Omoyele Sowore is from Ese-Odo, Ondo State in South West Nigeria. Sowore was born in the Niger Delta region of the country where he was also raised in a polygamous home with sixteen children.
Sowore studied Geography and Planning at the University of Lagos from 1989 to 1995 with his academic program extended by two extra years after being expelled twice for political reasons and student activism. He was the President of the University of Lagos Student Union Government between 1992 and 1994 where he was involved in anti-cultism and anti-corruption advocacy. Sowore holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University.
In 1989, he took part in student demonstrations protesting the conditions of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan of $120 million to be used for a Nigerian oil pipeline. Included among the conditions of the IMF loan, was a reduction in the number of universities in Nigeria from 28 to 5.
Sowore led 5,100 students in protest against the Nigerian government in 1992. The protest resulted in police opening fire and killing seven protesters. Sowore was arrested and tortured. Omoyele was also involved in the demand for democratic government taking over military rule on June 12, 1993. This resulted in several arrests, detentions and life-threatening treatment by government officials.
Sowore and His Presidential Race
On February 25, 2018, Sowore announced his intention to run for presidency in the 2019 Nigerian general election. In August 2018, he founded a political party, the African Action Congress (AAC), for which he will run for in 2019.
On October 6, 2018, following successful primary elections at the AAC’s national convention, Omoyele Sowore emerged unchallenged as the Presidential Candidate for the party.
After touring many states in Nigeria, visiting dignitaries such as the Emir of Kano and Wole Soyinka, Sowore embarked on a fundraising tour around the world including Australia, the United States of America and the UK. He was in Luton (London) on the 10th of November, 2018.
Sowore and The Nigerian Elections
Several candidates contested for the presidential seat but were defeated by Muhammdu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who polled 15,191,847 votes while his main contender, Atiku Abubabakar of the Peoples Democratic Party got 11,264,977 votes to come second.
However, Sowore, came fifth with 33,953 votes ahead of other new entrants to the race like Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, who polled 16,779, and Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Democratic Party, YPP, who garnered 21,886 votes.
Sowore was arrested by the DSS on August 3, 2019 ahead of a planned nationwide #RevolutionNow protest. The Federal Government, which later admitted to the arrest, was condemned by Wole Soyinka, Oby Ezekwesili and many other activists. He was later charged with “conspiracy to commit treason and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari”.
Sowore, The Court and His Journey
On September 24, 2019, Sowore was granted bail by the Federal High Court Abuja, on the condition that he surrender his international passport within forty-eight hours. The DSS has refused to release Sowore claiming ignorance of the court order. The DSS’ refusal to release Sowore led to protests at the UN Plaza in New York led by Sowore’s wife and has sparked a global decry on Nigeria’s failed democracy.
On September 29, 2019, Sowore made his first appearance in the media since his detention. He described his poor treatment, being locked up in a dark room without the sunlight. He also mentioned that “Boko Haram commanders who are engaged in high level terrorism have access to telephone, TV and even cable in their cells” while he is being denied such access.
On December 5, 2019, the court again set Sowore free confirming that he had setlled his bail terms. However, there was a wind of change in court when DSS operatives evaded the premises to re-arrest him.
The Opinion of Reuben Abati on Sowore and The Court
Reuben Abati in his article titled ‘Omoyele Sowore: Portrait of A Life in Protest’, shed more light on the saga by making the following statement:
“The mishandling of the Omoyele Sowore case has become clearly an albatross for the Nigerian government, an embarrassment for the incumbent Federal Government and a public relations disaster for both the Department of State Services and Nigeria as a whole. All of that was patently avoidable. Inadvertently, the Federal Government has turned Omoyele Sowore into a “hero”, a symbol for resilience against official impunity in Nigeria, and a poster figure for courage and boldness.Reuben Abati
In using the law to paint him as “an enemy of the state”, they have ended up painting the Nigerian state as an “enemy of the rule of law, due process and judicial independence.” This was a station Nigeria supposedly left with the return to civilian rule in 1999. What is happening in the Sowore case is akin to a turning back of the hands of the clock.
Whatever happens, the Nigerian government with the psycho/melodrama, last week at a Federal High Court in Abuja now finds itself in a Catch-22 situation.
Whatever may be the weight and proof of evidence at the disposal of the prosecutors, the mismanagement of the optics and the process, has turned Sowore into a hero. If he is convicted in the long run, he will be considered a prisoner of conscience.
Even if the Federal Government enters a nolle prosequi, and the case dies judicially, Sowore could run as far as he can on the global stage with the national honour that the Nigerian Government would have mistakenly bestowed upon him. He and his followers have shown a greater and better understanding of the dialectics of power, history and protest than the Nigerian Government. A basic rule in this dynamics is to know the enemy, and adopt a “counter-revolutionary” strategy.
In this instance, the Nigerian Government has so far played Sowore’s game and I dare say they have played into his hands. Even if they win in the court of law, or succeed in further violating the orders of the courts, I do not see the government winning in the courts of local and international public opinion. For President Muhammadu Buhari who by now should worry more about his legacy, as the clock ticks and time passes, this should be a matter of great concern beyond the incredulous statements issued by Nigeria’s secret police and the unhelpful, chest-beating declarations on his behalf by Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu. It is sad that the Buhari administration is repeating the mistake of 1984, most unnecessarily.
Sowore is the owner of the game so far and that is not by happenstance. He may not qualify as a man of ideology to the extent that he is not popularizing either scientific socialism or its alternative, caught as he is at the intersection of neo-liberalism complexity and a revolutionary conviction that is couched in shades of populism and opportunism. But his mastery of the psychology of protest is unimpeachable. He is definitely not new to activism and its tactics.”
The Verdict on Sowore
In addition, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has ordered the Department of State Service, DSS, to hands-off the prosecution of detained pro-democracy activist and convener of RevolutionNow Protest, Omoyele Sowore.
The AGF, in a statement that was made available to newsmen by his media aide, Dr Umar Gwandu, on Friday 13th day of December, 2019, said he directed the security agency to forward the case file in respect of charge pending against Sowore before the Federal High Court in Abuja, to his office.
Malami further directed the Federal Ministry of Justice to immediately take over the prosecution of all charges against Sowore, in line with the provisions of Sections 150(1) and 174 (1) (a-c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He said the Federal Government was committed to respecting the sanctity of the rule of law, protecting the virtues of human rights and ensuring speedy dispensation of justice in the matter.