A former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to authorise the release of rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, and four others who were remanded at the Kuje Correctional Centre on Monday, or be prepared for more protests.
The ex-minister said Buhari should create additional cells to keep more protesters if he failed to ensure the release of the five activists immediately.
Ezekwesili said this on Monday on an Arise TV programme monitored by SaharaReporters.
Sowore and the other activists were arrested on New Year’s Eve in Abuja for holding a peaceful protest against bad governance.
They were subsequently arraigned on charges of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and attempting to incite others. The activists, however, denied the charges.
Reacting, Ezekwesili said the activists have the right to protest in a democratic society.
She said, “There is nowhere we have seen change happen without the resilience of a segment of the population to act regardless of the oppression that may be against it. That is why we must all applaud the resilience of Yele Sowore. Some people are not fair to him in dismissing his advocacy. I don’t dismiss it at all. Every society needs a Yele Sowore and all other groups and movements that consistently advocate for a good society.
“The truth is that the only pillar that has the motivation and has the right incentive to push for change in this society is the citizens’ pillar. Our current political class are not going to overwhelm all of the citizens.
“It will do the president good to ask that Yele Sowore and the other citizens that were imprisoned for merely protesting be released. Everybody in a democracy has the right to protest and that right can never be taken by anyone.
“The president will think of establishing many more cells because if he continues to keep Yele Sowore, his (New Year) speech will mean nothing to anybody, not as if to say anybody bothers to believe what he said because what we have consistently seen over the past years is a president that says one thing and does a completely different thing.”
Sowore, who was earlier declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 2019, was detained for several months by the Buhari government for calling for #RevolutionNow protests.
He was denied bail many times and even re-arrested inside the Federal High Court. However, he regained freedom in December 2019 following domestic and international pressure.