Updated: February 27, 2021
WASHINGTON– , a Nigerian activist based in New York who ran for the 2019 presidential election against President Muhammadu Buhari and several others before calling for a revolution to rescue a failed state, has been arrested by his country’s secret police, his office said in a tweet on Saturday.
Sowore, who publishes digital newspaper Sahara Reporters, was arrested at about 1.30 am on Saturday by heavily armed men, two days before a planned nationwide protest to demand a revolution in Nigeria.
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“Will be addressing the UNILAG students who invited me to their symposium. University Of Lagos authorities forced the students to “disinvite” me and also forced a postponement of the event afraid that I will get the students to commence #RevolutionNow after my speech!,” he last said on Facebook hours before his arrest.
As presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Mr. Sowore has become a thorn in the flesh of President Muhammadu Buhari by constantly highlighting his failures and by calling on Africa’s most populous country to rise up and trash its incompetent leaders.
Nigerian online newspaper, Premium Times, said “Mr Sowore had teamed up with a network of other pro-democracy activists across the country to spur citizens into a national procession of rage across 21 cities”.
“The demonstration, tagged #RevolutionNow, had been planned to kick-off on August 5, and Mr Sowore and other organisers vowed they would not back down until a discernible change had been made to Nigeria’s power structure”.
The newspaper quoted an eyewitness and an associate of Mr Sowore as narrating what transpired on WhatsApp, which was later shared on Twitter by Deji Adeyanju, a political activist based in Abuja.
The witness, who described himself as a driver of Mr Sowore, said it was after 1:00 a.m. that men bearing arms knocked on the door.
“I noticed immediately that these knocks were strange. And didn’t open. I looked and I saw men armed to the teeth. They started forcing their way in like armed robbers,” he said.
He said he immediately recognised the men were from the SSS and was not surprised, “knowing fully well the attention RevolutionNow has garnered.”
He said Mr Sowore tried to open the door at first, “but I immediately told him who they are.” The activist then “retreated and like magic,” the eight armed SSS operatives forced their way in afterwards.
The secret service, the SSS, was yet to comment on his arrest.
Former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar and other Nigerians condemned the arrest of Sowore. They took to Twitter to call for Sowore’s release hours after he was picked up by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Atiku described the arrest as “kidnapping in the guise”, adding that freedom of speech was part of the nation’s democracy.
The Socio-Economic Right And Accountability Project (SERAP) said Sowore’s unconditional release would be “first step to stop Nigeria’s precipitous human rights slide”.
Also, a civil rights activist and former member of the Senate, Senator Shehu Sani, condemned the arrest and faulted those he described as political elites allergic to the freedoms they once stood for.
He also accused the elite of sponsoring protests and attacks on human rights organization, Amnesty International.
A former minister and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Femi Fani-Kayode, also condemned Sowore’s arrest. According to him, the arrest was unnecessary and uncalled for, adding that Sowore should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Similarly, former minister Oby Ezekwesili called on well-meaning Nigerians to stand with Sowore and defend his right and freedom to protest any matter of governance that worries him.