Nigeria’s ‘Revolutionaries’ Win Early Rounds

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Published August 11, 2019

Sonala Olumhense

First, they arrived in the small hours and , proceeding as if Omoyele Sowore owned a small army of his own , seized the political activist from his hotel room .

Then , after confirming to the world they indeed had him , they kept him without filing any charges beyond the time- frame allowed by law .

Then they asked a court for 90 days to investigate the very “terrorism ” charges for which they said they had picked him up in the first place .

In a decision that was far more political than legal, the judge fed Sowore to them for 45 days , specifying that should they wish to keep him beyond that , they should come and get it.

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Somewhere in the Kingdom of Paranoia , some people commenced spending federal funds in drinking , dining and dancing , in a revelry of victory .

That is because they understand only the temptations of power but little of history or strategy . In other words , they failed to see that to the revolutionaries have gone the triumph of the early rounds of battle .

First, this is not about Sowore : it is about every Nigerian who has been compromised and devalued by the state since October 1 , 1960 . When the revolutionaries talk about revolution, they do not mean a government , any government , but the totality of that devaluation and generation.

Why a “ revolution,” and not just a protest ? The truth is that there is a time for protests , and we have already had rites of passage such as the Occupy Nigeria event of January 2012 against the Goodluck Jonathan government , which was supported by all the political groupings that later came together as the All Progressives Congress ( APC ).

Those protests were important , but while limited in scope , they were profitable in the long run to the APC , which is now fundamentally worse than its predecessors . As events have unfolded , it is clear that the Muhammadu Buhari government was Nigeria ’ s last chance at any semblance of progress by instalments, a hope it has betrayed and vacated.

That is why a lot of Nigerians , asking “ What next?” have reached the conclusion that only a revolution, as a popular rejection of the retrogression and decay — but not the kind you can put on the calendar — is inevitable . Three times in this column since October 2009 , I have urged Nigerians to take the streets .

The arrest of Sowore was a mistake by the government and a masterstroke for the “ revolutionaries. ” To begin with , it provides the idea with a face . A revolution does not require a persistent soundtrack or voice as much as it needs a symbol . Such an identifiable symbol speaks louder than words , and the Buhari government has enacted one in Sowore .

Next, by identifying Sowore as an opponent , the Buhari government ingests a political poison because he was one of those elements that made the Buhari breakthrough possible in 2015 . Through SaharaReporters in the eight years between 2007 and 2015 — and in spite of the website’ s excesses — Sowore made possible the kind of scorched- earth reporting and commentary that yielded Buhari ’s electorate .

In the first part of that period , the mainstream media didn’ t even accept

SaharaReporters or even refer to it by name . The concept of “ Citizen Reporting ” was anathema to it. But SaharaReporters fearlessly published major stories of malfeasance that the media , particularly its compromised components, would not touch .

By 2012 , however , SaharaReporters had become compulsory reading for top government officials , one of whom confessed to me he did nothing on any day until he had ensured that SaharaReporters didn’t have him in a chokehold . The website began to enjoy international success, which always means greater domestic attention , and the level of fearlessness in reporting of the local media rose significantly .

That favoured the opposition and enabled the coming- to – power of Buhari . In other words , the Buhari phenomenon owes its essence to SaharaReporters and Sowore . That is a debt that became lodged in its throat as Buhari flopped in office . I object to coups and violent changes of government , but fully support the right of the people to scream in the streets in search of justice .

Sowore , like many others , ran for the presidency this year — out of frustration I imagine — and predictably , lost . His revolution revelation followed , reflecting that Buhari ’s strongest cheerleaders have become his fiercest rejectors. If he willingly accepted their free support, he should accept their free rejection .

I hear people describe Sowore in unflattering terms , as if only saints lead revolutions , protests , military coups , political parties or even governments .

And no , I do not know everywhere Sowore has been. In principle , whoever knows any whorehouses he owns , any loot he has cornered or any sewers in which he has bathed should freely demonstrate them : a strategy I believe he would welcome .

But when he speaks of a revolution, he speaks for many Nigerians who feel their country has no future unless she purges herself or is purged . That is why I am convinced that he is currently ahead of the reactionary elements , and why the revolutionaries have won the first few rounds .

Here is how : First, and with the help of the Buhari government , they have now firmly planted the subject of revolutionin Nigeria , with the Buhari government eagerly watering it. The more vicious the government gets — as opposed to being more effective in governance — the stronger that plant will flourish.

Second , by arresting Sowore , the powers-that – be played further into the hands of the revolutionaries , helping to spread the word internationally . The European Union and several human rights organisations made statements last week , reported by the biggest news agencies .

Among others , the Sowore story will continue to underline the failures of Buhari as a leader, including his contempt for the rule of law and human rights, and how his work is so markedly different from his word . And Nigerians continue to point at the official ineptitude , election- rigging and corruption double – face that characterises the current government .

Of his # RevolutionNow , Sowore is on record as denouncing violence , contrary to the government ’ s propaganda . “We don ’t want war ,” he said last month . “ We want a very clean , quick , succinct revolutionary process . ”

It is a shame that in 2019 , having allegedly won a second term, the Buhari government is looking for enemies and critics , instead of into a mirror .

And now , they are celebrating because they think they have seized a troublemaker. They do not know it, but what they have achieved is to invite the cat among the pigeons . The government acts like a man who , affirming that cancer is dangerous out there , chooses to swallow it.

The government wants to fight outrage by suppressing it? Congratulations are in order . But that is a lot of outrage , outside the fortified gates of Aso Rock , to suppress .

The government should build more prisons and buy more bullets, given that its leading lights think so hopelessly of their own schools, hospitals and roads they send their families abroad .

They want to suppress the very outrage they have spurned , but must remember : in a real revolution you receive no date on the calendar , and there will be nowhere to run .

The formula for peace remains unchanged : serve ! Serve your people , not yourselves .

Copyright PUNCH

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