DEBUNKING THE MYTHS ABOUT OMOYELE SOWORE
I write this piece to correct some popular fallacies about Omoyele Sowore. For some of you that may not know him, Sowore is a presidential aspirant who ran for the AAC political party in the recently concluded 2019 Nigerian General Elections. Many of you know that I have always held a neutral stance on Nigerian politics due to its particularly messy nature, but Sowore’s campaign stood out enough to gain my attention and support, mainly due to his Personal History, his utter fearlessness at speaking the truth, his wildly ambitious ideas and the fact that his campaign was completely crowdfunded – a feat unheard of in Nigerian politics.
As evidenced by the election results, many Nigerians did not share my enthusiasm, however the point of this post is not to win you over or castigate your decisions (or indecisions), but rather to correct some erroneous notions being peddled about the candidate. As is custom with politics, smear campaigns usually trail the character of every popular candidate pre and post-election. Announcing candidature for such a prestigious public office as the presidency will most likely get you attacked by rivals and the insecure. Especially in the context of the social media age, where people spread fantastic and unlikely stories online for clout and monetary gain. The point of this post is to sieve through all the propaganda and present the facts about Sowore. This write-up is for the inquisitive and those getting acquainted with the Nigerian political landscape.
First off, I would like to say that most of the criticism I have heard about Sowore has seemed purely subjective. When asked, people tend to cite his proud manner, saying it borders on arrogance rather than confidence, or his aggressiveness during arguments. Sometimes it’s his hairstyle or conservative style of clothing which are all products of his Personal Beliefs or previous histories of oppression by the military for his activism, which tend to change a person’s outlook on life. Secondly, I am quite aware that I could be wrong in my assumptions as it does require a certain hunger for power to aspire for the presidency anyway. I will try to be as objective as possible.
1. SOWORE IS A WEED SMOKER
I had to start with the most entertaining of the presumptions. Funny as this sounds, the allegation that Sowore smokes weed (Cannabis/Marijuana) trailed his campaign the most; especially among the youths. Some claimed that he was so enamoured with the drug that his sole purpose for contesting was to get it legalized. Even though he had personally denied the claims on numerous interviews.
The major reasons for this allegation against him were twofold:
First, Sowore had envisioned the rising demand for Marijuana especially considering its recent legalization in developed countries such as Canada and parts of the USA. Therefore, he included sales of the controversial drug for foreign exchange as part of his campaign promises. Unfortunately for him, the morality of his ambitions became questionable to Nigeria’s highly religious and suspicious citizens. Although currently, the exportation of Marijuana is being considered by the Ondo state government Exportation of the drug has however been accepted by countries like Uganda and promises high revenue streams for the nation.
Secondly, Sowore has always been vocal about his respect for Nigerian Afrobeat Legend, Fela Kuti. Fela was known for his revolutionary music that addressed themes of political oppression, military suppression and cultural identity in Nigeria. Unfortunately, Fela was also an ardent and outspoken weed smoker, a fact which many Nigerians felt was Sowore’s main regard for the late superstar. It should be said that Fela’s sons, Femi and Seun Kuti, openly endorsed Sowore as their candidate for the 2019 elections.
2. AMAECHI USED THE AAC TO CAUSE HAVOC IN THE RIVERS STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTIONS
One of the more character damaging accusations, Sowore has been accused by the public of conniving with Former Rivers state Governor, Rotimi Amaechi to disrupt activities during the just concluded elections. The story goes that Amaechi wanted control of the state over his rival, now Gov. Nyesom Wike, but since his party, the APC, was not eligible for the elections, he enlisted the AAC Governorship candidate as his protégé and directed military powers to the state to ensure victory.
Not only is there the lack of evidence to corroborate this story, both Sowore and the AAC released statements denouncing any alliance with the APC once Amaechi declared his support for their candidate. These announcements went wholly ignored however, and the narrative continued. I also found it particularly concerning that Sowore and his party bore the brunt of the blame for the Violence that occurred, but Amaechi and the APC who were presumed to have orchestrated these acts are not questioned. Why blame Sowore and not the actual causes?
I have a theory that Nigerians have grown wary of trusting politicians, due to being failed so much in the past, that they are constantly on the lookout for signs of disappointment. It was a recurrent theme during the elections to hear quotes like “The Devil you know is better than the Angel you don’t know.” Or “We don’t need a saint to rule us.” Or “Anybody can talk big and get away with it, just look at Oshiomole.” Secondly, I imagine people felt safer attacking Sowore for their problems because there would be no fear of reprisal. He seemed the best conduit to channel frustrations to, given his controversial stances and lack of military might.
