security Services to me under their ummons, 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 mobilized 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 brutalizing 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!

May I invite the Inspector-General to wade through the daily journals of the past few weeks and months, read and digest the calls by numerous sectors of society – across professions and national groupings – for demonstrations against the parlous conditions of society, all identifying ills to which attention must be drawn, and urgently, through mass action? Demonstrations and processions are time honoured, democratic ways of drawing not only the attention of government to ills, but of mobilizing the public towards a proactive consciousness of their condition, and thereby exhorting civil society also to devise means of ameliorating their condition through their own efforts? 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!

In a related development, the #RevolutionNow Organizers have released the ‘Rules of Engagement’ for Tomorrow’s massive protest all over Nigeria. Below is a statement by the group;

“The Coalition of Revolution (CORE) seizes this opportunity to call on mass of Nigerians who have shown tired of the suffering in the land and the oppressive system that keeps enriching the rich at the expense of the poor.””It is no gainsaying that the Country has been plunged into crises by bereft leadership who have turned the Country into a ‘business centre’.”

“CORE is reiterating all the demands at this hour for proper clarification as usual.””The Police may have to explain to the world how the following listed demands would lead to a violent protest and treasonable felony like the Police PRO, DCP Frank Mba stated in the Force Press Release issued yesterday.”

“We understand that this is the crude old trick of the State to create fear in the minds of oppressed to delay their day of freedom.””But it is more glaring this time around that Nigerians have taken their destinies in their hands and are saying Enough is Enough to hardship, insecurity, insurgency, incessant killings, epileptic power supply, disrespect of court orders, blatant abuse of power and office, embarrassing corruption.”

DEMANDS
1. An economy that works for all and not a handful of individuals, banks and foreign multi-nationals.

2. An effective and democratic end to insecurity and insurgency.

3. An end to systemic corruption and for total system change in the interest of all.

4. The immediate implementation of the 30,000 naira minimum wage at all levels in the public service as agreed with the trade unions.

5. Education as an enforceable right and not a priviledge.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

1. We eschew all forms of violence. No protester should throw any object as little as stones or attack any security officials.We are aware of their intent to provoke the mass unduly by using undue tactics and sponsored agents, so as to give the protest a bad name.We encourage all Nigerians to remain calm as we are ready to fight these injustices to a logical conclusion.

2. If you would come with water, make sure you come with water ONLY in plastic bottles. We say NO to glass wares.

3. Irrespective of the colour orange recognized as the insignia of the protest, everyone is free to come dressed in ANY colour.


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