The name Omoyele Sowore, is a household name in the country. It is one that brings joy to the people but fear to the authorities at all levels.
The Ese Odo indigene of the state , was born on 16th February 1971. He is a human rights activist, pro-democracy campaigner, former presidential candidate and founder, online news agency, Sahara Reporters.
On 3rd August 2019, Sowore was arrested by the Nigerian State Security Service (SSS) for alleged treason, after calling for a protest tagged RevolutionNow.
He was arrested again and beaten during a protest in Abuja on January 1, 2021.
He was raised in a polygamous home with sixteen children.
At 12, he learnt to ride a motorcycle , so that he could go to the lake to fish for food for his entire family , every morning before going to school.
Sowore’s passion and desire in media was propelled during the military rule in Nigeria.
He studied Geography and Planning at the University of Lagos, 1989 to 1995, with his academic programme 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, 1992 to 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 demonstration 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.A journalist, Niyi Babade, in his yet to be published memoir, also acknowledges Sowore’s stride in the 12 June struggle – “Unannounced they came out of an unmarked grey vehicle and saw the ugly scenes then opened fire on all of us. I spent some quality time in my resting place the gutter till I heard the singing voices of the students of University of Lagos led by Yele Sowore (now a Sahara reporter), heading to Abiola’s house, I crawled out of my hiding and tried to get an exclusive shot when the hoodlums among the students, attacked me and wanted to confiscate my camera but with the heroic effort of Sowore, I was spared and allowed to join them as one of the hoodlums and a journalist which then gave me unlimited access to exclusive footage of the day till we got to Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola’s house.”
On January 12, 2017, the Lagos State Police Command arrested Sowore over a petition by a magazine publisher, Lekan Fatodu. Later in the evening of same day, Sowore confirmed the incident in a video he posted on his facebook wall, where he accused the police of supporting Fatodu while he assaulted him at the Area F Police Command.
Sowore was arrested by the DSS on 3 August 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”.
On 24 September 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 29 September 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 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.
The court again set Sowore free on 5 December 2019, confirming that he had settled his bail terms.
NHowever, there was a wind of change the next day in court , when DSS operatives evaded the premises to re-arrest him.
He was finally released on 24 December 2019.
Sowore started Sahara Reporters in New York City in 2006 to fight corrupt and wrong government practices.
Sahara Reporters is supported by grants from the Ford Foundation and Omidyar Foundation.
As part of its policy, Sahara does not accept adverts and financial support from the Nigerian government.
On 25th February 2018, Sowore announced his intention to run for the office of President in the 2019 Nigerian general election.
In August 2018, he founded a political party, the African Action Congress (AAC), for which he would run in 2019.
On 6 October 2018, following successful primary elections at the AAC’s national convention, Omoyele Sowore emerged unchallenged as the Presidential Candidate of the party.
After touring many states in the country, visiting dignitaries such as the Emir of Kano and Wole Soyinka, Sowore embarked on a fund raising tour around the world , including Australia, the United States of America and the UK. He was in Luton (London) on the 10th of