3. THE THIRD FORCE SAGA
Very often the question is brought up, “Why won’t Sowore join hands with other young candidates?” and yet he is also touted as a “Third Force Candidate”. Well, there is a reason for both. First of all, Sowore long denied being a part of the Third Force. And on the subject of Coalitions, he never joined one either.
The story of the PACT (Presidential Aspirants Coming Together) coalition gives some insight into the type of character that Sowore is. Stubborn, no doubt, but principled. It goes that deliberations were made for the younger candidates to join forces to be able to compete against the political giants that are the PDP and APC. Of the candidates being considered were presidential aspirants Sowore, Fela Durotoye and Kingsley Moghalu. At the coalition meeting, Sowore suggested that each candidate campaigned with their individual parties first, to gauge their strengths. His idea was shot down, as the others wanted a consensus candidate immediately. Sowore then announced his unwillingness to participate, saying that a straw poll was not strong enough to determine the ideal presidential candidate. Fela Durotoye was then elected over Kingsley Moghalu as the consensus candidate in a process refereed by Oby Ezekwesili. Unfortunately, this decision did not hold very long, as evidenced by the fact that Fela Durotoye, Kingsley Moghalu AND Oby Ezekwesili all ran for the Presidential elections. The aftermath of this was that Mrs Ezekwesili’s party declared for the APC for some reason, while both Fela Durotoye and Kingsley Moghalu announced their withdrawal from partisan politics following their respective losses.
Sowore has always held strong that his reason for participation in politics are purely ideological and he would not dilute the message he is trying to convey by joining coalitions, even though it may result in election losses.
4. SOWORE DID NOT DO A PROPER CAMPAIGN + STOLE ELECTION MONEY
Nigerian elections post-military rule have been characterized by big money spending and budgets running into billions of Nigeria. So, when Omoyele Sowore decided to run for President with a budget of about 150 million Naira, wholly crowdfunded and with support from friends, under his own registered political party, it was alleged that his ambitions bordered on cajoling the Nigerian public.
So, when Sowore boldly announced in early 2019 that he had conducted campaigns in 34 states across the Federation, many Nigerians scoffed at him and with good reason too. With such a meager budget (as opposed to his competition), Sowore’s physical campaigns were limited to Town Hall meetings and street rallies, a huge contrast to the large stadium gatherings that characterized the APC and PDP campaigns. Where Sowore felt he must have put in the most work in answering his critics and settling public queries, he just did not have enough reach as the major opponents. He chose to focus on quality, rather than quantity. His rallies were not displayed on popular media and Television either, as he did not hold much sway there, but evidence of his campaign travels is littered on Social Media, especially Facebook and Youtube.
Sowore however, did argue that of all the Presidential Candidates, he campaigned the most. He made multiple appearances on AIT, Channels TV, Arise TV, TVC, Wazobia TV, even venturing to the BBC and BBC Pidgin. His interview with the NTA was marred by Technical difficulties which elicited cries of ‘sabotage’ from his fanbase. He was excluded from the popular BON/Channels debate although he was voted third in the polls to make an appearance. He gave talks on multiple radio stations as well. Sowore was also the only candidate to give a breakdown of his campaign finances and spending to the public for scrutiny. He made it an almost daily habit to announce the identities of his donors on Facebook and Youtube in the months leading to the elections.
5. SAHARA REPORTERS IS A PROPAGANDA MACHINE
Sowore’s publishing firm has always been a hotbed of controversy in Nigeria, first for the fact that it is based in America, it was seen to have some foreign influence. It was also alleged that his media machine was used in the outing of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. Also, its brand of Citizen-Based Journalism has been deemed as dictatorial, with many claims about politicians that have been vehemently denied, but hardly disproven.
Sowore has denied being influenced by foreign agents in running his publishing house. Because the paper holds nothing back when giving its reports, it has been deemed anarchist in its operations, even though many of its stories are backed with evidence. The media house is largely seen as an extension of the man himself, rather than an independent business. As a result, many of the paper’s claims have gone uninvestigated, except when “politically expedient” as Sowore claims. The most recent citation is the accusation of the Former Chief Justice of Nigeria of corruption, a claim Sahara Reporters made months earlier.
Hopefully, I have done some justice to clearing some Misinformation about the candidate that is Omoyele Sowore. If you have any other allegations you feel I may have missed, or claims I made that you feel are wrong, please feel free to address them in the Comments Section below.