By Lateef Adewole
The biggest and most trending issue today in Nigeria is Sowore’s travails in the hands of the DSS. It broke the internet for many days, following the incident that happened between him and the Department of State Security (DSS) agents at the Federal High Court, Abuja, last week Friday 6th of December. His case was just adjourned that day by Honourable Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu to February 11, 2020.
The gestapo-style with which the DSS tried to re-arrest him at the court, the video footage of which has been trending on all social media for days, has been the subject of discussions and analysis, both online and offline, as well as print and electronic media. The incident has caused unimaginable embarrassment to Nigeria and Nigerians globally.
There have been different versions of the narration of the incident as it happened on that day, with Sowore’s group, claiming the DSS tried to arrest him inside the court, an allegation that the DSS vehemently refuted. I have watched the video over and over, to make my own personal deductions.
From all accounts, various narrations and the video, from the inside of the court, I could see only one man in suit, who emerged from under Sowore from where they both fell, and seemed to be the target of attack by the Sowore’s supporters. He was previously positioned like he was the person who tried to bundle Sowore out of the court, before both of them fell to the ground. He was obviously holding on to Sowore. As he stood up, the supporters began to challenge him, asking who he was, to which he had no response. All he was concerned about was how to escape from the mob, as he looked like a “lone-ranger”. He is the only one I could suspect to be a DSS operative.
In summary, it must have been that Sowore, who by now must be familiar with many of the DSS agents, their appearances and modus operandi, after spending about 126 days in their custody, sighted them at the court premises as he made to step out of the court. He then quickly dashed back into the court, causing commotion, with mob action from his supporters who prevented DSS from getting to him. This led to the disruption of the subsequent court proceeding which was already going on.
The Judge had to abandon her case, and was hurriedly ferried into the inner court chamber for her safety. Nigerians have not witnessed such show of shame in our country for a very long time.
After the fracas, Sowore’s lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, was said to have agreed to drive him personally to the DSS office to answer any question they might have, according to what they gave as their reasons for the ambush. Unfortunately, he has been detained since then and held without any warrant of arrest or court order.
What made the incident obnoxious was the fact that the same DSS just released Sowore and Bakare the previous night, around 7.30pm. They were even paid a compensation of one hundred thousand naira, as directed by the judge in her last court order, after two previous ones were blatantly flouted. A situation that Justice Ijeoma praised them to high heaven for, unknown to her what was lucking around her court.
So, despite series of press releases by the organisation, as to disproved the current narrations, as well as statements from the presidency supporting them, to which they have also been receiving serious backlashes, the damage is already done.
Immediately the incident happened and criticisms began to trail DSS and the president, my friends who are APC members and those Buhari supporters tried to exonerate the president from it, saying he would not have known about it. We agreed that if that was the case, President Buhari must distance himself from such undemocratic action, and show that by promptly sacking the head of that agency and all who were involved.
At least, that was how Nigerians gave the then Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, the benefits of doubt, when he speedily sacked Lawan Daura, the then DG of DSS, after the same agency staged a “coup” against the lawmakers, when they took over the national assembly last year. However, the statements from the presidency, supporting and justifying that action of the DSS operatives pulled rugs off my friends’ feet. They have become mute ever since. That was indefensible.
All these actions and responses from the federal government have attracted condemnations both nationally and globally. These have made them to be seeking escape route to do damage control. The leader of the DSS team who invaded the court premises, was said to have apologised to Justice Ijeoma who later summoned them. The FG, through the Attorney General of the federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has set up a committee to investigate what actually transpired. He has directed that the DSS hands over the Sowore’s case file to his office. Something like putting the cart before the horse.
Individuals and groups are taking stand on the issue. Bodies like the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has condemned it. The most unbelievably courageous action came from the management of the media house; The Punch groups, who have taken a clear, unequivocal position on all that have been happening in Nigeria, since the coming of this administration in 2015. This was published in their editorial of Wednesday, 11th of December, 2019, titled; “Buhari’s Lawlessness: Our Stand”. This was with regards to the different human rights abuses, disobedience of court orders, infringement on citizens’ free speech, gagging critics, and many more. Some other media houses are taking a cue from that.
The Sowore’s incident has generated unnecessary negative global outrage, putting “President” Buhari and the current “administration” (I won’t follow Punch line o!) in bad light as becoming autocratic. It has given Nigerian government bad publicity.
Sadly, the same “revolution” they feared might have subtly began to take roots in peoples’ hearts. And might be a matter of time before people actually revolt if nothing is done quickly to reverse the current trend. This is a situation which could have been totally avoided, if all these thoughtless actions were not taken in the first place.
In my article of 10th of August, 2019, titled: “#RevolutionNow: Right Cause, Wrong Actor, Wrong Timing”, just after Sowore was arrested by DSS on 3rd of August, 2019, there, I opined that, had Sowore not been arrested but was left to his devices, his call for “revolution” protest slated for the 5th of August, 2019, would have died a natural death, given the incoherent nature of the arrangements and for the fact that, many people were disinterested in such mass action at the time. That was barely 62 days after the swearing in of the current administration for their second term in office.
But now, his arrest, lengthy incarceration, refusal to release him despite two earlier valid court orders, his gestapo-style arrest at the court last week and the contempt of court by the executive arm, have all given life to Sowore’s call. He has now won sympathy of many people, home and abroad, to the extent that some people were shown in a recent video, mobbing President Buhari’s entourage in London when he last went on private vacation there.
Foreign countries leadership and their elected officials are now showing more than passing interest in his case. Amnesty International
(AI) has tagged him and some others in similar condition, “Prisoners of Conscience”, an appellation that Sowore may not really deserved in the past, given his own antecedents too. He was part of vicious mobs, who bombarded the last administration with all kinds of attacks, until they were pushed out of government.
This was done to the benefits of President Buhari as candidate and his party, APC, in 2015 general elections, while they were in opposition at the time. They got power. Unfortunately, same people are the ones under whose government, Sowore could not do what he knew how to do best. He is paying dearly now. Do we call this karma? His lawyer, Mr. Falana also belonged to that mob then (with all due respect). The court orders he ever got since 2015 for his different clients have been obeyed more in breach. El-Zakzaky and the likes come to mind.
So, with the way things are going, the general perception of the president and his government is that, he is “relapsing” to his comfort zone of military style of rulership, as against his claim of being a “born-again democrat”. Many actions of his appointees and agencies under his control smack intolerance, impunity, and anti-democratic tendencies. These are unacceptable in a democracy.
President Buhari, who we believe is running his second and “final” term as Nigerian president, will do well not to allow sycophants, political jobbers, selfish and self-centred associates, to railroad him into destroying our hard-fought, hard-earned democracy, while they tell him all is well. All is not well, Mr. President!
There is urgent need for redemption and redress in many areas, particularly where they bother on human right abuses and poverty in the country. It is the president’s legacy that is at stake. All those going rogue in the name of the president will not be called to account by the people. When history of Nigeria beckons, it is Buhari’s name that will be prominently mentioned as the man in charge, for good or for bad. Afterall, the bulk stops on his table. What legacy will President Buhari like to be remembered for?
May God gives President Buhari, the wisdom and the will to always do the right things, at appropriate time. Time to act is now, before it becomes too late.
A word is enough for the wise.
God Bless Nigeria.
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