Esther Sowore 68,mother of Omoyele Sowore,”No Christmas for me if Sowore is not released”
68-year-old Esther Sowore, mother of Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters and convener of #RevolutionNow, who is being detained by the State Security Service, tells GBENRO ADEOYE that life has not been the same in the last four months because of her son’s incarceration
Your son has been in detention for over four months, how does that feel?
It is very sad; his continued detention has been very painful to me.
What kind of person is you son, really?
He is a nice person and he started activism even before he got to university. He has been fighting for justice since he was in secondary school. He always fights for what is right.
Do you remember instances when he had to fight for his right in school or on behalf of someone else?
He fought against corruption and injustice when he was at the University of Lagos. He does not like cheating. He wants a better Nigeria.
So how difficult has the period been for you, personally?
It has really affected my health because I can’t eat and can’t sleep well. I’m losing weight. I am very lean now. Some of my sisters now have high blood pressure because of the situation.
What impact has it had on the family?
We have organised group prayers in the family. We already did one. People prayed for 10 days and they have started another 10-day prayer now. Some came out while some observed it at home. The Christian Association of Nigeria was also involved. Some of his siblings are often in Abuja now because they want to see him but the SSS has not allowed them to see him.
Have you made attempts to see him?
I was told that I would not be allowed to see him. Those that went said the SSS did not allow anybody to see him and that I would also not be allowed to see him. And they don’t allow him to talk to his wife, children and relations.
So you have not spoken to him since…
That is why I’m too lean. There is no phone with him.
Do you remember the last conversation you had with him?
The last time I saw him was when he was home for his brother’s wedding. But we didn’t have any chance to talk. He came into the village around 7pm and left in the morning. Before that time, he always called. So the last conversation would be just greetings.
Are you not afraid for his life with the way things are going?
I’m very afraid. I’m just lucky that I am staying with my children so I am not lonely. If not, I would have found myself in the hospital. My children are the ones who say, ‘mummy, please eat; mummy, you have to bathe’. If I don’t want to eat, they would force me to eat. I can’t sleep. I don’t have appetite. I only force myself to eat something small.
When he was recently released, you must have had some hope that finally you would see your son after over four months…
(cuts in) When I heard he had been released, I was very happy. I felt better. I was feeling pains on my body but that stopped when I heard he was free. I didn’t know that they would arrest him again.
How did you feel when the hope of seeing him again was dashed?
I was restless. I cannot explain how I felt. I felt really sad.
What are the things that come to your mind when you think about him?
The first thing that comes to my mind is how he would come to the village to celebrate Christmas with us every December and give everybody Christmas gifts. He always celebrates Christmas with us.
Has there been any time he failed to do that?
He always comes to the village in December to celebrate with us.
What if he is not released by Christmas and is unable to be with you this Christmas?
It means there is no Christmas and there is no New Year’s Day. It has not happened before, for us not to see him during Christmas time. I call on our creator and the Almighty God to come to my aid and release my son from SSS’ custody.
You made a passionate appeal recently to the SSS that they should release your son, did you get any response from them?
I have not received any message from them.
What do you think Nigerians can also do to get the Muhammadu Buhari regime to obey court orders?
Political leaders are silent on this matter. I expect them to say something about it. It is only one person that I know has always been talking about it but I don’t want to mention any name.
The European Union and some US senators have spoken against the action of the Buhari regime on the matter, has that given you any consolation that the international community is also monitoring the situation?
It was the video that made me to eat a little recently. When I saw the video (of a US senator calling for his release), I was very happy and I prayed to God to allow it to be possible.
What do you think about the Hate Speech Bill which is being proposed the National Assembly?
They have been discussing it on TV but I am happy that Nigerians have said they don’t want it and will not allow it. I like as they are against it and I support them. When I saw the debate on TV, I thought ‘why couldn’t they get more people to talk?’ Since I was born, I had never heard of such in Nigeria. It is very bad.
What would make this Christmas and New Year’s Day to be perfect for us?
If they release my son, Christmas will be perfect for me. I am begging all Nigerians to help me. I am begging all political leaders to plead with Buhari to release my son. I call on mothers, church leaders, and traditional leaders to plead with Buhari. I call on his (retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s) wife to talk to her husband so he can release my son. It is the woman that knows the pain of childbirth. For example, if she is the one whose son is in detention for more than four months, how will she feel? I want Buhari to leave room for peace in Nigeria. My son is not a criminal; he always says the truth. I am a widow; I want Buhari to consider me. I want Aisha to talk to her husband to release my son. She should know how painful it would be to have a son in detention for over four months.
Your son was one of those who supported Major General Buhari (retd.) to get to power in 2015; do you think he shouldn’t have supported him?
You know he is an activist and could support anybody to get there. I know he always fights for a better Nigeria.
Personally, what do you think about the Buhari regime?
What I see is that there is no love and there is no place for peace. Buhari is supposed to take care of youths like his children, take care of mothers like his own mother and provide job opportunities for youths. There are no jobs. Some widows borrow money to send their children to school. People are not happy.
Were you always carried along when your son wanted to engage in activism, like during #RevolutionNow protest?
When there is no fighting, there is no need for him to call me to say he is doing this or that. It is later that people tell me it was Sowore that fought for this thing. Can I always stay with him? But anytime I hear he is fighting for something good, I am happy.
Do you think Buhari has a forgiving spirit?
Only God can touch Buhari’s heart. Since I was born, I had never seen somebody (like that) who doesn’t want to take advice from anyone. That is why I am calling on God to rescue my son from the hands of SSS and Buhari.
Some people have described your son as an opportunist, who likes attention. Do you think he is an opportunist?
The painful thing is that my son is fighting for a better Nigeria. And if Nigeria is better, it will be in Buhari’s record.
But the Buhari regime is claiming that your son wanted to get him out of power through a revolution…
That is a great lie because my son has no weapons, arms or ammunition to fight with anybody. All he wants is for Nigerians to have constant power supply, potable water, jobs and good things. How is it possible for someone who did not win an election to be in office?
Is there anything you will like to add?
I am pleading with SSS and Buhari to release my son. He is not a criminal. SSS, release my son. Buhari, release my son. I am pleading; I am begging you in the name of Allah, to release my son so I can be a happy woman and enjoy this Christmas. I want the whole world to beg Buhari to release my son. You have your own son, and you want to celebrate him. Let me celebrate my son. Free Sowore, free Omoyele. Release him, he is not a criminal.