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Omoyele Sowore. Image from Naija News.

Nearly two months after the arrest of Sahara Reporters publisher and 2019 Nigerian presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore on 3 August 2019, the Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered his immediate release, following the conclusion of investigation into his #RevolutionNow movement. The 24 September decision, reports Premium Times, stated, in the paper’s wording, that “there was no extant order allowing Mr Sowore’s further detention by the State Security Service.” Sowore, who is represented by the legal powerhouse Femi Falana, was also ordered to deposit his international passport within 48 hours.

“The order of the court has expired,” stated the judge Taiwo Taiwo. “It has not been renewed and cannot be renewed in view of the motion ex-parte earlier withdrawn. The liberty of all Nigerians high or low, poor or rich, is guaranteed by the constitution. It’s for this end that I’m of the view that the defendant ought to be released forthwith.”

Sowore’s detention was widely condemned by Nigerians, including Wole Soyinka, who issued 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 had 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.”

English PEN has since released a statement in support of Sowore.

It remains to be seen—and how did this even become an issue in a democracy?—whether the Federal Government will comply.

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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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