The #RevolutionNow movement and other human rights groups, on Thursday lashed out at the Presidency for describing Wednesday’s #RevolutionNow protests as a child’s play and irritation.
The groups told The PUNCH that the Presidency’s dismissal of #RevolutionNow’s protests clearly indicated that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari;’s (retd.) regime was insensitive to the suffering of Nigerians..
Members of the #RevolutionNow movement demanding good governance had on Wednesday protested in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos, Ondo, Osun and Ogun states.
During the protests, no fewer than 91 members of the group were arrested in the FCT, Lagos, Osun and Ogun states.
On Thursday, the Presidency described the protests as a mere child’s play and an irritation.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said this on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme on Thursday.
Adesina said the protests were carried out by only a few youths out of the 200 million Nigerians.
He said, “Well, was it really a protest? By my estimation, it just seemed like a child’s play because protests by their very nature are spontaneous things, mass things. These are just a sprinkle of people trying to be funny. As far as I am concerned, it is nothing to worry about.
“A revolution is always a mass thing not a sprinkle of young boys and girls you saw yesterday in different parts of the country. I think it was just a funny thing to call it a revolution protest.”
When asked if it was right for the Presidency to talk down on young Nigerians for protesting, Adesina remained adamant, insisting that the protests were nothing but an irritation and he had a right to his opinion.
#RevolutionNow protest, irritating child’s play – Presidency
“In a country of 200 million people and if you see a sprinkle of people saying they are doing a revolution, it was a child’s play,” he said.
When asked if the government determines the seriousness of a protest only by its size, Adesina responded, “Well, it will always matter because if you said it was a revolution, revolutions by definition are quite well known.
“A revolution is something that turns the normal order. What happened yesterday, would you call it a revolution? It was just an irritation, just an irritation and some people want to cause an irritation in the country and what I will say is when things boil over, they boil over because you continue to heat them. When you see pockets of heating up in the country, eventually they culminate in a boiling over. So, Nigerians need to know that the country we get is what we use our hands to build.”
The President’s spokesman said the issues the protesters were demonstrating about such as insecurity, corruption, poverty and rights abuse were not peculiar to Nigeria and so the protests were misguided.
When asked if the clampdown on protests would continue, the President’s aide said, “The government will do whatever is right, whatever is required to maintain peace.”
However, there was a mild drama during the programme as Adesina and the National President of Revolutionary Lawyers’ Forum, Mr Tope Akinyode exchanged words over the #RevolutionNow protests.
Akinyode, who took part in the protests which were disrupted by security operatives, said the aim of the demonstration was to demand good governance, poverty eradication, a stop to the insecurity and many other issues.
Buhari’s regime, bereft of the fundamental principles of democracy – #RevolutionNow lawyer
The lawyer said, “We have to forgive Mr Adesina and the Buhari government for all the things they speak. They don’t understand these things. They are bereft of the fundamental workings of democracy and the rule of law. They don’t know what protest means, they can’t appreciate it
“Buhari is a dictator. He doesn’t obey court orders so he doesn’t know that Nigerians or the people have the right to protest which is why Mr. Adesina was continuously talking down on Nigerians, saying it was a child’s play and an irritation.”
Akinyode said Buhari’s regime seemed to be dedicated to failure hence its aversion to criticism.
He said, “I am disappointed by the myopic definition that Mr. Adesina gave the word revolution especially being a journalist who should have fundamental knowledge of the English language. Revolution has many meanings to it. You cannot attach a single meaning to the word.”
“And if the protesters are demanding the removal of the present government that is constituted, it is a constitutionally guaranteed right. The law allows for impeachment of any validly elected government and for a government that has woefully failed, is it not right for it to resign?”
Adesina, who appeared irked by Akinyode’s response, however, took issue with Channels Television for pairing him with “such a character”.
He said henceforth, the TV station must let him know who he is up against when next he is invited to a programme.
The President’s spokesman said, “Let me make this point. Channels TV should have been ethical and professional enough to tell me that I was appearing with somebody and then I could decide whether to appear or not to appear.
“The way this young man is talking, if I had a chance, I wouldn’t want to share a platform with him because he is irascible, he is irrational and he doesn’t understand and I could have decided whether to appear with him or not.”
Akinyode, however, stated that he was a lawyer and a learned individual.
Buhari protested against Jonathan in 2014 – #RevolutionNow co-convener
A co-convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Deji Adeyanju, in his reaction dismissed Adesina’s statement.
He reminded the presidential aide that his boss, who was then Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, also protested against the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.
Adeyanju said, “Did it mean that when Buhari protested in 2014, he too was also an irritant? People like Femi Adesina who found themselves in a position of power are already drunk after five years. These are the kind of people when they leave office, you wonder if they ever served in any capacity. He is blabbing.”
Presidency’s reaction insensitive — Ex-NBA Vice-President
A former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Monday Ubani, in an interview with The PUNCH, described the Presidency’s reaction as insensitive.
“I expected Mr Adesina to be a bit more sensitive in his reaction to these issues. I consider that statement as highly insensitive. I didn’t believe that that was coming from him,” he said.
Buhari’s regime mismanaging democracy – Ex-CDHR president
A human rights lawyer and former President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Malachy Ugwummadu, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the Presidency must be ready for more “irritation” for as long as the Nigerian public space had become a killing field
He stated, “The democracy they are shamelessly mismanaging today is a product of a sustained protests against autocracy and military rule.
“There cannot be a democratic environment worth the name without plurality of opinions and views expressed within the confines of the law including protests and demonstrations. That right to so express ourselves is entrenched under Section 39(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).”
15 #RevolutionNow protesters still being detained – Falana
On his part, a human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), described the arrest of the #RevolutionNow protesters in various parts of the country as totally uncalled for.
Falana queried the basis for the arrest of the protesters if their activities were childish as suggested by the government.
According to him, seven of the protesters arrested in Osun State and eight others in Kano, remained in detention as of Thursday.
He said, “In defence of the constitutional rights of the protesters to express their grievances against what they perceive to as incompetence of the government to manage the security of the country and to arrest the wave of corruption, the organisation that I lead, the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond, has defend the legal and human rights of those who were arrested by the government and secured the release of some of them.
“So far, ASCAB has ensured the release of 40 protesters in Abuja, 19 in Lagos, and five in Ogun. We are still battling for the release of seven arrested in Osun State and about eight in Kano State.”
On his part, the Executive Director of Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, described Buhari’s advisers as irritating.
He said, “I am not surprise because the Buhari’s administration is becoming more and more intolerant of descents. The government failed to understand that no country ever developed by gagging free speech and expression.”
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