On Tuesday 12 November, over 100 activists in Abuja and about 60 in Lagos demonstrated in front of the offices of the secret police, the self-styled Department of State Services (DSS), in these two cities. They were protesting the continued detention of Omoyele Sowore, National Chair of the African Action Congress (AAC) and leading voice of the #RevolutionNow campaign, in contravention of court orders.
The secret police fired live rounds and pepper spray/teargas cannisters to disperse the protesters in Abuja. Some of them, as well as journalists such as Richard Oludare of The Guardian and Walter of Galaxy TV were brutally beaten up. But the activists resolve to continue the struggle for the release of all political prisoners and revolutionary transformation of the country remains unshaken.
In a press conference addressed on Wednesday 13 November by leaders of the Coalition for Revolution (CORE), Enough is Enough (EiE) and the Campus Unit of the Take It Back movement, they informed that demonstrations will continue intermittently until the right thing is done and Sowore as well as all other political prisoners are released.
Nigerians in London also organised a demonstration on 14 November. This was the latest in a series of protests demanding the release of Sowore, which commenced a fortnight back in Britain. And it took place in front of the Abuja House of the Nigerian High Commission, where they booed President Buhari, chanting “ole! Ole! Ole! (thief! Thief! Thief!), as he drove by. ‘Yele Sowore is equally protesting his illegal, illegitimate and obnoxious incarceration. He has been on hunger strike for almost a week now.
In a gangster-like operation, the DSS abducted Sowore from his hotel room in Lagos, on 3 August. This was meant to scuttle the 5 August flag-off of the #RevolutionNow campaign with #DaysOfRage, by the Coalition for Revolution (CORE), based on 5-core demands. On the flag-off date, the state rolled out combined teams of the army, air force, anti-riot police and paramilitary forces in all state capitals across the country.
Despite this reactionary show of force, CORE activists, including members of the AAC/Take It Back (TIB), Socialist Workers League and several other organisations protested in 14 states in the country and nine other cities across the world. The 5-core demands; an economy for the masses, an effective and democratic end to insecurity, an end to systemic corruption, immediate implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage and free and qualitative education for all, received massive support from working-class people and youth.
At least 57 people were arrested on 5 August, in seven states of the federation. These included five journalists and several protesters such as Olawale “Mandate” Bakare, a 21-year old leader of the TIB movement in the university town of Ile-Ife, and more than a dozen members of the SWL in four of these locations.
The DSS approached the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, where it sought for permission from Justice Taiwo Taiwo on 8 August, to hold Sowore without trial for 90 days whilst conducting investigation. The judge granted 45 days in the first instance. On 24 September, after a 7-count charge including treasonable felony, money laundering and the insulting the president were levied against Sowore, Justice Taiwo granted him bail on the condition that his lawyer submits the international passport of the prisoner of conscience.
In a macabre twist of the government’s shameless and unjust drama of the absurd, the bail order was not only rebuffed, the case was taken out of Mr Taiwo Taiwo’s hands and consideration made to discipline the judge on account of his decision. There was a loud outcry and the lie that someone being tried for treasonable felony was not entitled to bail shown for what it was with several examples in the country’s history.
This stayed the state’s hand from laughably dragging Justice Taiwo Taiwo to court. But it still went ahead to assign the case to a judge that has proven more malleable to the regime’s draconian dictates. The justice is Ms Ijeoma Ojukwu, who took up the case on 30 September. She granted bail to Sowore and Bakare with preposterously stringent conditions on 4 October.
These included bail bonds of N100m and N50m for Sowore and “Mandate” respectively (with N50m and N20m respectively of this sum deposited with the court) and barring them from any form of protest or public speaking. Sowore was also ordered to remain in Abuja until the end of the determination of the trumped case against the defendants, despite the fact that he has never been domiciled in that city, now was he arrested there. And “Mandate” Bakare was ordered not to leave his place of residence in Osogbo.
Mr Femi Falana, the radical senior advocate and lead counsel for the two comrades filed for bail variation. On 18 October, Justice Ojukwu reviewed the bail conditions by slashing the bail bonds to N50m and N20m for Sowore and “Mandate”, respectively. The other unnecessarily harsh conditions remained unvaried.
Nonetheless, the required conditions were met and Justice Ojukwu signed a warrant of release on 4 November, well after the 90 days that the secret police requested in Act 1, Scene 1 of this pantomime where the emperor stands naked before the judgment of history and today’s struggle. But, like those whom the gods first make mad before making them hang themselves, the regime denies Sowore, Mandate (and other political prisoners like Agba Jalingo standing trial on other charges in Cross River state) their right to liberty with the most spurious of excuses.
The plot thus, deepens. It appears that the state does not want Sowore out of detention and his life might very well be in danger. The formal concessions of going through the motion of bail processes was won only with the pressures of struggle by activists and protestations by a diverse array of persons and forces nationally and internationally. Freedom for Sowore will be won, as will the struggle for a better society which is actually what is on trial, through mass action and widespread solidarity. That is exactly why #OccupyDSS which will continue, is of essence, as part of a broader fight for our self-emancipation.
As Falana points out, what we are witnessing with the despicable and continued illegal detention of ‘Yele Sowore is a metaphor. It “simply means we are back to the days of full-blown dictatorship”. The “steady entrenchment of the cult of impunity” by the regime, as the Nobel Laurette, Professor Wole Soyinka stresses “has crossed even the most permissive thresholds”. He further showed what the state-as-bully actually is behind its Robocop-like, masked and armed to the teeth DSS men; “childish” and full of “cynical lies”.
And quite importantly, whilst noting the heart-warming efforts being made by strata of people who have continued to stand up against the injustice of the state, Soyinka correctly called for unity and collective struggle to defend our fundamental human rights.
At this moment, it is not exactly Sowore and Mandate (as well as political prisoners like Agba Jalingo and other arraigned #RevolutionaryNow activists on bail, including Tope Fagunwa, Wale Ogunruku, Femi Johnson, Owoeye Olaoluwa and Stephen Omoleye in Osogbo) that are standing trial. Nor is the court in Abuja, Osogbo or Calabar.
The court is posterity, situated in history. And there are two categories of defendants, facing different charges. The first, which has already passed a verdict of guilty on itself is the rapacious APC/PDP-led state of a ruinous ruling class of brigands, hypocrites and oppressors. The second category of defendants are the organisations of, or which in any ideological or political manner lay claim to representing the people.
Now more than ever the need for organised labour, the revolutionary left and radical civil society to unite and fight for our fundamental economic, social and political rights cannot be overemphasized. From the first six months palm fronds of Buhari’s second term, it must be clear enough that the fascistic masquerade of this regime’s emergent character, will be one of the most malevolent in the evil forest of capitalism.
#RevolutionNow for which Omoyele Sowore is being incarcerated is a call for working-class people and youth to arise from our slumber. We, prisoners of starvation, the wretched of the earth, working-class people and youth whose lives have been made hell on earth by this regime and the system it represents, must ourselves decide our duty, we must decide and do it well, to build a better Nigeria and indeed a better world, through ceaseless struggle until victory.
The converse, in this era of capitalist crises and popular revolts, is to betray all that is true and good. For “every generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it.”
#RevolutionNow #FreeSoworeNow #ReleaseAllPoliticalPrisoners #HistoryWillAbsolveUs
by Baba AYE