Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, has reacted to the revelation made by the publisher of SaharaReporters, Omoyele Sowore, on what transpired between he (Sowore) and prominent Nigerians who visited him when he was detained by the Department of State Services in Abuja.
Sowore was illegally detained for four months by the government on trumped-up charges, despite court rulings ordering the release of the rights advocate.
Sowore, in an interview, revealed how the late Isa Funtua, Shehu and others visited him in detention.
He said they wanted him to renounce his stand on the #RevolutionNow movement in exchange for his freedom from the detention of the DSS.
Sowore said, “After spending two weeks in DSS detention in 2019, one afternoon I was called downstairs.
“Upon reaching the office of the two senior DSS officers, I was accompanied to the office of the Director of Operations. A few minutes later, there was this towering figure in a white dress who came 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 met 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 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. He stated with a note of finality, ‘you can’t defeat the government’.”
Reacting to the issue on Monday, Shehu stated that the Nigerian government did not sponsor the meeting. He claimed Funtua was more concerned about Sowore’s freedom and that he (Funtua) pushed for the meeting.
Shehu said: “Nobody sent anybody to go and ‘negotiate’ Sowore’s freedom as he put it.
“The late Malam Isma’ila, on his own, called me to ask that I broker a meeting with him and two others with the DSS, which they agreed to.
“It is important that I state that it was the force of Malam Isma’ila’s argument that made the meeting possible. Vanguard Newspapers publisher, Sam Amuka and ThisDay Publisher and President, Nigerian Press Organisation, Nduka Obaigbena, all agreed that Sowore was a “rascal”, who had used his newspaper “to abuse all of us,” but agreed, nonetheless to go and press for his release.
“The meeting ended well, and contrary to the posturing by Sowore, he said he was happy with a resolution proposed but that his lawyer, whoever that was, needed to come on board. The fence-mending process collapsed after the meeting of the trio with the lawyer in Lagos.”
Shehu said that the government might be forced to demand the video clip of the meeting they held with Sowore.
“Knowing the way the secret service works, it should surprise no one if they kept a recording of that meeting. Faced with this posturing and the unfair attacks on the dead, we certainly will be forced to ask for the release of tapes, in case they are available for the public to judge,” he added.