When you hear the name Omoyele Sowore, what comes to your mind? The former student union president of the University of Lagos, Nigeria? The publisher of Sahara Reporters? The Presidential Candidate of the African Action Congress of Nigeria in the upcoming 2019 general elections?
Sowore is all these and so much more and if this is the first time you are coming across his name, here are some facts about him that might interest you.
Sowore was born and raised in the Niger-Delta region of South-Western Ondo State, Nigeria. He is the first child out of 16 children who learned how to ride a motorcycle and fish at the age of 11. He was a beneficiary of the free education system introduced by the late Obafemi Awolowo. Through this education, he proceeded to the University of Lagos in 1989 with the view of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Geography and Regional Planning.
That same year, 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 — the IMF loan conditions were to reduce the number of universities in the country from 28 to just 5.
In 1992, Sowore contested for, won and became the student union president of the University of Lagos until 1994. During his tenure as the president of the SUG, he was passionately involved in anti-cultism and anti-military government protests and activism which led to his expulsion and reinstatement twice. He led 2,000 students in protest against Nigeria’s notorious kleptocracy. Police opened fire, killing seven. Sowore was arrested, interrogated and beaten, but he refused to back down in his struggle for decent education in his country.
In 1999, he attended a peace conference at American University in Washington. Fellow activists recommended he seek help in the United States for the psychological aftereffects of torture, and one colleague put him in touch with the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, an initiative that helps victims rebuild their physical and mental health. He had planned to go back to Nigeria, but doctors advised, for his mental health, against an immediate return. Instead, he sought political asylum in the United States and enrolled as a graduate student in public administration at Columbia University. Frustrated by his distance from his homeland, he soon realized that his re-entry into Nigerian political activism could come online.
In 2006, out of his desire to disrupt the media industry and promote free speech, he started Sahara Reporters, from his computer in a small room in Manhattan, NY. Sahara Reporters is an online news agency based that focuses on promoting citizen journalism by encouraging everyday people to report stories about corruption, human rights abuses and other political misconduct in Nigeria. A frontier news source for advocacy journalism Sahara Reporters has been referred to as the “WikiLeaks of Africa” by The Daily Beast. This platform has also been the recipient of grants from the Ford, Global Information Network and the Omidyar Foundation.
On February 25, 2018, Sowore declared his intention to run for the president of Nigeria and on August 15, 2018, he became the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, a registered political party in Nigeria. Up until his declaration to run for the highest office in Nigeria, Sowore was an instructor of Modern African History at the City University of New York and Post-Colonial African History at the School of Art, New York.
Now that you know some details about him, it’s time to discuss the 16 qualities that make him a rare breed and an exceptional Nigerian presidential candidate:
1. Passionate: Sowore scores extremely high when it comes to being passionate about the Nigerian project. When Sowore is in the room, you can’t help but feel the burning passion in him for a better Nigeria. In Sowore’s lens, the Nigerian project is a project of possibility. He has a rare yet unique way of lighting up a fire within you rather than lighting up a fire beneath you. His words carry power beyond the ordinary. It’s an indescribable feeling that should be experienced more than imagined.
2. Vision: If you ever take your time to listen to Sowore’s vision about Nigeria and the world in general, you’ll observe how he takes you on a special journey to see the glorious end from the beginning. He has a special ability to envision the future, bring it to your conscious and map out a pathway of achievement. Through his vision and leadership, he was the first to establish a thriving online news publishing platform, currently valued at $10 million, in Nigeria. Other initiatives include launching a media laboratory in Nigeria to promote investigative journalism and free speech.
3. Selfless: Each time you hear the name Sowore, selflessness is a word that will always stand out. His selflessness is evident in the way he attends to the needs of others, fighting for them and helping to restore hope, faith and dignity.
4. Disruptor: Sowore has redefined the way political campaigns are done in Nigeria. He’s the first presidential candidate in Nigeria’s history who has taken it upon himself to meet with, deliberate and listen to every Nigerian no matter where they are located in the world. In addition to this, he is also the one of the few, if not the first presidential candidate who honors ALL Nigerians no matter that socio-economic, educational, religious or ethnic status.
