Comrade Omoyele Sowore is the publisher and founder of the New York-based SaharaReporters (SR), a whistle-blowing popular international website that brings investigative news and entertainment to millions of Nigerians and non-Nigerians online. Penultimate Wednesday (11th of January this year) reports had it online that he was arrested by the Nigerian police team in Lagos! The details of the arrest and detention soon came to light given Sowore’s status in the society as enemy of looters and killers; politicians especially whose penchant for stealing the public funds is legendary.
Sowore was driving in company of two of his associates along the GRA in Ikeja, Lagos, when suddenly he was waylaid and brutally attacked by one Lekan Fatodu and his accomplice simply identified as Dare. The said assailants, according to the reports, assaulted Sowore and made attempts on his life before they were restrained and overpowered by concerned members of the public! Following the intervention of concerned Lagosians, Lekan and Dare fled from the scene only to resurface minutes later in company of a team of armed policemen from the Area F Police Station on the pretext that Sowore had committed “traffic offence” and should be arrested and taken to the nearest police post!
The men in uniform reportedly took Sowore and his associates first to the notorious Area F police post after which they were taken before the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, at the State Police Command, Ikeja. The reports told us of how Fatodu had continued to assault and molest Sowore right inside the Police van while he was being conveyed to the State Police Command and at the police station without any resistance from the policemen!
Thereafter the police high command were reportedly asking Sowore to settle amicably with his principal assailant, Fatodu who accused him of libelling or defaming him through his hard-hitting SR website. In the said report on SR Sowore and his reporters had detailed how the former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, still standing trial for fraud, had used Fatodu among other people to launder his loot! FFK is not new to corruption allegations and investigations by the anti-graft agencies in Nigeria. So why raising hell over a man known to have enriched himself at various times and epochs in Nigeria’s democratic trajectory?
Sowore is a great Nigerian, a good man. Compassionate, kind-hearted and gentle! I remember appreciatively the financial gesture he extended to me when my mother died in 2012. Prof. Okey Ndibe had informed him of the burial arrangement and he promised to do something which he did before I left my station for home. We are friends online though we have never met each other in person before. I heard about him when he was a radical UNILAG student union leader and his courageous battles with the federal and state governments at that time. He tasted prison and detentions and suffered other inconveniences just because he was defending the right of Nigerian students for better education and for free speech.
Comrade Sowore must have not taken his personal security seriously while navigating the big modern jungle that is home. We urge him to employ some bodyguards as he moves about and around Lagos given the chaotic nature of the city and the unprofessionalism of the police force. He should remember that great journalists like Dele Giwa and Godwin Agbroko had been assassinated without the police or government ever finding their assailants! Their souls are still crying for justice in a nation where collective amnesia could be a national disease. He should round off his activities in Nigeria as a matter of advise and return safely to the States where his security is guaranteed.
And in a related development recently the police authorities in Abuja had raided the offices of Premium Times arresting the Publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi, and a reporter Evelyn Okakwu. According to the police they were acting on the complaint lodged by the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Buratai, against the online media organization for defaming the COAS and refusing to issue an apology upon demand. Though Dapo and Evelyn had been released we condemn this invasion and call on the police to respect the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of speech under this democracy. Our solidarity lies with Premium Times and the management in this battle against attempts to gag the free press.
We conclude this commentary by labelling Lekan Falodu an assassin! No other description fits what he did to a citizen journalist determined to bring about change to our rotten system of corruption and collusion in the commission of graft. If he felt offended by what SR reported about him the right thing to do is to sue Sowore either in Nigeria or America for defamation. Sowore remains a patriot and his sacrifices for a better Nigeria must be recognised and applauded rather than being manhandled or molested. The Lagos State police command led by the obviously partisan CP Fatai Owoseni must bring Fatodu to justice for taking the laws into his hands. Otherwise we shall deduce immediately that some pecuniary inducement must have been extended to the police Chief by the corrupt elements to compromise justice and professionalism.
CP Owoseni has reportedly been demoted and redeployed outside Lagos. He was compulsorily asked to proceed on a course in the north as a price for his ignoble role in the molestation and abuse of the right of Sowore by Fatodu and his gang of thugs. We commend the federal government for acting on this matter as failure to act would have amounted to allowing impunity to fester in an organisation that is mandated by the law to protect the lives and property of Nigerians everywhere.
As radical defenders of the interest of our nation we declare defiantly that we are not afraid of the assassins in Nigeria or elsewhere. We owe no one any apology for the opinion we hold on anybody or take on any issue at any point in time. In electing to stand up for the truth and speak same to power we have conquered the fear of death many years ago! Whenever or wherever it comes we take solace in the wise words of the late revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara: “Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms”.
Our everyday struggle is one against dictatorship, injustice, corruption and pauperisation of the populace. Wherever and whenever any of these happens we shall not hesitate to denounce same without fear or favour. And in doing this we are not courting any friendship or enmity but we declare our preparedness to confront any animosity or hostility from any quarters. Our capacity to defend ourselves against any intellectual or physical aggression should not be in any doubt.
Pour la patrie ou la mort nous vaincrons! (For the country or death we shall prevail!)