Last Friday, news broke out from the premises of the Federal High Court in Abuja that the #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore, has been rearrested few hours after he was released from the Department of State Security’s custody. The publisher of the Sahara Reporters online news platform was seen in a video where fighting broke out in a bid by his supporters to prevent his re-arrest by the Nigerian secret police shortly after his case was adjourned in the court room.
So much rage has followed the state attempt to continue to detain him despite two separate judgements for his release since he was arrested and detained earlier in August. There have been arguments and counter arguments on the appropriateness of his continuous detention despite court judgements in a democratic setting since his arrest four months ago. Many of those who condemned the DSS act also disparaged the President, Muhammadu Buhari, and his vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for running a dictatorial democracy. The Department of State Security was also a subject of the angry reactions from Nigerians. The state secret police was condemned for its flagrant disregard for the rule of law. Even though the voice of those against the brazen manner in which the re-arrest was carried out seemed louder, a silent minority did not see anything out of order in the way the Ondo born former presidential candidate was handled.
In a case like this, the battle line is drawn. Reputation, propaganda and a war of narratives ensued. From Twitter to Facebook, Nigerians did not hide their disdain for an act described as despicable. On the surface, the objects of anger and sympathy appear clear. On one hand, there is President Muhammadu Buhari and the Department of State Security (DSS), an agency believed to have been used by the president to illegally put Sowore behind the bars. On the other hand, there is Sowore himself who is believed to have been victimized and has attracted public sympathy. The non-state actors have continued to point accusing fingers at the president’s military background and accused him of dictatorial tendencies. The war front is online where most narrative wars are won and lost. The focus of this analysis is to draw insights from the reputational war currently raging.
#For the past 90 days, the interest has been regional. An examination of how the issue of Sowore and his detention since August 3, 2019, when he was first arrested, has shown that the interest in his case online has been regional biased with states from the Southern Nigeria leading the pack of other states on percentage of interest. Bayelsa topped the list of states that indicated interest in Sowore with 100 percent while Oyo (90%); Enugu(75%); Kwara (69%); Ekiti (64%) and Ondo (62%) followed suit respectively. Apart from Kwara which is situated in the North Central, the other states are all in the South. The 100% interest in Sowore from Bayelsa is understandable. He was born and bred in the Niger Delta. The terms searched in relation to him included sowore latest news; who’s sowore omoyele; sowore released; sowore news. People wanted to understand Sowore’s personality and latest information on his case with the state. However, Lagos, the activism capital of the country, did not show much interest in Sowore. With a paltry 31% interest, the commercial hub of the nation seemed more pre-occupied with other issues. Ondo, his state of origin, was also occupying the 6th position.
For Buhari, in the last 90 days since Sowore’s arrest, interest peaked for him at 100% in Nasarawa followed by Kano 60%; Kaduna 48%; Ondo 43% and Anambra 37% respectively. Surprisingly, Ondo and Anambra were the two states from the south that join three other northern states to show interest in Mr President. They showed a below average interest in him. The related terms for the president’s search were Nigerian president muhammadu buhari and president muhammadu buhari. The implication is that until Friday when the news of Sowore’s re arrest broke, the battle line has been the south versus the north. Proximity and prominence were the two interest values that played out here. Each of the two regions held on to their two sons.
# In the last 7days, the regional battle became more intense. If the battle of the past 90 days has been ethnic driven, the struggle of the last 7 days was more clannish. In Ondo state, the search interest for Sowore stood at 100% while Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Ekiti had 93%,88%, 73% and 58% respectively. The search term had Sowore re arrest; Orji Kalu; DSS Rearrest Sowore; Rearrest of Sowore and Uzor Kalu as related terms within which the interest in Sowore was understood. Again, all the South western states except Lagos State were at the forefront of searching for Sowore. Lagos had 38% while Abuja, the FCT, where the re-arrest was staged had insignificant interest with 26%. This statistics could be explained. Ondo, where the main actor comes from, is leading the charge. His people would ordinarily be concerned about his safety and security. Osun is the state of his co-plaintiff, Olawale Bakare. The people would also be concerned. It is an indication that Osun people are trying to understand their son’s travails from the angle of his co-accused. In the North, in the last seven days, Muhammadu Buhari, was their main preoccupation. Kano (100%), Kaduna(57%), Niger (53%), Nasarawa(47%) and Anambra (35%) were the five states where the president had the highest percentage of interest. The northerners were trying to understand Buhari in terms of his wives and children. The related terms for which Buhari was searched included Hanan Muhammadu Buhari, Safinatu Yusuf,Aisha Buhari, Amina Buhari and Aisha Buhari. In the light of his youngest daughter’s graduation with first class from a foreign university, an explanation could have been found why the northern people are getting personal in their search and interest for Buhari.
#Sowore, the DSS and Buhari: Linkage between the Actors and Nigerians’ Attitudinal Disposition. Apart from the fact that the three actors are trending, there appears to be a complicated sympathy in the issue. In a worldwide interest analysed along with national views, there is a link between the three actors. For instance, there is a 61.4% connection between Sowore and Buhari. This implies that one percent interest in Sowore increases interest in Buhari by 61.4%. Similarly, it was observed that there is 8.2% connection between Sowore and DSS which means that one percent interest in Sowore increases interest in DSS by 8.2%. In the same manner, there is 28.1% connection between Buhari and DSS meaning that one percent interest in Buhari increases interest in DSS by 28.1%. This percentage of connection is an indication that the non state actors seek Buhari’s intervention in ending Sowore’s travails in the hands of the DSS.
Figure 1: Mean Score of Select Nigerians’ Attitudinal Dispositions towards the Actors
Source: Google Trends, 2019; Twitter Comments, 2019; Adebiyi, 2019
The chart above shows the mean score of Nigerian’s attitude towards the three actors. Extraction of a hundred comments from Twitter indicates the attitude has continued to swing from positive to negative and to neutral. “Nigerians are saying DSS under PMB is being used. Have you forgotten Marilyn Ogar of DSS 2013, 2014, early 2015? If it was her, Sowore would have been taken to Nasarawa slum. Buhari is a true democrat, he is a performer,” a Nigerian reasoned in justifying the DSS action. Another commentator said, “I condemn the total disregard for rule of law by Nigeria’s present government as we have seen in the DSS desecration of the Nigerian judicial system to rearrest Omoyele Sowore @YeleSowore. I call for his immediate release. Even accused persons are entitled to due process”. “How many people were talking like this when it was Dasuki or Nnamdi Kanu, sometimes I feel SWeners who are naturally the most vocal of us all seem to find their voice and their civil society comes alive with it is ethnically one of theirs. Nigeria has never been this vocal lately,” another tweeter user concluded.
Even though, it appeared somewhat late, the media handlers for both the Presidency and the DSS had issued statements on the purported roles the two played in the saga, the narrative war still continues.
Additional Information : Mutiu Iyanda Lasisi and Umar Olansile Ajetunmobi