As I write this, Omoyele Sowore has been released from the custody of the DSS, the Nigerian secret police. He was rearrested illegally in contravention of the law and an order of a court granting him bail – actions that we can now surmise the Nigerian government took out of desperation. Such is the explosive power of Sowore, a Nigerian activist, publisher and government critic cut from the same cloth as greats like Beko Ransome-Kuti and Bola Ige.
Sowore has always been on the side of the oppressed. From his early days leading protests at the University of Lagos and his involvement in the charge for a return to democracy in 1993, Sowore has been on the frontlines of some of the most important battles for the future of this nation, many of which led to death threats, intimidation, and attacks on his life. But Sowore remained undeterred and unable to turn away from the cause.
His concern for the future of Nigeria and his desire to hold the leaders who sought to sabotage the country accountable was why he launched Sahara Reporters in 2006, funded by the Ford Foundation and the Omidyar Network. The online news site has grown to become a conscience for successive Nigerian governments, civilian and military.
With nearly 20 years of activism behind him and the respect and admiration of millions of Nigerians, Sowore announced in 2018 he was finally taking up the mandate to run for the presidency in Nigeria, after all, why criticize when you can attempt to change things from the inside. Sowore’s party AAC was one of the most consistent during the 2019 elections, and the eventual votes that the party garnered during the poll were hard-won through tireless campaigning.
Thanks to Sowore, we had a stronger opposition at the 2019 elections, sans the PDP and APC, and Sowore, understanding from his days running Sahara Reporters that the fight doesn’t end simply because you did not win an election, he elected to start ‘Revolution Now!’ – his protest campaign to peacefully demand for improved governance and hold Nigerian leaders to account. It’s because of this brazen fearlessness that Sowore was illegally detained and why I am reminded that progress requires time and often, sacrifice. I cannot say for sure how this particular saga will end, but I can tell you with confidence that it has already changed the course of Nigeria.
Sowore has never been in doubt about the price his vocal politics would have on his personal and professional life, but it is also clear that he believes the eventual rewards for Nigeria will be worth it.