Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, has reacted to the arrest of Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters and activist.
Mr Sowore was arrested by the State Security Service on Saturday, ahead of the nationwide protest expected to start on Monday, in 21 cities.
Despite Mr Sowore’s arrest, organisers have vowed to go on with the demonstration seeking decisive solutions to Nigeria’s security, economic, educational and healthcare failings.
Mr Sowore’s arrest has been condemned by prominent Nigerians including Wole Soyinka and Femi Falana.
The presidency accused those defending his arrest of blackmail.
Speaking on Channels TV Sunday Politics, Mr Ozekhome said the Buhari government is not tolerant of criticism.
“Dancing on the street saying we don’t want bad governance, how does that amount to treason? Unreasonable felony?
“This government is allergic to plurality of voices. This government is allergic to criticism, this government is allergic to opinions. This government should know that Nigeria is a country with many colours.
“You cannot sample opinions. We cannot all sleep on the same bed. This government should learn to be tolerant,” he said.
It should be recalled that the Nigeria Police already described the planned protests by as ‘treasonable felony and acts of terrorism’. They also vowed to resist the movement.
Speaking on this, Mr Ozekhome said the police force is ‘illogical’.
“That allegation is most plural, most damning and most illogical from the government or security spokespersons.
“What is treason? For the definition of treason, you have to look at Sections 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43 of the Criminal Code which applies in the Southern part of Nigeria.
“Then you must look at Section 410 of the Penal Code that applies in the Northern part of Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Treason is the act of overthrowing the sovereign government of a state,” he argued.
Nigerians had been quick to demand Mr Sowore’s release, with several potential demonstrators warning that the ‘RevolutionNow’ matches would go on whether or not Mr Sowore remained in custody beyond August 5.
Organisers said the government should focus on addressing the issues that informed the planned demonstration, rather than cracking down on citizens for exercising their rights to speech, association, and assembly.
The protesters said the demand had been broken down into three phases, each of which contains a laundry of critical issues that must be addressed — failure over which the protest would not cease.
The first is to end anti-people economic policies, second is to end special privileges for the ruling class while the third hands on returning political power and national wealth to the working people.