Prince Tony Momoh, a former Minister of Information, is one of the national leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he speaks on the #RevolutionNow protest and the arrest of the convener, Omoyele Sowore, by the Department of State Services (DSS). Excerpts:
What is your take on the clampdown of the #RevolutionNow protesters by security agencies and the arrest of the convener, Omoyele Sowore by the DSS?
The fact is, if anybody calls for a revolution, we will look at the content of that call. What comes to mind is the lecture, which was delivered during the colonial days in 1948 at Tom Jones hall in Lagos Island. The title of that lecture was ‘A Call To Revolution’. The lecture was delivered by Osita Aguna. Another key figure at the lecture was Raji Abdallah from Kano. As the editor of Spear Magazine then, I published a document by Abdallah on that event in Lagos and I said that the conclusion would be given by Aguna. At that period, Aguna was in the war front during the civil war. The civil war ended in January 1970. A month after the war ended, I was in the Eastern region to see Aguna and he gave me details of that call to revolution. Nnamdi Azikiwe was to be the chairman of the lecture but because he knew the implication, he refused to chair it.
However, Anthony Enahoro, a young, vibrant editor who had just come out of prison accepted the offer to chair the occasion and he was sent back to prison. Everybody who had a copy of the lecture was sent to jail. Most of the people who went to jail were members of the Zikist movement. They already knew the implication of what they were going to do so they were practicing how to cope with jail conditions six months before the lecture.
Why I am I saying this? Words are pregnant. When you say revolution, it’s not a child’s play, especially when Omoyele Sowore, who is coordinating it and calling for revolution is being quoted as saying what happened in Egypt and Tunisia would be a child’s play compared to what will happen in Nigeria. I am even surprised that some people will say there is freedom of association. There is nothing wrong with freedom of association. It is guaranteed. Freedom of expression and assembly are also guaranteed. But when you say ‘revolution’, you are not joking anymore. And any government that is sensible should stand up and confront those who want a revolution. There is a roadmap in Nigeria and that is the constitution of the Federal Republic. We just had an election. The man in power now, President Muhammadu Buhari scored more than 15 million votes. The person who was second had more than 11 million votes. My young brother who is calling for revolution believes in democracy, contested election and scored about 13,000 votes. But now he is calling for a revolution.
Some of have said by saying revolution, the protesters don’t really mean a forceful overthrow of government but just to ventilate their anger against what they feel is bad governance. Do you agree with that?
The content of their appeal doesn’t look dangerous to me. These are legitimate cause but how can you be calling for a revolution and say a democratically elected government should be toppled? Anybody saying that is looking for trouble and should be confronted. Nobody can cause a revolution in Nigeria. Nobody can lead us into another civil war. We knew the toll the civil war took on this country. Those who want to pursue democracy should know the language of democracy. Revolution is not the language of democracy. Revolution is a language of war.
So, if Nigerians are not happy with the current government, how can they register their displeasure?
Buhari met a lot of things that he needs to attend to. He laid the foundation for what Nigeria will be in the next few years. The fact is we are not even disputing whether someone did well or not. Let us even agree that Buhari didn’t do well. If you believe President Buhari has not performed well, there is a procedure for removing him from office. You contest election and defeat him. You cannot say he should be removed forcefully through protests. So, people should really know the language of democracy and I repeat, revolution is not the language of democracy. And anybody who thinks the word ‘revolution’ is the language of democracy should find out what happened to Osita Aguna and his colleagues when they organised a lecture titled ‘A Call To Revolution’. All the members of the Zikist movement were sentenced to jail between six months and three years.
Some have claimed that the protest may have been sponsored. Do you also share that view?
There is nothing that is done without being sponsored. There are lots of people who don’t want Nigeria to get anywhere and so they can sponsor uprising in the country. Do you think revolution is a child’s play? If you want people to go and march, do you think it is going to be free? Won’t they be mobilised? So, the security agencies have a duty to ensure that Nigeria is protected both internally and externally. We have insurgency, armed robbery, kidnapping and other challenges. We cannot afford to add this kind of thing that will put the whole nation on edge to it.
Sowore is still in DSS custody and a lot of Nigerians are calling for his release. What advice can you give the federal government on this?
The fact is that we are talking of the rule of law. DSS should do what the law says. The constitution says if you hold someone like that, within 48 hours, you should take him to court. They shouldn’t hold him without trial. They should send him to court and have the matter heard legally if that is what they want. But they should take him to court.