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Omoyele Sowore, the Nigerian Journalist charged with “treason” for staging a “revolution” campaign

By Abdulwasiu Mujeeb

 

The Nigerian secret police, also known as the DSS stormed a high court in Abuja on the 6 of December to re-arrest Nigerian journalist Omoyele Sowore, just hours after being freed on bail, in a case that has raised questions over free speech in the country.

Omoyele Sowore, a media expert, public commentator, human rights activist, writer and lecturer originates from Ese-Odo, Ondo State, Nigeria. He was born without a silver spoon in Niger Delta region into a polygamous home on the 16th of February 1971.

In 1988, he was admitted to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to study BSc in Geography and Planning, for political reasons and student activism he graduated in 1995 spending two extra years in University. During his studentship days in school, he served as the President of the university’s Student Union from 1992 to 1994.

As a result of injuries sustained from his activeness in the anti-cultism and anti-corruption advocacy, Sowore travelled to New York for medical treatment in 1999, where he stayed after his treatment to pursue a master’s in public administration from Columbia University, which he bagged in 2003.

Sowore was later employed as a lecturer of Modern African History at the City University of New York. In line with his passion to mentor lives positively, he left City University for post-Colonial African History at the School of Art, New York.

 

SOWORE'S ACTIVISM

Omoyele Sowore's struggle has become a model of leadership - for the freedom struggles he started during his days at University of Lagos. The protest he led was also instrumental in barring the Nigerian government from demoralizing the country's educational sector in 1989, when the then government want to secure a $120 loan for an oil pipeline project from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which was ready to grant the demand of the government upon fulfilling the condition of reducing the universities in the country from twenty-eight to just five.

Sowore also led a protest of 5,100 students against the military regime of General Sani Abacha in 1993, so as to call for transition to democratic system. While seven students were killed in the policemen’s bid to combat protest, Sowore was arrested and beaten ferociously.

However, his advocacy for good governance took a turn in 2006, when from New York, Omoyele Sowore started Sahara reporters - an online website that documents the activities of the Nigerian government and advocates for a corrupt-less governance in the country. Although the website refuses to accept any advert proposals and financial support from the Nigerian government, Sowore's Sahara reporters enjoyed the backing of the Ford Foundation and Omidyar Foundation through financial grants.

 

SOCIAL AND POLITICAL VIEWS

In a 2011 article titled "The new scramble for Africa" published by the Guardian UK, Sowore argued that “Africans are still chafing under postcolonial regimes led by former liberation warriors transformed into power-hungry, super-rich, authoritarian autocrats. Socialist rhetoric has been replaced with talk of capitalist investment, while multinationals of the west are vying for place against the emerging development interests of China and other Asian countries.”

Thus, among the solutions is to “upgrade the seriously outdated information available to Americans on Africa – starting with the view that our liberation leaders are democrats, when, in fact, the opposite is true.”

Sowore's political views and ideology revolves around Democratic - Socialism, he is an advocate of "personal democracy", which is to unleash the immense creativity and capabilities of all individuals, transforming their social and political landscape by involving them in all political process. According to him, this is the desperate change Nigeria needs, to “spice up” what he sees as a “tasteless” Nigerian political environment.

Moreover, during an interview in March 2018 with the Posterity Media - an online media outlet in Lagos, Sowore argued that his political aim would help to safeguard and nurture Nigeria’s democracy, provide platform through which the Nigerian people could hold their leaders accountable, and allow every Nigerian citizen to have a voice as citizen activists and citizen journalists.

In implementing and actualising his political and social ideology, Sowore formed his pollical party, the African Action Congress (AAC) in August 2018. The party held its national convention in the same year and he emerged unchallenged as the party’s Presidential candidate.

 

SOWORE'S ARREST

After the February 2019 general elections which some opposition parties claimed was rigged by the ruling party to give President Muhammadu Buhari a second term presidential seat, many criticisms were labelled against the president due to his administration deadly crackdown on human rights. Sowore, who revealed that Nigeria needs revolution partly because the elections were not credible - among other issues ranging from corruption to ineptitude of the government, planned with others a nationwide protest tagged #RevelotionNow and was scheduled for August 5, 2019.

Prior to August 5, Sowore revealed in Lagos that “the series of matches and rallies will continue until we have the Nigeria of our dreams. There is no respect for our dignity as a people and for you to get back that dignity, do as they are doing in Hong Kong; do as they are doing in Algeria...”.  

These words were held by the Nigerian government as a felonious statement and was later arrested on August 3 in Lagos by the officers of the Department of State Services (DSS), headquarters in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, where he has remained till date.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT

Omoyele Sowore, who believes that revolution is the solution to the Nigerian problem, hasn't been freed by the Nigerian government even after the bails granted to him on September and October by the federal high court in Abuja, although he was shortly released on the 5th of December but re-arrested on the 6th of December in the court premises.

"Whether you like it or not, the revolution will happen. It is only a matter of time," he said.

 

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