A United States of America-based Nigerian, Ogbeni Lanre Banjo, has dragged President Muhammadu Buhari before President Donald Trump and three US Senators over the continued detention of the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore.
The Coordinator of the #RevolutionNow has been in the detention of the Department of State Services for over four months despite the bail granted him by courts.
Banjo, the governorship candidate of the National Conscience Party in Ogun State on three occasions, directed his letter to Senator Robert Menendez, but copied Trump and Senators Benjamin Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of the State of Maryland.
In the letter, Banjo said the United States Government should impose heavy sanctions on those who have made it impossible for Sowore and other Nigerians to enjoy their freedom.
He called for the revocation of the student visas of the children of the violators of the human rights of Nigerians and that the operatives of the DSS and the Police should be barred from further trainings in the US.
Below is the full letter:
The Honorable Robert Menendez
United States Senate
528 Hart Senate Office Building,
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Menendez,
Re: Mr. Omoyele Sowore unlawful re-arrest in Nigeria
I am writing to express unalloyed appreciation to you for your support for immediate release of Mr. Sowore who is illegally detained in Nigeria in flagrant disobedience of court orders. Mr. Sowore urged Nigerians to demand an end to bad governance and insecurity in simultaneous protests planned across 21 cities from August 5, 2019. It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari (Mr. Buhari) had once labeled young Nigerians as lazy, and those who think they need “do nothing” to enjoy free homes, hospitals and schooling because they live in an oil-rich country. Mr. Sowore took up the challenge and heeded Mr. Buhari’s clarion call to action. The Buhari’s supposedly secret police said the protest was “an act of terrorism,” and a call to overthrow Mr. Buhari. Consequently, Mr. Sowore was abducted on August 3, 2019.
Before I dwell on the catalyst for this letter, it is proper to state that I contested to be the governor of Ogun State in Nigeria in 2003, 2007, and 2011. As you may be aware, Mr. Buhari also contested three times for the presidency of Nigeria before his victory in 2015 as a result of amalgamation of political parties in Nigeria. He approached the Court for justice each time he lost, seeking justice that he is now denying Mr. Sowore and many others in cell and prisons in defiance of court orders. Mr. Buhari also organized mass protests each time he lost elections.
After losing his first attempt at presidency in the April 2003 elections, Mr. Buhari launched a series of demonstrations across the country to make a case for a purported stolen mandate. In one of the protests on September 25, 2003, in Kano, the police that he encouraged to be brutal when he was a Head of State in 1983 tear-gassed him and other members of his political party named, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). The attack was blamed for the death of his running mate, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, who was then the Senate President, a few hours after the protest was quelled. The protest was not deemed treasonable or an act of terrorism against the Nigerian state, and Mr. Buhari was not arrested by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Senator Menendez, it would interest you to note that Mr. Buhari contacted Mr. Sowore’s lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to represent his arrested party members who participated in that mass protests against the perceived rigging of the 2003 election to enforce their fundamental rights. The lawyer represented Mr. Buhari pro bono. The then Inspector General of Police appealed the judgment of the Federal High Court. The Court of Appeal in dismissing the appeal held that placard carrying protest is part of the gains of democracy. It is the same peaceful protest which Mr. Buhari engaged in that Mr. Sowore and others promoted and carried out on August 5, despite the abduction of Mr. Sowore prior to the day of the protest. Mr. Buhari was undaunted. Determined to secure power, he contested the next election in 2007.
After losing the 2007 general elections, Mr. Buhari remained a staunch opposition leader against the administration of President Umar Yar’Adua. He made several controversial statements on several radio and television appearances, but was never taken into custody. His freedom of speech was not annulled. He asked Nigerians to make exceptional sacrifices to assert their collective will in the country. Mr. Sowore answered the blaring call in August of 2019. Mr. Buhari, with his unshaken resoluteness, in ruining the country, contested again in 2011.
In 2011, Mr. Buhari became angry again after he lost to President Goodluck Jonathan. He led other opposition elements to protest different issues, from fuel price hike to alleged electoral fraud, while his case was in court. Mr. Buhari hailed the Arab Spring that swept through the Middle East from 2011, seeing it at the time as mandatory for the long-suffering masses in the affected countries. Strongly believing in that revolutionary process, he encouraged similar agitations in Nigeria as an effective means of nudging the government he sued and accused of stolen mandate. He urged a revolution through the ballot.
Mr. Buhari announced that “The Egyptian pro-democracy campaigners defied all odds to achieve their set goal of terminating the 30-year old grip on power by President Hosni Mubarak. Their tenacity has again confirmed the truism that no force on earth can stop a people determined.” He commended the Egyptian military for refusing to attack “the forces of change”. Mr. Buhari said “the military in Egypt showed exemplary conduct with the way they refused to be used to attack the forces of change. They showed the whole world that there is a clear difference between the state and those who temporarily occupy political offices for a fixed tenure. This is a lesson for our security agents who have been used to subvert the will of the people at elections in recent past.” Mr. Buhari averred. https://saharanews.co/flashback-in-2011-general-buhari-called-for-a-revolution-in-nigeria.
Succumbing to the challenge posed by Mr. Buhari, Mr. Sowore planned a non-violent protest to lead a determined people. Mr. Buhari, under whose direct control the security agencies are, is deemed to have endorsed the oppression and gruesome stifling of democratic voices by his security forces. Not only by wielding and corking guns at unarmed protesters but by wearing masks in the public and occupying Courthouse to harass innocent citizens. In parentheses, Senator, the president of Nigeria thinks corruption just means misappropriation of funds. Corruption emanates from moral bankruptcy which Mr. Buhari is indulging in by the unconstitutional misuse of security agents/agencies in criminalizing exercise of democratic right of expression and peaceful action. What lessons are we indoctrinating in our citizens when security officers wear masks to intimidate judges and the citizens they are supposed to protect? Why would Armed Robbers and kidnappers not learn from the country security officers?
Consequent upon Mr. Buhari’s inciting pronouncements throughout these elections, in April 2011, riots broke out across northern Nigeria as presidential poll results showed President Goodluck Jonathan was set to win. Young supporters of Mr. Buhari clashed with police and military. Several Nigerians were reported to have lost their lives. Homes of supporters of President Jonathan were attacked in the cities of Kano and Kaduna. As 2015 elections were approaching, Mr. Buhari who rapaciously wanted to be in power by all means necessary later said “God’s willing, by 2015, something will happen. They either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way. If what happened in 2011 (alleged rigging) should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.” https://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/05/2015-ll-be-bloody-if-buhari/ With that defiant willpower, he threw his hat in the 2015 elections and he won. Nigerians were hoodwinked into believing that we had a messiah in Mr. Buhari.
With these records, one would think Mr. Buhari who encouraged Nigerians to engage in “revolution” would encourage exercise of the right to peaceful protest which is intrinsically part of democracy. But no, Senator, Mr. Buhari runs a Regime of “no protest” which is inimical to democracy.
Regime of ‘no protests’
Although the Buhari administration and security chiefs claimed Mr. Sowore was only arrested because he used the word “revolution” in his agitation, there had been previous cases when Nigerians who did not make allusions to revolution were prevented from holding protests by security forces.
In February 2017, the police frustrated a protest planned by Nigerians and led by a musician, saying they had received intelligence reports that it would turn violent. In April 2018, the police illegally imposed a permanent ban on gathering at the Unity Fountain, a major square in Abuja where “BringBackOurGirls” and other civil movements held demonstrations for years. The police castigated former Minister Oby Ezekwesili and other Nigerians who were taking part in regular sit-ins at the location as constituting a ‘nuisance’ with their agitation. Recently, the Buhari administration and security chiefs accused opposition figures, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, of plotting a regime change in Nigeria through unconstitutional means. Despite inundating Nigerians with the purported coup allegations, the government did not provide any evidence to the public. It also turned out that a document security chiefs claimed was circulated by alleged coup plotters did not exist. Attorneys have said there are about 50 Nigerians in unlawful detention resulting from disobedience of court orders. The accelerating desecration of the sanctity of the judiciary through multiple means, of which noncompliance with court orders is fast becoming the custom under Mr. Buhari’s misrule is worrisome. If all of us keep quite with the way Mr. Sowore was manhandled in Court premises on Friday, December 6, 2019, Mr. Buhari would be emboldened to destroy the 20years democratic foundation Nigeria has succeeded in maintaining.
