Garba Shehu and Omoyele Sowore
Mr Omoyele Sowore, the Nigerian rights activist and SaharaReporters Publisher, has called on Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, to be honest for once in his life by stating the facts of what truly transpired when a delegation led by late Isa Funtua, which also included him (Shehu), paid him a visit to try to negotiate his release while he was in the detention of the Department of State Services in 2019.
Shehu had on Tuesday while reacting to a Facebook post by Sowore, accused the activist of stating a different thing from what happened during the encounter.
He said that Funtua was more concerned about Sowore's freedom and that he (Funtua) pushed for the meeting.
Shehu added that the government might be forced to demand the video clip of the meeting they held with Sowore to prove their case.
“Nobody sent anybody to go and 'negotiate' Sowore's freedom as he put it.
“The late Mallam Isma'ila on his own called me to ask that I broker a meeting with him and two others with the DSS, which they agreed to.
“It was the force of Mallam Isma'ila's argument that made the meeting possible. Vanguard Newspapers publisher, Sam Amuka, and ThisDay Publisher and President, Nigerian Press Organisation, Nduka Obaigbena, all agreed that Sowore was a "rascal", who had used his newspaper "to abuse all of us," but agreed, nonetheless to go and press for his release.
“The meeting ended well, and contrary to the posturing by Sowore, he said he was happy with a resolution proposed but that his lawyer, whoever that was, needed to come on board. The fence-mending process collapsed after the meeting of the trio with the lawyer in Lagos,” Shehu said.
But in response to the claims made by the Presidential aide, Sowore again wasted no time in shedding more light into the incident in order to straighten the facts.
He said, “Earlier this evening, Buhari's spokesperson, Garba Shehu, responded to my video where I described my encounter with late Isa Funtua, a member of Buhari's cabal, who led a delegation including Garba Shehu to meet me in detention apparently to pressure me to abandon #RevolutionNow.
“It is important that contrary to Mr Shehu's vituperations, this video was an excerpt of my Instagram intervention with journalist, Seye Kehinde, while Isa Funtua was still very much alive.
“I responded to Garba Shehu on twitter as below: 1. Glad you admitted you led a delegation to meet me in DSS detention because the delegates said you arranged it.
“2. It is very true that I was nice to your team because you weren’t my problem, you were just an errand boy. In fact I patted you on the back, saying I had never met you before and fairness, you were respectful but I knew you were there on a hatchet job.
“I urge you to release the tape, but don’t forget to release tapes of convos (conversations) between COS Abba Kyari and DSS DG asking that my detention should last for the duration of the @MBuhari regime in 2023 because @saharareporters did a report that revealed that he collected N500m from MTN.
“Why can’t you be honest for once in your life, when you came to meet me in detention, what was your intention, what would have constituted the conditions for my release? Who would have ordered my release, Isa Funtua? What powers did Funtua have to get me released?
“My insistence then got Isa Funtua riled and he said that my lawyer was only grandstanding and that he too had been imprisoned by Buhari in 1983 and that no one can defeat the government. Your wicked self kept quiet but Nduka noticing I was upset took me to the DO’s ante room.
“When I arrived downstairs I made a telephone call to my lawyer, Femi Falana, in the presence of the DSS officials telling him that I do not want to negotiate my freedom and that when he meets your team, he should restate my position, he did exactly that, your team got upset again.
“Soon as I made that call to Falana, I was stopped from ever making any further calls until my continued detention became an international issue. I was then offered a bugged cell phone with which I granted an interview to @PremiumTimesng, while I was calling my family the phone was seized.
“Please, also present a tape of your meeting my lawyer in Lagos, because he told your team that asking me to renounce #RevolutionNow would amount to suicide, because o expressly told him that was the plan but that we can’t go back on #RevolutionNow!”
Sowore was arrested in the early hours of August 3, 2019 by operatives of the Department of State Services for calling on Nigerians to take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations on August 5 to demand a better country from the administration of President Buhari.
He was kept in unlawful detention from that period until December 5, 2019 when he was finally released on bail despite two court orders earlier sanctioning his freedom.
In a twist of events, DSS operatives invaded the Federal High Court in Abuja on December 6, 2019 to rearrest him without any court order.
He remained in unlawful detention until 18 days later when he was released by the secret police for the second time.
At the resumption of his trial in a case brought against him by the Nigerian Government, the prosecution failed to prove accusations against him and even went ahead to dropping seven of the charges earlier preferred against him.
The government is accusing him of attempting to overthrow Buhari’s administration by calling on citizens to protest against the regime.
Groups and high-ranking individuals from around the world have described the charges against Sowore as baseless and a waste of time.
The journalist remains confined to Abuja as one of his bail conditions forbids him from leaving the city or speaking with journalists until the end of his trial.