(This editorial was written on 13 December after we made our Editor’s Choice decision for this recognition. We have left it as is because the sentiments remain despite Sowore’s release, and because we have no trust in the words, intentions and integrity of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency, on this and other matters.)
What do you get when, as they say, an unstoppable object means an immoveable one?
The dance between Omoyele Sowore and Nigeria’s Department of State Security (DSS).
If the DSS (in fact the State Security Service according to the law), and those at the Presidential Villa who are allegedly teleguiding this performance of oppression had been wise enough to seek counsel, they would have told for free: It is a fool’s errand to try and intimidate Sowore.
He was born for times like this. We dare say he has been chomping at the bit for an opportunity like this – an opportunity to go beyond storyteller to key player, fighting directly the oppression and corruption he has investigated, exposed, and railed against, for over two decades.
Sowore is not a perfect man. There are credible accusations of meanness on his platform, proof of choosing sensation over veracity, and strains of pugilism that have led to exaggeration in its storytelling. One hopes that the man himself would concede to these.
But the one thing those who know him and have engaged with him know for sure is that Sowore does these neither for a position, for personal financial reward or any particular agenda – except that agenda be to bring Nigeria’s oppressive political power structure down. Not through war, or through insurrection (like the lawyers who appear not to understand either metaphor or nuance in the interpretation of the word ‘revolution’ insinuate), but through a galvanizing of the public consciousness to reject what it must not abide: a government that has failed.
And this federal government – along with the several state governments riding on its coattails – has failed. It has failed to secure life and property, it has failed to jumpstart the economy, it has failed to harness the potential of the nation’s youth, it has failed to tackle corruption being itself corrupt, and it has failed in any way to justify the wave of moral authority it made the centerpiece of its campaign five years ago.
This is not a government anyone can be proud of. This government is a mistake many enthusiastically made, that they now have come to regret, deeply and bitingly.
It is that excruciating regret – one that Sowore himself feels because he once apparently supported this government – that now drives his protest. It drives his rage, and it is the reason why he will never give up.
Ironically, we like what we see. Sowore’s beautiful intransigence – and the fact that this board of editors knows that he is not one to give up, not even at the risk of his life – and his evident refusal to ‘reason’ with those he considers abominable, underlined by his skillful performance in and out of the courtroom, is exactly the kind of demonstration that Nigeria most needs at this moment.
It lays bare the hypocrisy of this government, it lays bare the contradictions in our democracy, it lays bare the creeping helplessness of our judiciary (as if the duplicitous intimidation of former Chief Justice, Walter Onnoghen had not already made that abundantly clear), and in his empathy for the Nigerian public, calling them to action, without condemning them for inaction, Sowore both underscores the cowardice that has made us quiet in the face of Muhammadu Buhari’s government by oppression, and at the same time is building the kind of long term political movement that has the potential to make the president and his bootlickers ultimately irrelevant.
Because of Sowore’s masterful demonstration, the world – which has often given Mr. Buhari respect he has not earned – can now see clearly what the informed and the educated within Nigeria have known for sure for years: This president is a net negative for Nigerians. He is a pronounced failure as an administrator, a profound disappointment as a unifier, and now, with his aides fighting themselves in public while he remains absent and silent, and others fighting innocent patriots while attacking the sanctity of the courts, as we noted in our editorial three weeks ago, he has become a danger to our hard-earned democracy.
Because of Sowore, not even the president’s most rancid supporters can pretend that they are not ashamed. Not even his spokespersons can mount a passionate defense. This government is now officially indefensible.
Because of Sowore, a docile citizenry is being woken up – with every arrest, every televised intimidation, and every extra-judicial intervention – to take off the chains from their hearts, rediscover their voice, and take their destinies by the horns.
Foolishly and ironically, this government is helping Sowore bring on the revolution.
This is why the publisher of Sahara Reporters, 2019 presidential candidate of the African Action Congress and national icon, Omoyele Sowore is undoubtedly and unreservedly our choice for the Y!/YNaija.com Person of the Year 2019.
On this matter, we will never stop standing with him.