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Activists Demand the Release of Omoyele Sowore and Other Political Detainees, Amidst Growing Attacks on Freedom of Press In Nigeria

"It feels like the '90s again," says Sowore's wife Opeyemi Sowore, about the recent crackdowns on political dissidents in Nigeria.

On August 3, activist and founder of Sahara Reporters, and former presidential candidate Omoyele Sowere was arrested for planning a peaceful protest in Nigeria. Fifty-four days later, he remains in custody.

Sowere has been hit with a seven-count charge, including money laundering, treason, as well as "cyberstalking the president," Sahara News reports. He is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow after being jailed for nearly two months, according to his wife Opeyemi Sowore.

He, along with several activists who have voiced political dissent in recent months have been detained by Nigerian authorities, denoting an upward shift on crackdowns on members of the press and attacks on basic civil liberties in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari's administration. "This truly is a threat to freedom of press, freedom of speech and expression," Sowore tells OkayAfrica. "As much progress as we thought we had made, a lot of the events truly sadden me."


Others who have been arrested include fellow #RevolutionNow activists, Olawale Bakare another member arrested in Osogbo Nigeria. The movement's mission is to urge the government to take greater steps towards fighting insecurity, and advocate for improved education in the densely populated country.

Protests in support of Sowore took place last week, and another is set to occur at the Nigerian mission to the UN in New York City tomorrow, September 24, the same day as Sowore's first court appearance. There has been growing support for Sowore internationally, as several human rights activists across the diaspora have become involved in advocating for his release. Earlier this month a coalition of US and Nigerian activists, including Black Lives Matter co-founder, Opal Tometi, activist Folabi Olajbaju and more, sent a letter to the Nigerian ambassador to the United States, Sylvanus Adiewere Nsofor, demanding his immediate release. "The Nigerian people and people of good will around the world are watching," said Olabaju in a statement. "We will oppose all efforts to suppress the rights of the people and silence democracy defenders."

The letter also pushes for the release of several others who are believed to be unjustly detained by the Nigerian government. "Abubakar Idris, who has been held incommunicado after criticizing the Kano state government;" the letter reads. "Stephen Kefas, an activist in the tense Nigerian Delta oil fields imprisoned for more than three months for distributing a press report embarrassing to the state governor; journalists Agba Jalingo and Jones Abiri, who spent over two years in detention without charge; whistleblower George Uboh who exposed malfeasance at the Nigerian Central Bank; Olawale Adebayo, a pro-democracy activist arrested in August, and Muslim spiritual leader Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky."

The arrests reveal the growing gaps in Nigeria's democracy—the largest in Africa which has implications for the rest of the continent. "It feels like the '90s again," says Sowore, referencing one of Nigeria's most politically turbulent periods under the dictatorship of Sani Abacha. "It's so important for democratic societies to have freedom of press. It's the only way to hold the government accountable."

Interview

Interview: Reekado Banks Is Coming For Everything

We talk to the Nigerian star about 2020, his latest Off the Record EP, and what his aims are for the future.

Joy is a theme that Reekado Banks keeps returning towards. In an arduous year additionally defined by landmark movements across the world, the 26-year-old musician born Ayoleyi Hanniel Solomon has managed to find pockets of happiness wherever he can. It has not always been easy to maintain that perspective in a year such as this.

After opening the 2020 at full speed with a series of tour dates, determined to kick off the second part of his career properly, COVID-19 struck. And with Nigerian borders closed for a while, the musician had to stay put in Gabon for much of lockdown and its immediate aftermath. "That time was a period for me to grow personally and I really took my time to do that," he shares during our Zoom call.

Much of his growth, as a person and musician, is trackable on Off The Record, the recently released seven-song extended play that has been a little over a year in the works. "Off The Record was conceived in 2019," he admits. The result of all those months of tweaking and delays is a delightful display of Reekado Banks' new-found penchant for minimalist production that accentuates the range of his serene vocals, giving way to stellar collaborations with Tiwa Savage on "Speak To Me," and Harmonize on "Mama."

Still, Reekado is quick to warn that he's only getting started, making mention of the stash of music that he still has to choose from even as he continues to write more songs. The aim is to come for everything he has always wanted. "Right now, I really just want more and the hunger is crazier," he says with all seriousness at the tail-end of our conversation.

Below, we talk about 2020, life, Off The Record, and what his aims are.

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