Today makes it 39 days that #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore, has been in detention. The political activist was arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS), who accused him of being sponsored by external forces to bring down President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Sowore was behind the August 5 protest march held in different parts of the country by Nigerian citizens to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the Federal Government.
Even though Sowore was arrested before the planned day of the protest, many went out and participated in the march. That goes to show the influence the man has.
Interestingly, his influence has failed to take him out of his current predicament. The DSS appealed to a Federal High Court presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo to hold him for 90 days. The Judge granted them permission to have him detained for 45 days.
The question that comes to mind is; does Omoyele Sowore deserve his fate? Is he really the treasonous individual that the government says he is? A lot of people have expressed displeasure over his detention, asserting that he was well within his rights to organize a peaceful protest. Others have proclaimed that he is nothing but a rogue who does nothing but cause trouble and that he is getting what he deserved.
The word ‘hero’ has been used to describe him as many still remain loyal to the man who has repeatedly shown that he is a radical who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
So, to be in a position to answer whether or not he is truly a hero just fighting for his people, or a troubleshooter who could be considered a menace, let us take a look at the path that the man has taken that has led him here.
Omoyele Sowore’s past is as controversial and interesting as his present. His academic program at the University of Lagos was extended by an extra two years after being expelled twice for political reasons and student activism.
He showed early on that he was leadership material as he was Student Union Government (SUG) President between 1992 and 1994, where he was heavily involved in the war against cultism. He was also behind anti-corruption advocacy.
He led students in a protest against the Nigerian Government in 1992. The protest resulted in the police opening fire and several people being killed. Sowore was arrested and tortured. But that would not deter the young man who appears to be as daring as he is fearless.
It has been said that the struggle for the realization of democracy in Nigeria on June 12 would not be complete without the mention of Sowore.
He was involved in the demand for a democratic government taking over military rule on June 12, 1992. This led to arrests, detentions and life-threatening treatment by government officials.
These events gradually began to make Omoyele Sowore popular and he started to identify with people who mattered in the society. Most prominent among them was the late M.K.O. Abiola.
Sowore was reportedly offered N800,000 by Abiola to support their struggle but the political activist vehemently denied the sum of money.
Like a headstrong missionary determined to continue in his holy quest to spread the gospel, Sowore made up his mind to fight corruption in his own way and on his terms. This was when Sahara Reporters was birthed.
Sowore started Sahara Reporters in a small room in Manhattan, New York. It is an online news platform set up to fight corruption and wrong government practices.
Armed with his platform, Sowore ventured into investigative journalism, rustling a lot of feathers along the way, thereby making enemies in high places as well. These foes would mark the unrelenting Sowore as an adversary, a perceived threat to their very peace.
It didn’t come as a surprise when he announced that he intended to contest for presidency in the February 2019 elections. Many welcomed the idea as they sought for a leader from the younger generation who would bring fresh ideas to a troubled economy.
His antics, however, were seen by many as offensive and unbecoming as he displayed certain rebellious traits. Sowore flouted debate rules of engagement through naming and shaming of corrupt members of the opposition party.
The election took place and Sowore contested, representing the African Action Congress (AAC). President Buhari emerged victorious, Atiku Abubakar, a candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) finished second while Sowore came in third.
It wasn’t too long into President Buhari’s second term that Sowore and others voiced their disappointment with his administration, especially in the area of security. Never one to just sit by idly, Sowore started an online campaign to stage a protest march which he tagged #RevolutionNow. We know the rest of the story.
The police and other security operatives ended up dispersing the crowd and making several arrests. A few journalists were among those arrested.
With Sowore in custody and the President still in office, it seems that the purpose of the protest march has been defeated.
Some would disagree with that as they say that it wasn’t all for nothing. A spark, they say, has been ignited. And sooner or later, an inferno of change will burn brightly.
One thing is undeniable; Omoyele Sowore has not been forgotten. A lot of his associates have been advocating for him to be freed. Among them is Ondo State Monarch who on the 8th of September appealed to the Federal Government to release him unconditionally as they had no justifiable reason to keep him in custody.
Even a few of those who he had clashed with in the past have condemned the decision to keep him under isolation. Others say that President Buhari plans to keep him under lock and key for as long as possible as he will always be seen as a threat.
They opine that despite the fact that the President doesn’t plan to let Sowore go free, he respects him and knows that if elected he would make a good leader who would make good decisions for the country.
They claim that this is evident in Buhari’s declaration of June 12 as Nigeria’s democracy day.
Sowore during a town hall meeting in Abeokuta on the 3rd of June 2018 had promised to declare June 12 the country’s democracy day. President Buhari, however, made the announcement a few days later.
It is also ironical that Sowore who is an anti-corruption advocate has been accused of being guilty of corrupt practices. The DSS has been very vocal on the issue as they say that he has taken money from different sources to foster his plan of revolution. They point to his trip to the US, where he met with IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, as proof of this.
Sowore admitted to seeing Kanu but denied taking anything from him to wage war against the President. His bank accounts have been checked but so far nothing incriminating has been traced to him.
Even his wife, Opeyemi Sowore, has stated clearly that her husband is innocent of the false accusations being leveled against him. She said the government had no ground for holding him and revealed that though he was putting on a brave front, that wasn’t easy and couldn’t last much longer as his condition in solitary confinement was already having adverse effects on his mind.
She said that he has been granted permission to speak with her and their children twice.
Maybe Sowore is a true patriot who is ready to give all to see that the revolution he wants takes place (even if it means spending a long time in confinement). Or he could be just another one of those who have a history of not letting things be as they are and end up being forgotten in the annals of time.
Only time will tell.