by Precious Igbonwelundu
Activist lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) on Monday said the government of President Muhammadu Buhari knows those causing unrest in the country and should go after them.
He spoke at the Coalition for Revolution’s (CORE) working consultative assembly themed “Democracy, state repression and the state of insecurity in Nigeria,” held at the Lagos Centre, Oregun.
The event which was billed to start at 11 am did not commence as scheduled following obstruction by policemen said to have barricaded the venue and allegedly arrested three persons.
Condemning the alleged arrest as well as that of Omoyele Sowore and other #RevolutionNow protesters, Falana said the federal government should deploy security forces to tackle terrorism, banditry kidnapping and other crimes that breach public peace and not protesters.
He said: “Our right to assembly and associate peacefully in the country is constitutional. I want to assure you that we are going to ensure that all the rights of Nigerian people that we have fought for and won will not be allowed to be eroded by any regime in this country.
“When we were told that we will not be allowed to meet, my mind went back 30-years-ago when we had the Buhari, Babangida and other juntas. We defeated the regimes and I want to assure you all that any other dictator will not be allowed to raise their head again in Nigeria.
“I heard that about three persons have been arrested. But I want to assure you that after the programme, I will demand for their release because they have not committed any offence. I want to assure you that all those that were arrested and charged during the #RevolutionNow for unlawful assembly and peace will be given adequate defense at the court of law.
“The President Muhammadu Buhari led administration knows those that are breaching the peace of the country- terrorist, armed robbers, coup plotters and others.
“Those who went to the street to protest in exercise of their right to assembly and complain against injustice, corruption and maladministration in the country cannot be said to have breached the law of the country.
“Therefore, the man (Sowore) who was arrested and detained before the protest will be adequately defended at the law court. This is because he has committed no offense.”
Falana reminded the gathering how Nigerians fought for their rights even under the colonial era, recalling how nationalists like Chief Anthony Enahoro chaired lectures organised on the need for revolution.
“So, let the authority in Abuja know that the call for revolution is not new in Nigeria. Political leaders in this country have over time called for revolution and they have never been arrested and prosecuted. If there is a mistake now, such must be corrected. This country belongs to all of us.
“Before today, they claimed that we must not engage in any activity on the street. We are trying to gather inside the hall, they claimed that we cannot do that. But because of our resolve, we won.
“Revolution is not a dinner party. It is a serious, rigorous and consistent battle for the soul of a country like Nigeria. Therefore, what we have done is a mere declaration of our resolve.
“The struggle is going to be in pains and it will require time. But I believe that we have started and there is no going back. What we have done is to challenge the Nigerian people to appreciate the enormity of crisis of underdevelopment that is confronting the country.
“We do not have revolution yet in Nigeria. But there are revolutionary pressure in Nigeria. We must seize the advantage of the moment and mobilise Nigerians on the need for revolution; tell them that it will come sooner than later.
“We all should have hope in the exercise. We have to go round the country and tell Nigerians. Nigeria occupies a prominent place globally. It is the only country with the largest concentration of black race. So, if we fail to get it right in Nigeria, the black race is doomed.
“That is why we all must declare our resolve to double our energy towards achieving the aim of revolution for the country,” he said.
Also at the event were Femi Aborisade, Seun Kuti, Martin Onovo, former governorship candidate for the National Conscience Party (NCP) Funsho Awe and former student unionist Lanre Legacy.
In his remark, Onovo expressed dissatisfaction over the state of affairs in the country, demanding the president’s resignation because his government “has failed.”
He lamented that Nigeria had the worst police in the world, attributing same to the mayhem being wreaked by murderous herdsmen.
“We understand how herdsmen have become the greatest threat overtaking Boko Haram. The government has failed and the leader of the government must resign. There is no democracy in Nigeria.”
Awe said there was need to correct all the bad things noticed in the country, adding that the time was right for revolution.
For Kuti, the movement was fighting for the collective interest of Nigerians and the country’s future.
“We all need to wake the citizens up to understand their rights. Until the people of Nigeria are ready to save themselves, no one will safe them. We all have the right to peaceful protest. We must demand for the release of Sowore today,” he said.
Aborishade accused the President of criminalising the people’s constitutional right to peaceful protest, noting that it was constitutional for citizens to revolt against any policy that affects them.
“The failure of government to provide employment violates the dictates of the constitution. President Muhammadu Buhari is criminalising the rights of the people. If they say that I am a terrorist for asking for free medical care for the masses, free education for all, then, I am guilty for that and will like to be prosecuted.
“I demand that Sowore and others be released by the government. Nigeria has been turned to prison. We will ensure that the citizens enjoy the tenets of democracy. The law is taller than the president. I refuse to live in any society that is governed by the whims and caprices of the president and not the constitution. We reject enslavement,” he said.
However, the police denied obstructing the gathering nor arresting anyone, insisting they were at the venue to maintain the peace.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in charge of Operations Mohammed Ali told The Nation on telephone that it was normal to deploy cops to avoid any breakdown of law and order.
“It is not true that the police disrupted their gathering. They were billed to have a press conference and they did. There was no disruption whatsoever and I do not have information of any arrest there,” he said.