The Nigerian polity has been extremely heated following the arrest of the convener of #RevolutionNow movement, Omoyele Sowore – who was a presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the February 2019 presidential election. Sowore was arrested in the early hours of Saturday, August 3, 2019, in a hotel in Lagos by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and taken to Abuja, the following day.
The #RevolutionNow movement, under the auspices of the Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria, had called on the citizenry to march – in protests across States of the federation – against bad governance on August 5, 2019.
“This series of marches and rallies will continue until we have the Nigeria of our dreams,” they said.
All the noise
Sowore had in a series of video clips, in July 2019, lamented over the style of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and, thus, made public his intention for a revolution.
“We want a very clean, quick, succinct revolutionary process – surgical. That will put an end to the shenanigans of government that will put an end to oppression, the corruption of government,” he asserted.
Therefore, as the group set out to protest on August 5, 2019, it packaged its demands in three phases. First Phase: End anti-people economic policies, Second Phase: End special privileges for the ruling class and Third Phase: Return political power and national wealth to the working people.
Some of the contents of the different phases include among others: payment of #30,000 minimum wage, freedom for all political prisoners including Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, sack of all incompetent service chiefs, provision of prepaid meters for free, abolition of tuition fees in all secondary and tertiary institutions and putting an end to killings in the country.
Even as Sowore, the leader of the revolution movement, was already cooling off in the custody of the DSS in Abuja, members of movement went ahead with the protests especially in some parts of the country amidst the presence of security operatives who fought hard – by the use of tear gas and arrests – to stop the protests.
“There is nowhere in our Constitution or laws that the security agencies are empowered to so brazenly attack peaceful protests and hound its organisers into detention as the right to peaceful protests, assembly and association, is fully guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under Sections 39 and 40,” said the General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC), Peter Ozo-Eson, on August 7, 2019, in defense of Sowore.
The Presidency has already accused Sowore of treasonable felony while the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC), through a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, justified the arrest of Sowore and reiterated that his call for a revolution was a treasonable offence no government in the world would tolerate it.
“The All Progressives Congress (APC) calls on Nigerians to reject the toxic messages and criminal antics of some individuals and partisans who have embarked on a campaign of calumny against the government and are calling for a forceful takeover of government. They are cowards and enemies of Nigerians,” the APC said.
Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer, however, says President Muhammadu Buhari and his government will be stupid to charge Sowore with a treasonable felony. “Meanwhile, the man who is accused of causing a revolution is in detention and many Nigerians have asked me: ‘But Femi, that young man went too far. How can you be calling for revolution?’ and I said. ‘Where is the offence? Under what section? Treason? Under what section of the criminal code?” he said.
Meanwhile, a Federal High Court in Abuja, presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, on August 8, 2019, granted the DSS permission to detain Sowore for 45 days – which lapses on September 21 – in order to investigate him for treason-related allegations.
5 reasons why a revolution will not happen anytime soon in Nigeria.
1. A crowd costs two for a penny!
In June 2018, the World Poverty Clock named Nigeria ‘the poverty capital of the world’. The statistics showed that Nigeria had 87 million people living in extreme poverty. And, according to reports, the number of Nigerians in extreme poverty increases by six people every minute.
Governments, past and present, understand this handicap and almost always have an immediate response to any societal upheaval. In Abuja, the country’s administrative and political capital, a counter force was quickly mobilized in truck loads for a fee to quell the #RevolutionNow protest. Sadly, ours is a country where a crowd hired in the morning for the opposition can quickly metamorphose into a pro-government machine by evening.
2. We smoke religion and defend ‘our own’
With diverse ethnic nationalities and several religious affiliations, the administrators often consider Nigeria a modern day Tower of Babel to be exploited. Rather than harness its diversity, most issues in Nigeria have always been seen from ethnic and religious prisms. A critic of one leader is often perceived as an attack on the larger ethnic stock or religious entity.
We smoke religion and constantly chew on ethnic bias. Not a surprise that the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, (ACF), a political and cultural organization in the North, on August 6, 2019, condemned the #RevolutionNow protest. The President-General of the group, Yerima Shettima, described it as meaningless. “I do not agree with the calling for revolution now, I think it’s meaningless.”
Meanwhile, Afenifere, a pan Yoruba socio-cultural organization, did not come clean to condemn the protest.
For as long as religion is served as an opium in Nigeria, so would it remain a huge task to build a consensus for sustained civil disobedience and bloodless overthrow of despised regimes.
3. Trust, a scarce commodity
Many have come to believe that we are a country of too many failed promises. So much so that citizens rarely trust those who offer themselves for leadership. Trust has become such a scarce commodity that citizens hardly heed mobilization calls for fear of the unknown.
In Lagos and Abuja, the #RevolutionNow group, from evidence gathered, could hardly muster a thousand persons for a sustained campaign. The protests fizzled out almost as soon as they began.
Fear of the unknown, indeed, fear of being abandoned should the worst happen in the course of the ‘struggle’, are real concerns citizens do not want to offer themselves for mobilization, and a so called revolution.
4. A million times, selfish interests rule!
In Nigeria, the selfish interests of a certain group or a class of people are usually the dominant driving force for a given political project.
In the 2012, the #OccupyNaija protests that saw the likes of Muhammadu Buhari, John Oyegun, Nasir El-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, among others, march on Abuja against the then President Goodluck Jonathan administration were all perceived, and rightly so, as an agenda borne out of their collective political aspirations.
It would be a tough challenge in Nigeria to mobilize people across opposing political divides for a common cause. This, perhaps, explains why chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, maintains that Sowore’s call for a revolution is because he lost in his bid to become a President in the 2019 presidential election.
5. Drowning in blissful ignorance
According to reports, over 60 million Nigerians are illiterates. Sadly, the population is still growing. What we have is a nation almost drowning in blissful ignorance.
The question often asked is how can a colony of miserable illiterates, sitting in blissful ignorance, spearhead a #RevolutionNow when they cannot define or decipher what their rights are.
Total or partial ignorance drives apathy and one dares argue that a revolution in a clime like ours looks every inch a fruitless venture.