I checked my Facebook feed this morning, Saturday, August 3, like I normally do almost every morning. I believe one of my greatest fears—or should I say positive anticipation—for Nigeria may have just been set in motion: Omoyele Sowore was arrested by officers of the Department of State Services.
Or, to put it as it should be: The Nigerian government arrested the leader of a peaceful group that demands a revolution. But the arrest of Sowore will do almost nothing to kill the #RevolutionNow movement, instead, it would likely do the exact opposite.
The Bad News
The bad news is for the Nigerian government that has finally proved its tyrant tendency to the world, yet again. This government does not know how to comply with judicial orders or tolerate dissent.
We have seen the same intolerant pattern since Muhammadu Buhari and his old guard in the All Progressives Congress came into power in 2015. We have seen it in the initial refusal to release the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky—after numerous court orders.
The same authoritarian tendency and apathy for due process showed in the way the Federal Government defied court orders in compliance with the bail of former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, by allowing him to seek medical attention outside the country. The same power drunkenness prevented the FG from punishing the officers responsible for the death of numerous innocent Shiites protesting the continued detainment of El-Zakzaky a few weeks ago right at the President’s doorstep in Abuja.
We have seen this tyrannical and authoritarian attitude all too much.
The Good News
The good news, though, is that the FG may have just turned on the gas on the imminent inferno of the revolution descending directly on the political order of Abuja with the arrest of Sowore.
If those that called the shots of this arrest thought the agitation for a radical political change will simply ‘disappear’ with Sowore in jail, they need to immediately refresh their understanding of Political Change in Africa 101.
Or to save them time, I’ll just make it crystal clear:
1. Arresting the face of a revolution in contemporary Africa, especially one led by the youth with the weapon of social media at the revolution’s disposal, will only aid the demand for change, not hurt it. The FG can ask Yoweri Museveni of Uganda about the Bobi Wine arrest.
2. Making such arrest in a constitutionally democratic country—at least on paper (by the way, that is all that is needed)—will draw greater international attention and demand for due process on the government by multinational institutions and treaties to which the government belong. Again given the revolution vital global attention.
3. Arresting the leadership of a revolution that has the backing of the country’s majority (nearly 70 percent of the country’s 190 million population are below age 35) will only earn it more popular support, especially as the public already disapprove of the state of the country’s security and economy. The recent victory by Sudanese over Omar Al-Bashir and subsequently, the Transition Military Council; the uprisings that deposed Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, all have a similar background with Nigeria’s present situation—besides the fact that the deposed leaders were in power for a longer period.
What Next for #RevolutionNow?
There is no need to remind this government about its limits as provided by the constitution. What every Nigerian need to do right away—regardless of if they subscribe to the political philosophy of this revolution or not—is to reinforce support for the #RevolutionNow movement by joining peaceful protests.
International media outlets will run the clips of hundreds of protesters on the streets of Abuja and Lagos if the planned August 5 protest goes ahead. It is a powerful way to draw the global attention needed to drain the Abuja swamp.
Twitter is already going ballistic with the news of Sowore’s arrest. More tweets about the reasons why the demanded change cannot be delayed with the hashtag #RevolutionNow will keep the ball rolling.
I honestly do not pray the FG comes to the realization of its bad move to arrest Sowore by releasing him soon. As ironic as this may sound, Sowore’s arrest is the exact accelerant the fire of #RevolutionNow needs to burn; The impact of Bobi Wine’s arrest in a strong example. Nigerians should seize this moment.
Everyone must play their part. The local media must cover this development fairly. Every Nigerian youth must take part in a protest in whatever peaceful way they can.
This government will not yield with an easy shove—African governments do not. The only language they understand is a sustained demand for radical change. And that is what we must give them. #RevolutionNow!
Ibrahim B. Anoba is the Editor of African Liberty and an African History columnist for Cato Institute’s Libertarianism.org project. He is based in Washington D.C. and can be found on Twitter @Ibrahim_Anoba.