The palace of the Deji of Akure has cancelled the approval for the use of the Akure Town Hall by human rights activist and former presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore, for a town hall meeting scheduled for Saturday, December 16, 2023.
Sowore, who is the founder of the online news agency Sahara Reporters, had planned to hold a town hall meeting with the citizens of Ondo State, his home state, to discuss the political situation in the state amid the prolonged absence of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu due to ill-health and the power tussle between the deputy governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, and some members of the state executive council and the House of Assembly.
However, in a press statement issued on Monday, December 11, 2023, the Chief Press Secretary to the Deji of Akure, Adeyeye Michael, said the palace had rescinded the approval for the use of the town hall by Sowore because he had allegedly booked the facility under a “pretentious manner” to conceal the real motive of the meeting.
According to Adeyeye, the palace had initially granted the approval for the use of the town hall for a roundtable meeting of a coalition of civil societies, but later discovered that Sowore intended to use the hall as a meeting point for a procession. Adeyeye said the palace had an established standard that anyone or organization requesting the use of the hall or any community facility must make full disclosure of the purpose of the usage.
He added that the hall was made available for all activities, including social events, religious activities, and political gatherings and rallies, but concealing the real motive for a gathering negated the standing rules for getting the facility approval.
The palace’s decision has been met with strong criticism by Sowore’s counsel, Tope Temokun, who issued a counter press release on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, accusing the palace of being discriminatory and breaching the contract with Sowore, who had paid a deposit of N100,000 for the use of the hall.
The release was titled: “WITHDRAWAL OF THE APPROVAL FOR AKURE TOWN HALL USE: ALLEGATION OF CONCEALMENT OF PURPOSE IS AN AFTERTHOUGHT, SPECULATIVE AND UNPATRIOTIC!”
Temokun challenged the palace to come out with full details of the concealment alleged by the palace and the disclosure the palace had discovered to be the concealed purpose for taking up the hall. He also questioned the palace’s justification for cancelling the approval without giving Sowore an opportunity to explain his motive for the meeting.
Temokun said the palace’s action was not only actionable and for which he would press suit for redress, but also very unfortunate, as it denied Sowore the right to meet with his people and discuss the issues affecting the state.
He said Sowore had no ulterior motive for the meeting, other than to engage with the patriotic citizens of the state on the ways to navigate out of the state of political stalemate that the protracted illness and long absence of the governor had caused and the incidental power unrest between the state House of Assembly, the deputy governor and some members of the executive council presenting to be loyal to the ailing governor.
Sowore, who is known for his activism and pro-democracy campaigns, has not commented on the palace’s decision as of the time of filing this report. He ran for president in the 2019 and 2023 Nigerian general elections under the African Action Congress party. He was arrested by the State Security Service in August 2019 for alleged treason after calling for a protest tagged RevolutionNow. He was arrested again and assaulted during a protest in Abuja on January 1, 2021. He was also injured by a police officer during a protest in Abuja on May 31, 2021.
The release read, “In a twist of event yesterday, the use of the Akure Town Hall for the event of a town hall meeting in the Ondo state capital, Akure, on Saturday, the 16th of December 2023, called by Omoyele Sowore, was unilaterally cancelled by the palace.
“It will be recalled that Mr Omoyele Sowore called a town hall meeting for the Ondo state capital, Akure, on Saturday, the 16th of December 2023, to meet with the patriotic citizens of the state, his homestate, on the ways to navigate out of the state of political stalemate that the protracted illness and long absence from the state of the governor of the state, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, had caused and the incidental power unrest between the State House of Assembly, the deputy governor, Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa and some members of the executive council presenting to be loyal to the ailing governor.
“In his E-signed Press Statement yesterday, dated the 11th of December 2023, Mr
Adeyeye Michael, the Chief Press Secretary to the Deji of Akure, stated that “It is an established standard that, anyone or organizations requesting the usage of the hall or any community facilities for any activities must make full disclosure of the purpose of the usage. Without mincing words, the hall is made available for all activities including social events, religious activities, and political gatherings and rally amongst others. However, concealing the real motive for a gathering for which an approval for the usage of the hall is sought negates the standing rules for getting the facility approval”.
“If the hall is made available for all activities, including political gatherings and rally, as stated by Mr Adeyeye, then what other motive had been discovered to have led to the discriminatory unilateral cancellation of the granted licence which was paid for without any opportunity to wait to hear from My Omoyele Sowore if the use is for any illegal purpose other than what Mr Adeyeye said the hall is available for, that is, “all activities including social events, religious activities, and political gatherings and rally amongst others”, in My Adeleye’s quoted words.
“While the palace reserves the discretion to determine who is allowed to use the town hall for any legal purpose, cancelling a licence already given upon payment of the demanded fees for the use, on an allegation of securing the use through concealment of real purpose, is not just a breach of contract which is actionable and for which we shall press suit for redress, but also very discriminatory, as no credible reason or explanation had been adduced for the cancellation.
“We challenge the palace to come out with full details of the concealment alleged by the palace and the disclosure the palace now discovered to be the concealed purpose for taking up of the hall, because the statement issued by Mr Michael Adeyeye, stated that the decision to rescind the approval of the town hall use was because the facility was allegedly booked under a ‘pretentious manner’ to conceal the real motive of the usage.
“We are challenging the palace to disclose the “pretentious manner” or the false motive given and disclose the real motive it discovered and the source of its information, because the hall had not been used, let alone for any illegal purpose!
“It should be noted that the statement from Mr Adeyeye hinted that the initial approval granted by Mr Sowore for the usage of the town hall, which necessitated the payment of a deposit of N100,000, was for a roundtable meeting of a coalition of civil societies rather than for a meeting point for any procession. This is self-contradictory and unfortunate, because the palace had said the hall is available for all activities including political gathering and even rallies. Now what has changed? How will the palace justify allegation of concealment of purpose now, when the hall had not been used for any other purpose than the meeting of coalition of civil societies? Or will the palace feign ignorance of the meaning of civil society coalitions?
“The problems of governance vacuum in Ondo State affect all of us. And we own the state together. It is high time the palace faced the reality that Akure is a dual-character city and not just an indigenous kingdom but also state capital which by virtue of that belongs, in that capacity, to all Ondo State citizens. Omoyele Sowore is not just a a pro-democracy campaigner, but a political leader, a two-time presidential candidate in this country, leader of a registered political party, African Action Congress, with members who cut across the State and an indigene of Ondo State from Kiribo in Ese-Odo Local Giovernment Area of Ondo State. So what disentitles him from coming to the state capital to address his people on the constructive absence of governance in the state?
“If the palace is afraid of a “procession” or a street protest, as unintentionally but tacitly revealed in Mr Adeleye’s Press Statement, the town hall was not booked for a procession or a street protest because a procession or street protest cannot take place inside a hall as there is a clear difference between a town hall meeting and a street protest because the town hall is not a street.”
Below is the image for the proposed town hall meeting: