A delegation led by Ismaila Isa-Funtua tried to talk Omoyele Sowore out of his call for revolution for which he was detained illegally for over four months in 2019, the Sahara Reporters’ publisher said Tuesday.
Mr Sowore recalled the incident in the wake of the death of Mr Funtua, a close associate of President Buhari and Second Republic minister, who died on Monday from suspected cardiac arrest.
In an interview Mr Sowore had with SaharaTV, a sister platform of Sahara Reporters, he said the Mr Funtua-led emissary told him they had come to discuss his freedom from detention.
But Mr Sowore, a former student union activist, who confronted military regimes and suffered attacks and persecution for it, said he rejected their offer.
“You can’t defeat the government,” he said the late octogenarian who was one of the most influential men around the president, told him, “with a note of finality.”
“Well, you are about (to) find out that the people can defeat any government, no matter how powerful you guys think you’re,” he said he responded, enraged.
Mr Sowore, who contested in the 2019 presidential election and lost, in an account he gave on his Facebook page, said another member of the emissary, Nduka Obaigbena, the publisher of Thisday Newspapers, also tried to persuade him, but he stood his ground.
At the time, PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported how President Muhammadu Buhari sent emissaries to the activist to extract commitment from him to back down on the ‘revolution now’ protest as a precondition for his release.
The president’s emissaries were said to have visited Mr Sowore where he was at the time, illegally held at the State Security Service Abuja Headquarters to broker, a peace deal in return for his freedom.
Apart from the late Mr Funtua and Mr Obaigbena, others who took part in the botched negotiation included Sam Amuka, publisher of Vanguard Newspapers and presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu, Mr Sowore said.
While Mr Ogbaigbena denied being a part of the delegation last year November, Mr Funtua told PREMIUM TIMES then: “I went to meet him (Sowore) with Sam Amuka, Nduka Obaigbena and some others. We were there for two hours to discuss with him that there was no need to be grandstanding with his lawyers.”
Read Mr Sowore’s account below:
“After spending two weeks in DSS detention 2019, one afternoon I was called downstairs, early. Upon reaching the office of the two senior officers saddled with my detention, I was accompanied to the office of the Director Operations. a few minutes later there was this towering figure in white dress arriving with a delegation.
“It was Isa Funtua (now late) accompanied by Vanguard publisher Sam Amuka, Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu and Nduka Obaigbena, owner of THISDAY and ARISEtv.
“I was meeting all these men for the first time in my life. They said they had come (to) discuss my freedom from detention, while I thanked them for their kind intervention.
“I made it clear that it was wrong to come meet with me in detention without first consulting with my lawyer, Femi Falana. We (were) already in court challenging my unjust detention, but Isa-Funtua, haughty and condescending, was dismissive.
“He started berating my lawyer, claiming he’s only “grandstanding” and to me, he stated with a note of finality, “you can’t defeat the government.”
“I was enraged, and told him, ” Well, you are about (to) find out that the people can defeat any government, no matter how powerful you guys think you’re.
“As we argued back and forth, Nduka (Obaigbena) intervened and took me to an ante room in the office of the DO and pleaded that I shouldn’t argue with the old man that I should just play along and get released.
“I repeated to him that I’d considered the consequences of my actions and I am not interested in negotiating my liberty with anyone.
“I asked him why he didn’t think it was necessary to contact my attorneys before embarking on such a mission, he said he will get to Femi Falana and that’s was the end of my encounter with the team.”