My high school classmates asked me to “profile holistically the pedigree of this man Omoloye Sowore” and why Nigerians should stand with him in 2019. Justifiably, like millions of Nigerians, they are skeptical of politicians. Experience has taught Nigerians to see politics as a crooked business. Nigerians fear that Sowore will become as greedy as politicians and should rather stay an activist, “shouting from the outside”. These Nigerians are genuinely worried that the system is so corrupt that Sowore will be changed. They are right, but what if Sowore is different? What if he succeeds?
Before we get to his success, let’s go back to his “holistic profile”. Sowore, was born in 1971 and hails from Ondo State. He is a graduate of University of Lagos and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University, New York, United States. He was a student union leader who stood against military rule; was jailed, and has remained in the forefront of the struggle for democracy and good governance in Nigeria. As well as being the founder of Sahara Reporters, Omoloye Sowore teaches Modern History at the University of New York. He has been a powerful activist over the last 25 years – on the street, in the media, at police stations and in the face of corrupt bloody power.
For years, Sowore has been protesting and expecting the government to change. For years, he led the anti-corruption crusade in Nigeria. His dogged and stubborn stance against corruption over the years, especially under Goodluck Jonathan was legendary. This contributed to the victory of Buhari in the 2015 election. But when Buhari and his APC administration continued with the culture of endemic corruption like their predecessors, Sowore realized that activism is not enough and that he must do something different.
After years as grassroot anti-corruption activist and good governance advocate, Sowore is about to find out what it’s like to transition from a political rebel to a politician. He is running for the office of Nigerian President. Naturally, therefore, some obvious questions in the mind of my classmates and may Nigerians are: How and why did Sowore decide to move from activism to politics, that is, from being a ‘political man’ to a ‘man of politics’; can activist politicians be agents of change? Will Sowore be different?
Democracy needs good activists and good politicians. Good activists can and often do advance the goals of good politicians. The problem with Nigerian democracy is that there have been too many good activists but handful of good politicians. The 2019 election will be significant for many reasons, but perhaps the important shift is the emergence of youthful good activists willing to test the murky Nigerian political water.
Here is the most important reason why I want my classmates, my generation and Nigerians that are disillusioned in the present political order to stand with Sowore; he is COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT and is not being sponsored by the corrupt suitcase billionaires all over Nigerian political landscape. The “holistic profile” of Sowore in brief is, Political Rebel. The fact is that only a political rebel with little regard to status quo can truly transform Nigeria. Sowore knows this and knows that it’s no longer enough to blame the government but that as Nigerians, we should take some responsibility for this mess.
Sowore is a beacon of anti-corruption and good governance in Nigeria who for a longtime has been a thorn in the flesh of elected officials. Through his actions and rhetoric, he seeks to influence the way people think about social and political issues. He is thus, ‘politically ambitious’. And to the extent that he succeeded in inspiring and organizing others to take part in our political process, he is a leader.
Sowore is hoping to turn his wealth in activism into political power. If he can keep up the principles that fueled his fight for the masses, he can successfully become a politician. He knows the needs and demands of Nigerians. I thus believe that he will become a fierce fighter for his communities in elected office. In addition, through his career as an activist, teacher and journalist, he had accumulated both social and political capital with which to act in public office. But most importantly, he had generated trust and developed a relationship with millions of Nigerians yearning for political change.
Activism is politically essential in a society like ours, with such a long history of militarized quasi-democracy. But there is no doubt that Nigeria needs smart, energetic, courageous activists with integrity and vision to galvanize the people, transform to politicians and offer the radical change in governance. In Sowore, Nigerians have that courageous and smart leadership. To succeed, Sowore must keep his activist credentials at the same time not sacrificing his political career. To be successful, Sowore should see political office as an expansion of his activist work.
This is a clarion call to my classmates and Nigerians that are not sure what to make of Sowore to stop looking for the rising sun in the West. Buhari has done his job by rescuing Nigeria from Babylon – the PDP. Saraki, Atiku, Kwankaso, Lamido and all the suitcase billionaires OBJ and IBB are attempting to use to reincarnate belong to yesterday. Sowore is the future. We cannot go back to yesteryears that the locusts ate.
My generation of activists in national media and closed social media groups will be defined by what we accomplish and not the punches we throw at one another. My generation will not be judged by whether we are supporters of APC or PDP but whether we caught or missed the moment to solve our generational challenges.
Win or lose, Sowore’s candidacy is important. What Sowore is doing is part of a continuous struggle for social change, and whether he succeeds this time or not, he should not stop. My hope is that the Nigerian masses that Sowore fought for will come out in mass and support him. I’m proud to be a part of this movement and proud to standing up with Sowore. I urge my classmates and Nigerians to stand up and be counted.
Together, we can.
You can email Churchill at Churchill.firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @churchillnnobi