Restraint has been the mood as far as thinking out (too) loudly on the arrest and detention of Deji Adeyanju by the Nigeria Police. He has been charged and, as such, commenting publicly on the matter carries a requirement for caution.
Fisayo Soyombo’s piece on the subject is about the right, measured response and what he writes deserves to be said. All of it.
The Police’s charges against Adeyanju peel into the broad perimeter between the realms of rights and responsibility. Courts will decide on this case but there are things to worry about regarding why there is a case in the first place.
Protests Are Constitutional
This is obvious. A citizen’s right to protest is covered by the freedom of peaceful assembly. Move to the next point.
Deji Adeyanju is Provocative
Soyombo does not use the description but says much to that effect. Indeed some others have noted this on social media, expressing disapproval for his method of activism. His often insulting, caustic words are usually disproportionate and exaggerated for the purpose or occasion. For example, his “oleeee” characterization of Vice President Osinbajo based on a report not intended to indict. Adeyanju is the convener of Concerned Nigerians and has achieved much good with his platform. But sometimes you wonder if his brand is intentionally vexatious.
Is Anti-Police Speech Unconstitutional?
This is where devil meets detail. What has Adeyanju been arrested for? The Police attached screenshots of his social media posts to the statement they published on Facebook. The photos include placards Adeyanju and company used during their protests, admonishing the Police to not be partisan. Are those the “provocative” material? Soyombo, like many others, reply with a vehement ‘NO’. In that case, has the Police arrested them for the social media posts? But his other friends have no such posts?
So the Police actually arrested them for protesting against them, then? As already mentioned, that would be a violation of his constitutional right.
Adeyanju Should Be Set Free
Not for the first time in the life of Buhari’s government, a #FreeDeji movement has developed on Twitter. But this is more serious than previous ones. Chances are that he may be detained till January. There were reports saying the Police took him from one prison to another on Tuesday over fresh allegations, causing apprehension. With prohibitive bail conditions, the tension over his state of affairs is real.
There are many likes and retweets to Shehu Sani’s statement that Adeyanju is “a prisoner of conscience, a flame of conviction and a rolling wheel of resistance”. That is all too flowery for a figure who inspires much ambivalence. But it does not detract from the fact of his detention being for the wrong reason. The author of the Voltairean principle, “I wholly disapprove of what you say—and will defend to the death your right to say it” probably had Adeyanju in mind.
It behooves the Nigeria Police to recognise his rights and release him accordingly. As the career coach Ogbeni Dipo observes, it shouldn’t take CNN or Reuters latching on to the news for the Force to realize the political embarrassment of holding him captive.
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