Mr. Sowore’s experience in Court on December 6, 2019
While we address Judges in the United States as “Your Honour”, still swimming in the claws of colonial mentality, we address Judges as “My Lord”, in Nigeria. In Nigeria, Mr. Buhari’s security forces caused the Lord of the Courtroom to run for her dear life. “My Lord” took to her feet, Senator, when she saw fierce looking agents of the Department of the State Services (DSS) wielding and corking guns, subdued the unarmed regular police officers of “my Lord’s” Courtroom, thereby violating the Temple of Justice. Here is a Judge who summoned courage to render her Ruling in the application for bail and granted the bail application. For the Court’s security to have been subdued is the height of absurdity and presentation of Nigeria as a zoo. This is very depressing to many patriotic Nigerians whose dignities are being dwarfed.
Anyone with conscience who watched the video of how Mr. Sowore was almost suffocated and pinched to the ground, not caring about his spinal cord, with his eye ball turning would feel the cruelty of man to man. Anyone who watched Mr. Sowore panting for breath when he told the world that he was ready to die so all can be free would readily see why God regretted creating human being. I am sad and I am shedding tears while writing this letter to seek help. Why, Senator? There are no living former rulers with appreciable moral authority in the country that we can turn to. All living former Presidents lack the moral authority to call Mr. Buhari to order because of similar records. Consequently, we have to turn to lovers of democracy all over the world for help by making the following requests.
• Deprive children of Nigeria’s rulers education in the US. It is a public knowledge that those in government in Nigeria are not pleased with the education they instituted thus causing them to send their children abroad for education. I humbly request that the student visas of their wards studying in the United States be revoked and their children deported back to the country their fathers created.
• Visa denial. Since President Buhari is not pleased with medical treatment in Nigeria and he is always embarking on medical tourism with Nigeria’s resources, he (Mr. Buhari) and all those working with and for him who are always here seeking medical treatment should not be issued visas. We appreciate the current policy of the United States government’s refusal of visas to those who rigged elections in Nigeria. Please let’s extend it to those debasing our values.
• All officers of the DSS, Police and other Security outfits should not be allowed here for training. Nigerians are beginning to wonder what kind of training they are getting from the United States. With all the requisite show of force embarked on by various United States Police, I have never seen or witnessed policemen wearing masks or intimidating judges in the courtroom.
• All those working in the Ministry of Justice and their children should not be issued visas henceforth. Great Americans fought for sanity in the United States, these folks cannot be creating insanity in Nigeria and be running to the United States for sanity.
As established above, each time Mr. Buhari contested and lost, he headed to Court, protested with violent and inciting comments which had led to destruction of lives and properties, and he was never arrested for once. Mr. Sowore’s call for revolution is to have a system that works for majority of Nigerians. Participants in the #Revolution Now# protests were only carrying placards, not arms and thus never used inciting and hate speeches used by Mr. Buhari when he lost elections and called for his own revolutionary protest. Currently, Nigerian polity is being unnecessarily heated by this Sowore’s saga. Yet, Mr. Buhari seems indifferent and sees no reasons to address the nation let alone scolding his security forces for re-arresting someone granted bail by the court. Mr. Sowore had been kept for over 125 days by the DSS with several court orders to release him, contemptuously flouted. The DSS had all these days to interrogate him and proceed with the prosecution. Their intent is to send a strong signal to Nigerians not to dare challenge the government of Buhari. Their strategy is to use subterfuge to cow Nigerians into submission. Nigerians have been through this route many times and they are victorious because many Nigerians are too legit to quit.
A copy of this letter has been sent to Senators Benjamin Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of the State of Maryland to brief them, as well as President Donald Trump. I am very grateful for your efforts in helping Mr. Sowore’s family and the masses of Nigeria.
With the kindest regard, I remain
Former governorship candidate
Ogun State Nigeria
cc: Senator Benjamin Cardin, Maryland
Senator Chris Van Hollen, Maryland
President Donald Trump.