The presidency has broken its silence on the travails of Omoyele Sowore, convener of Revolution Now, in the hands of the Department of State Services (DSS).
The secret police had released Sowore momentarily after 124 days in detention. This followed an ultimatum by a federal high court in Abuja.
But less than 24 hours after he was freed, the agency rearrested him. This sparked outrage within and outside the country.
Many had accused the government of President Muhammadu Buhari of sliding into dictatorship “through the attempt to silence critics”.
Robert Menendez, a US senator, had asked Buhari if he was aware of what the DSS was doing in his name.
But in a statement on Sunday, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said Sowore is a person of interest to the secret police.
“The Presidency notes some of the insinuations in the media about the arrest by the Department of State Services (DSS) of the agitator, Omoyele Sowore,” Shehu said in a statement.
“The DSS does not necessarily need the permission of the Presidency in all cases to carry out its essential responsibilities that are laid down in the Nigerian Constitution – which was the foundation for the restoration of democracy in our country in 1999.
“However, it should not surprise anyone who has followed his actions and words that Sowore is a person of interest to the DSS. Sowore called for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria.
“He did so on television, and from a privileged position as the owner of a widely read digital newspaper run from the United States of America.
“He founded an organisation, Revolution Now, to launch, in their own words, “Days of Rage”, with the publicised purpose of fomenting mass civil unrest and the elected administration’s overthrow.”
Sowore, according to Shehu, is not an ordinary citizen expressing his views freely on social media and the internet.
He said no government will allow “anybody to openly call for destabilization in the country and do nothing.”
Comparing Sowore’s activism to the insurgency in the north-east, Shehu said: “The Boko Haram militants, who are behind the violence, also fancy themselves to be fighting for some sort of revolution.”
“He was a presidential candidate himself, who ran – and lost – as the flag bearer of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the February 23 general elections,” Shehu said.
“Nigeria’s democracy was a long time in the making, and was achieved after decades of often harsh, military-led overthrows of government: the kind of situation Sowore was advocating.
“To believe in and desire armed revolution is not normal amongst ‘human rights activists’, as Sowore has been incorrectly described.
“Nigeria is already dealing with an insurgency that has left millions of people displaced and desperate in the northeastern region of our country.
“Nigerians do not need another spate of lawlessness and loss of lives all in the name of ‘revolution’, especially not one that is orchestrated by a man who makes his home in far away New York – and who can easily disappear and leave behind whatever instability he intends to cause, to wit, Nnamdi Kanu. This is a matter for the DSS, acting under its powers.”