This piece was prompted by a need to respond to the recent interview Segun Awosanya, popularly known as Segalink, had with SEGUN ADEWOLE of the Punch Newspaper “on the cyber bullying and intolerant attitude displayed by members of the Peter Obi campaign.”
Segun Awosanya is the man who gained fame on social media a few years ago as the one fighting against the brutality of the Nigerian police, especially the SARS unit. He was seen as the pioneer of the movement against the SARS. He was a product of social media excitement by the Nigerian youths. He later lost the support of the youth and has recently been ridiculed on social media, each time he tries to reclaim his lost relevance. This time, he attempts so by attacking the supporters of Peter Obi. As seen in the interview, he is unhappy about his decline in fame and he is now attacking the process that produced him.
Throughout the breath and length of his interview with Segun Adewole, Mr. Awosanya, lamented the fact that he now being attacked by the same group of people whose cheers had catapulted him to relevance in the Nigeria social media. In the instance, his frustration is aimed at the segment of the vocal Nigerian youths who are cheering Peter Obi as their preferred presidential candidate. These youths are popularly called “the Obidients” There is no doubt that Obidients are vocal, aggressive and largely intolerant. But they really have no choice. They reflect the general anxiety in Nigeria that unless something was done differently, the clamor of the Nigerian youths would be scuttled yet again. Does that excuse the need for decorum? No! Does that justify the increasing intolerance of those who support Peter Obi? Certainly not. But it explains it. It makes it understandable. And people like Mr. Awosanya, Reno Omokri, Adeyanju or Poju Oyemade should not complain.
Indeed, Awosanya is the last person to complain about the mob tendencies of Nigerians on social media because he was one of the greatest beneficiaries of the unreasoning mob excitement. Awosanya presented himself as a superman who was genuinely fighting against police brutality and who was aiming at redressing the menace posed by the activities of the SARS unit of the Nigerian police. Many Nigerians believed him. The “unreasoning mob” cheered him on and he became an instant celebrity thereby. Then, Mr. Awosanya did not notice that much of the credit given to him was unjustified and unmerited. It was not an accurate measure of any tangible contribution he had made on the subject of redressing police brutality in Nigeria. Yes, there was a promise, but it was totally unfulfilled. None of those who cheered Awosanya understood that he was never really ready to take the bull by the horn. Instead, he was quite ready to appease the police system that he claimed to be challenging. Despite the glory and achievement he wanted to lay claim to, Awosanya was just riding on the euphoria of these same youths he castigates today.
The evidence of Awosanya’s lack of impact as regards curtailing abuses by the SARS was shown in the fact that the SARS never stopped or reduced their activities as a result of Awosanya’s alleged advocacy. In 2018, the Nigerian police detained Emeka Ugwuonye, a lawyer, at their infamous abattoir detention center in Abuja. The reason the police detained Ugwuonye was simply because he had accused the police on social media of abusing the rights of Nigerians. After a weekend in police cell, Emeka Ugwuonye attempted to make a video documentary to expose the atrocities and extrajudicial killings committed by the Nigerian police in Abattoir, of which he was a witness. The police realized that if Emeka Ugwuonye was allowed to air his views, Nigerians would get a true picture of the atrocities being committed by the police. To silence Ugwuonye, Commissioner Bala Ciroma ordered that Emeka Ugwuonye be charged with a phantom murder and armed robbery, unbailable offences in Nigeria, and thus have him remanded in prison for an offense he could never have committed.
While Emeka Ugwuonye was in detention, messages were sent to Mr. Awosanya by those who believed that he would see the cause of Ugwuonye as worthy of support. But Mr. Awosanya actually praised the police for persecuting Ugwuonye. The only reason one could deduce from Mr. Awosanya’s indifference to Ugwuonye’s predicament was that he, Awosanya, was never serious in his fight against police brutality and he was not willing to do anything that could remotely offend the police high command. It was also possible that Mr. Awosanya did not want to share credit with anybody else in the fight against police brutality, and he perceived Ugwuonye as superior rival.
Also, when, as a result of the ineffectiveness of Awosanya’s advocacy, the Nigerian youths, who had supported him, decided to take matters into their hands, which led to the 2020 ENDSARS riots, the same Mr. Awosanya turned against the youths and supported the police authorities. He thus lost the support of the Nigerian youths. He found himself sinking into irrelevance, as those who once cheered him regained their reasoning ability and began to question his claims and his leadership.
It is clear from this interview that Mr. Awosanya is quite bitter about his decline in fame. What he sees as intolerance on the part of the Obidient youths is a continuation of their rejection of his hypocrisy. He failed to realize that every glory is fleeting. But attacking the youths for losing their support shows he lacks a good understanding of history and human nature, despite his pretentions of knowledge thereof. He is even at the point of justifying his credentials and qualifications to function as an advocate for justice and an influencer. Thus he compares his case with Bill Gates and the latter’s work on vaccines. What a fantastic analogy! That is how bad it is for Awosanya. Painting his opponents with tar does not help him either. I saw where he described Obidient youths as tribalists or “feminists” seeking same-sex marriage in Nigeria. That was the lowest Awosanya could go. First, he showed extraordinary ignorance. I challenge him to look up the meaning of the word “feminist” in any dictionary. He will be shocked to know he didn’t know the meaning of such common term.
Awosanya is a product of the social media bubble. He rode to fame on the crest of social media euphoria by youths who acted before they reasoned. And when those youths eventually engaged reason, they saw that Awosanya was just hot air, full of empty talks that intended to impress. And when the youths realized their mistake about him, they turned against him. His loss of fame or decline in relevance is a natural chain of events. A leader of the mob should not complain about mobs. He should just wait for the next round of the wave and then he can jump in for another opportunistic ride.
Emeka Ugwuonye is a Harvard trained attorney and founder of Due Process Advocates International