Vocal Nigerian government critic Omoyele Sowore has been at the frontlines of various pro-democracy campaigns in Nigeria since the early 90s.
Since 2006, his renowned media outfit Sahara reporters has come hard on corrupt government officials, inept public servants and even Nigerian mega-churches.
Sowore’s confidence and sheer courage have earned him a reputation in a country where open dissent against the government is akin to playing Russian roulette with one’s life. The journalist and former presidential candidate were arrested on the 9th of August for calling for a nationwide revolution protest.
In a fashion reminiscent of Nigeria’s dark military era; from trumped-up charges to kidnapping, unlawful detention and proscription, the Muhammadu Buhari led federal government always goes after its critics with a full arsenal.
In 2015, the all progressives congress (APC) presented Gen. Buhari to Nigerians as a reformed dictator. Riding on the wheel of change, the APC promised the Nigerian electorate a utopia which many swallowed hook line and sinker, out of desperation and a deep yearning for improved living standard.
Four years later. With a battered economy, rising taxes and record human rights abuses, the Buhari led government secured a second term at the polls by hook or by crook.
With Nigeria’s president who is head of the country’s executive arm of government, the Senate President who is head of the legislative arm, both card-carrying members of the APC and the nation’s chief justice (head of the judiciary) appointed by the president earlier this year, Nigeria’s three arms of government are solidly in the hands of one party.
This power consolidation by the ruling APC has silenced institutional opposition, shifting the demand for good governance entirely on activists, civil societies and average Nigerians.
Nigeria’s civic space is shrinking, who is standing in the way?
Besides taking absolute control of the various arms of government, typical of banana republics, the Buhari led administration has intensified its crackdown on organized opposition.
A few cases
In December 2015, men of the Nigerian Amy raided the residence of Shiite leader Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky, killing hundreds of his followers and injuring the aged cleric. He has been in detention despite several court orders for his release.
In September 2017, Nigerian armed forces stormed the residence of pro-Biafran activist Nnamdi Kanu in a series of attacks killing scores of protesters.
On the 23rd of November 2018, a Kaduna based journalist Segun Oniboyo was kidnapped by Nigerian security operatives and later arraigned for defamation, following a Facebook post critical of the President and the Kaduna state government.
On the 28th of November 2018, the convener Concerned Nigerians were arrested by men of the Nigeria police force on trumped-up charges of murder and defamation in the build-up to the general elections.
In December 2018, in defence of human rights violation it’s committed, the Nigerian army called for an outright ban on Amnesty International and UNICEF’s operations in the country’s North East after shutting down the operations of international NGO Action against hunger.
Various accounts of rights abuse and violation of court orders by the Buhari led administration show that Nigeria is on the precipice of slipping into a totalitarian state.
With the absence of institutional opposition, the most vocal civil rights and social justice campaigns must be gagged to create the right atmosphere for totalitarianism. There is a deliberate and well-orchestrated plan to truncate the Nigerian civic space and Sowore is standing in the way.