Sowore's Persecution: What You Need to Know

Updated on January 2, 2020
Chibuike Austin Atasie profile image

Chibuike studied Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Nigeria. He is interested in society, news, politics and history.

The Nigerian polity has sparked international interest within the last 5 months. To a large extent, this is because of the spectacle of recent happenings in the country, which scream shame to the very tenets of democracy. On August 3rd, 2019, a human rights activist, freedom fighter, and a selfless custodian of democratism was arrested and detained for exercising his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression simply because he addressed his discontentment about what he perceived as an oppressive and tyrannical government.

Omoyele Sowore's apartment was invaded by the Nigerian State Security Service operatives, leading to his arrest after he posted a tweet that simply mentioned the word "Revolution." Sowore's only crime was making plans for an organized protest against the government he tagged as "RevolutionNow," questioning the credibility of the last conducted election results that facilitated the return of the All Progressive Congress Party, led by its Presidential Flagbearer, President Muhammadu Buhari.

This singular act was interpreted by the Department of State Service (DSS), who had the Federal Government's support in the arrest, as an attempt to overthrow the government. Sowore never directly implied this. The DSS was granted permission for Sowore's detainment by Justice Taiwo on an ex-parte basis, thus enabling the security operatives to take him custody without hearing from his lawyer. Sowore was charged with treason, money laundering, and spreading false information about President Buhari. Charges filed against the activist till now remain unsubstantiated. His supporters, outraged with the one-sided judgement took to the streets and social media to express their displeasure.

On the 24th of September 2019, Sowore was granted bail under conditions including confiscation of his international passport, but the DSS feinged ignorance of the court order and refused to release the incarcerated. This move sparked protests at the UN Plaza in New York, championed by his wife, Opeyemi Sowore, as she craved the international community's concern on her husband's ordeal.

The activist was held captive for 143 days. Within this period, Sowore lamented on many occasions about the inhumane treatment he was subjected to in the DSS confinement. He mentioned being restricted to the confines of a dark room without sunlight and being denied access to TV or the internet. A court order was given again for his release on December 5th, 2019; yet again in utter disregard for the law and authority of the judiciary, DSS operatives took another daring move in Sowore's re-arrest right in the court, under the very noses of the judge and other legal practitioners.

The international community expressed its disappointment as the United States Senators; Bob Mendez, Chris Coons and Chuck Schumer condemned the Nigerian government and security operatives for Sowore's illegal detainment. Sowore's family worried for his safety. His mother pleaded for her son's release, engaging her voice with thousands of other concerned Nigerians accross the nation.

Sowore was finally released on the 24th of December, 2019. We hope this point is where the Federal Government draws the curtain to this drama for good. Mr. Omoyele Sowore is not new to activism. He has been involved in and even led many movements and protests against anti-people governments in the country from his University days in the University of Lagos where he served as the President of the Students Union Government (SUG) in the mid-1990s. It is noteworthy also to mention that Sowore was also involved in the demand for change from military rule to civilian rule, which gave rise to the fourth republic.

Sowore founded the Sahara Reporters TV in 2006. This was a medium through which he has facilitated press presence, expression and media exposure of the happenings in Nigeria; the good, the bad and the ugly of 2019.

Sowore contested for the Presidency in the Nigerian General Elections under the African Action Congress Party he founded in 2018 of which he emerged fifth place.
Nigerian governments have long been in resistance to opposition in all forms, of which unarmed roadside protests, as well as social media protests and movements, are no exceptions. Nigerian leaders do not hesitate to make political prisoners, courageous people who publicly criticize them. That quality of leadership that requires the emotional maturity to withstand critique seems wanting in the Nigerian political space.

The apparatus of government in place is that which discourages liberalism, denies freedom, stunts national growth and progress, devalues the importance and sanctity of World and State given Fundamental Human Rights and disparages everything democracy stands for. A recent study at Harvard University singled Nigeria as a case study of a failed state. Maybe their confirmations are not so far-fetched.

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