5. Innovative: When you talk about being innovative, it’s impossible to ignore him. He is the first presidential candidate to have raised almost $100,000 transparently through the crowdfunding online platform, GoFundMe and counting.
He’s one of the few presidential candidates, if not the first, to give a clear proposal on how to increase power generation from 7000 megawatts to 24,000 megawatts within four years, the use of technology to fight corruption, the exportation of cannabis to generate revenue and so much more.
6. Orator: Sowore is truly a great orator at heart. He has a rare way of engaging his audience from the heart, often times holding them spellbound. His speeches are mostly unscripted, articulate, and not only great in depth but also well thought out in breath.
7. Compassionate: He’s one of the few Nigerian presidential candidates that have demonstrated clear compassion to the plight of the Nigerian people. In June 2018, Nigeria overtook India to become the poverty capital of the world, with about 87 million Nigerian citizens living in extreme poverty.
His proposal to pay 100,000 NGN as the minimum wage of a Nigerian Federal worker, though criticized by the current establishment, is a welcome development to all workers and their families who find it hard to feed daily let alone provide for their basic needs. Furthermore, his inclusion of the accommodation for people with disability, a bloc that has been totally ignored by other presidential candidates, in his plan, is highly commendable.
8. Energetic: When it comes to being energetic, Sowore is a rare breed which makes one wonder where he gets his energy from.
He travels almost daily, holding multiple events and never seems to get tired. He streams most of his meetings live and answers every question from every Nigerian both old and young without holding back or mincing words.
9. Ready: While many Nigerian leaders wait until they assume leadership positions to know what is needed to transform the country, Sowore is one of the extremely few who has demonstrated that he’s ready.
10. Clarity: He’s the only Nigerian leader I have seen in recent terms whose sense of clarity is mind-blowing. In the course of his bid to become the next president of Nigeria, he has been asked over 5000 questions and has successfully answered every question with clarity, poise and tact.
11. Resourceful: He’s the only presidential candidate thinking about using the resources Nigeria currently has to transform it into the country everyone would be proud of.
12. Motivator: There’s something extraordinary about Sowore that is not found in a typical Nigeria. He’s blessed with a unique ability to motivate others into not only believing in themselves but also motivating them into action.
13. Intelligent: There’s no question about Omoyele’s intelligence. He understands Nigeria as a pastor filled with the holy spirit understands the bible and explains it to his congregation from a unique perspective. Many of his followers have coined the name IOS for him, meaning Intelligent Omoyele Sowore.
14. Courageous: If you are looking for qualifying words that sum up the totality of who Sowore is, one word that will keep recurring is courageous.
He’s not afraid to speak his mind no matter whose ax is gored. He’s one of the few, if not the first presidential candidate, to have led countless protests against oppression, high-handedness and ineptitude of the Nigerian leaders and in the process, puts his life on the line. He is a pro-democracy campaigner and human rights activist that gives voice to the voiceless, decimated, forgotten and the oppressed even if those actions will cost him his life.
15. Incorruptible: Each time you think of the word, incorruptible, all you need to do is to think of Omoyele Sowore. While he was the student union president of the University of Lagos, he stated that he was offered and rejected the gift of a brand-new car from the then military President Babangida. Also, due to his works and the fight against corruption in Nigeria, people with special interests continue to try to entice him with “thank you money.” He has stated numerous times that he consistently rejects these types of enticing offers even when they appear like the right thing to do. Not only has he made this claim, but he has also repeatedly challenged anyone who thinks otherwise to provide evidence to disprove him. Till date, there has been no concrete evidence to counter his claim of not receiving any “thank you money” from anyone.
16. Emancipator: Omoyele Sowore has special abilities to free people from any type of mental and self-imposed bondage. He speaks with power, poise and wisdom such that you can’t but be liberated from whatever is holding you back.
With these exceptional leadership qualities, Omoyele Sowore is a rare breed which separates him from among the pack of those currently vying for the office of the president of Nigeria. Here’s wishing him astounding success in his bid to become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come February 16, 2019, which coincidentally is the day he turns 48 years old.