Madam Esther Kehinde Sowore, mother of rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, has spoken out for the first time since the arrest and detention of her son by the Department of State Services on August 3, 2019.
The activist was picked up from his hotel in Lagos in the early hours of that day for calling on Nigerians to take to the streets on August 5 in peaceful demonstrations to demand a better country from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Under Buhari’s government, dozens of Nigerians continue to lose their jobs and sources of livelihood by the day while a growing number of individuals and households are now forced to go unimaginable heights in trying to put decent meals on their tables.
Speaking on the situation of the activist on Tuesday, Madam Esther said that contrary to claims by the Nigerian Government that her son was out to distabilise the country through violence, ‘Yele’ as she fondly calls him, was not a criminal but a kind-hearted soul born to challenge evil and every form of injustice around him.
In a two-minute, 40-second video, the woman called on Buhari and Director-General of the DSS – Nigeria’s secret and ruthless police – Yusuf Bichi, to immediately release her son especially after two court orders had directed that he should be freed upon satisfying stringent bail conditions.
Madam Esther went further to call on Nigerians all around the world to raise their voices against Sowore’s continued detention by the government.
She said, “Dear SSS, Dear Buhari, I am Yele Sowore’s mother. I am sending you this message as a mother. I am a woman, your mother is a woman, your wife is a woman also. This is December and Yele has been taken away since August.
“He always comes to me in the village every December but you have been holding him. I am a widow, my son has always been like that. He speaks against injustice and stands up against it. He doesn’t run away, he faces his case. Please release him and let him face his case in court. I know him, he can’t run away because he knows he has not committed any crime.
“You are a Muslim, please in the name of Allah, leave my son, release him. I call on all mothers to speak out, let us join voice for the sake of the future of our children.
“Omoyele is only asking for a better Nigeria so that all our children can have good future. My mind is disturbed that he has not been allowed to go for medical care since August. Alhaji Bichi Yusuf, please obey the law since you have gone to court release Omoyele Sowore now.
“Since I gave birth to him, he always speaks against evil. Even in the village, before he went to school in Lagos, he has always been like that. He is not a criminal, release Sowore now. Please release my son because you have your own son, you take care of your son, let me take care of my children.
“I am a widow, release my son. I cannot eat, I cannot sleep and it is affecting my health. Please release Omoyele Sowore, my son. He is not a criminal. Omoyele is not a criminal, leave him.”
As part of a growing number of groups and individuals around the world calling for his freedom, international rights group, Clooney Foundation for Justice, on November 22 demanded Sowore’s immediate and unconditional release by Buhari’s government.
Co-President of the foundation, Amal Clooney, in a statement said, “It is outrageous that Nigeria continues to imprison a journalist and presidential candidate after a court had ordered his release.
“TrialWatch will continue to monitor Sowore's trial and calls on the authorities to implement the court’s order as soon as possible.”
This came only a day after Amnesty International designated Sowore a prisoner of conscience.
Similarly, on November 26, Robert Menendez, a United States senator and Josh Gottheimer, a member of congress, petitioned the Nigerian Head of Mission to America, Sylvanus Adiewere Nsofor, over the continued detention of Sowore.
The US lawmakers expressed concern over the activist’s situation despite fulfilling bail conditions twice after court orders.
In the weeks and days before that time, series of rallies had been held in major cities across the world with leading rights advocates and scholars all calling for the immediate release of Sowore.
But the Nigerian Government rather than yield to those demands, has continued to adopt different strategies to keep the 48-year-old out of circulation.
For instance, on November 19, spokesperson for the DSS, Peter Afunanya, told journalists in Abuja that they were yet to release Sowore because they feared he could be knocked down by a vehicle on his way out of their facility.
"We cannot just release Sowore and ask him to go because he may be knocked down by a vehicle at the gate,” Afunanya had said at the time – a position that was met with stiff criticism by many Nigerians.
On other occasions, the secret police, through Afunanya, had claimed that nobody showed up to collect the activist and that he in fact prefers to be kept with them – narratives Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana – a senior advocate of Nigeria – and many rights crusaders describe as insane.
Famed globally for exposing Nigeria's corrupt politicians through his pioneering online news medium – SaharaReporters – Sowore is being accused and held by the government for insulting Buhari and planning to bring down his regime – charges observers around the world have described as baseless.
DSS’ refusal to release the activist casts a huge shadow over the human rights record of Buhari’s regime, many observers believe.