Listeners to The Daily Report programme on radio (7pm weeknights on Star FM 101.5) weighed in on the #RevolutionNow protest called by activist Omoyele Sowore, who was arrested and detained by the DSS two days earlier.
The security establishment said calling for a revolution in the country and under a democracy is treason, amount to a threat to public peace and has to be treated as such. But many public affairs commentators faulted the claim, saying that citizens have the right to protest in a democracy if they see things going wrong.
One such voice was Wole Soyinka, a figure familiar with all the intricacies of protests having been part of many in his lifetime.
“Deployment of alarmist expressions such as” treason “and”, “anarchist”, “public incitement” etc. by Security forces have become so predictable and banal that they have become meaningless,” the Nobel laureate said in a statement sent to The Daily Report.
“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,” the statement continued, adding that the situation was all reminiscent of the military years, especially under the Sanni Abacha regime .
“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.”
In the studio, public commentators Chas Ideho and Victor Okhai were the two guests on The Daily Report programme, aired on Monday night. Both men debated the merits and demerits of the protest, and whether it was justified.
Ideho, a journalist, argued that Sowore’s call for a revolution could be interpreted legally to mean sedition. “He was a presidential candidate during the last general elections in May,” Ideho argued. “He should have learned from the experience and let that help him prepare for the next elections. Calling for a revolution is not the right way to effect a change in government.”
He also condemned the group’s adoption of orange-coloured berets as a protest symbol.
Okhai, who also contested for the office of president, said there would have been no need to call for a revolution in the first place if things were as they should be. “If market no dey, people no go buy,” Okhai switching to pidgin english to explain his point.
He believed the government, in arresting Sowore, may “have wittingly or unwittingly fallen into a trap” set by the Sahara Reporters publisher.
“Getting himself arrested may have been his strategy. Now, Transparency International are interested in the case,” Okhai said.
In the course of the programme, host Ify Onyegbule asked a very telling question: “Would you say that the protest was dead on arrival or a storm in a teacup?” And minutes later, she posed another question: “Who is afraid of Sowore?”
Listeners wasted no time to respond — in tweets, whatsapp messages and phone calls.