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Omoyele Sowore. Image from Naija News.

Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of SaharaReporters and 2019 Nigerian presidential candidate on the platform of the African Action Congress (AAC), has been arrested by officers of Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) for organising the #RevolutionNow protests, a series of peaceful demonstrations for a better country which are set to begin today, 5 August, in 21 Nigerian cities, and which the police has labelled an act of treason and terrorism developed to “force a regime change in the country.” The arrest happened on Saturday, 3 August. Premium Times reports that “Sowore posted a distress tweet at exactly 1:25 am with an eyewitness confirming that his phone was forcefully taken from him,” the tweet reading ”DSS invades Sowore’s.”

Sowore’s lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, is reported to have said the following on Facebook:

This is a panic response from a decayed regime that is so sacred of its own shadow. Buhari’s despotism is now in full force. Nigerians are now preoccupied with the shenanigans of a morally bankrupt, economically backward and politically inept administration. The SSS which is supposed to be actively involved in curtailing insecurity across Nigeria has been turned into a tool of intimidation for a corrupt, clueless and incompetent government.

Let it be known that this irresponsible and highly reckless action will not deter conscientious and enlightened Nigerians from fighting for a better country. The #RevolutionNow Movement has come to stay and no dictator can stop it.

SSS spokesperson Peter Afunanya confirmed that Sowore was arrested “for threatening public safety, peaceful co-existence and social harmony in the country,” stating that the secret police is “’aware’ that Mr Sowore had been in touch with foreign actors to destabilise Nigeria.”

The development has been condemned by Wole Soyinka in a statement. “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,” Soyinka said. “We underwent identical cynical contrivances under the late, unlamented Sani Abacha, when he sent storm-troopers to disrupt a planning session for a similar across-nation march at Tai Solarin School, Ikenne.”

In response, the Federal Government accused Soyinka of “blackmail.” “You mentioned the name of Professor Wole Soyinka. Some of these critics of government are people whom we have great respect and admiration for,” stated President Buhari’s spokesperson Garba Shehu. “This is an unpardonable blackmail that cannot stop Police and other law enforcement agencies from doing their work.”

Activists have stated that they would go on with the protest.

At the time of writing, security agents have surrounded the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, in anticipation of protesters.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young, writer and journalist, is Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies and English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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