His journey, trials and tribulations: Omoyele Sowore, New York-based activist vowing to become Nigerian President

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His impoverished father in Nigeria’s southwestern state of Ondo wanted him to become a tapper of palm wine, an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree such as the palmyra, date palms, and coconut palms. After all, he was only one of sixteen siblings in a polygamous home.

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But, Omoyele Sowore, a New York-based Nigerian activist and publisher of redoubtable online newspaper, Sahara Reporters, veered off a different path. He decided to go to college, acquire at least one degree and perhaps get married and have children.

However, military dictatorships in Nigeria at the time and criticisms from the media towards strong men with boots who enslaved millions of people and carted resources callously to Swiss banks thwarted his plans right from the University of Lagos in Nigeria’s most populous city, about 141 miles from his hometown of Ondo.

He would be persecuted by the administrators at the University of Lagos, punished and suspended, especially between 1992-1994 when he led the Students Union Government of the University of Lagos. Mr. Sowore would develop passion for the media activism and would contribute to a few publications in Lagos. But, after attacks by cultists, he left Nigeria in 1999 for treatment in the United States and about six years after he founded Sahara Reporters in a small room in Manhattan, New York City. Many laughed, others dismissed him, wondering how he would influence life back home, thousands of miles away from his laptop in New York. But he persisted.
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Omoyele Sowore

He would struggle until December 2009 when Sahara Reporters was the first newspaper in the world to identify and publish the photo of  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year old Nigerian man known as “underwear bomber”, who attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day, 2009.

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Sahara Reporters would suddenly become a household name with a huge followership in Nigeria and around the world. The Newspaper has published thousands of stories, including many exposing corruption and abuse of power in Africa’s most populous nation.

It did not come without a cost. He would be threatened, blackmailed, harassed and subjected to lengthy interrogations by the secret service at Nigerian airports and resorted sometimes to entering the country through lang borders between Nigeria and Benin Republic.

Now in the 40s, Mr. Sowore has embarked on another journey, this time to rescue Nigeria from the hands of President Muhammadu Buhari, a 76-year old former dictator turned democrat who is seen to have failed to fight insecurity, fix Nigeria’s epileptic electricity supply, bolster the economy and stabilize the naira.

Two former Nigerian heads of state and a former vice president as well as a Nobel Laureate have described him as a failure. Mr. Sowore has described Mr. Buhari as a ruler lacking in integrity and too old and unable to lead Nigeria to the promised land.

Mr. Sowore launched his campaign in the State of Maryland early this year in the United States and promised to revamp Nigeria’s dying economy, provide millions of jobs and fight corruption.

His reforms include signing and implementing the petroleum industry bill and re-positioning the oil company for efficiency and professionalism.

To raise money for his campaign, Mr. Sowore has turned to GoFundMe, arguing that he wants about ten thousand Nigerians at home and abroad to raise about two million dollars.

And it seems to be working. Mr. Sowore and his team have toured Nigeria, the United States, the United Kingdom and virtually everywhere where there are high concentration of Nigerians.

For several hours last Sunday, civil society organisations and politicians converge at Lagos to celebrate renowned human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, and Mr. Sowore used the opportunity to call on Nigerians to help him turn Nigeria into an egalitarian society where justice and fairness are not just abstract concepts for the rich.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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