Omoyele Sowore is a Nigerian human rights activist, pro-democracy campaigner, and the founder of Sahara Reporters, an online news agency. Sowore is the African Action Congress party’s presidential candidate for Nigeria in 2023. He previously ran in the 2019 election. From his days as a student, he was known for leading several protests against bad governance.
Early Life and Education
Omoyele Sowore was born on February 16, 1971, in Niger Delta, Nigeria, into a polygamous family of sixteen children. He is originally from Ese Odo, Ondo State, Nigeria. He learned to ride a motorcycle at the age of 12 so that he could go fishing for food for his entire family every morning before school. Sowore’s passion and desire for media were fueled by Nigeria’s military rule.
Omoyele Sowore began his formal education at a young age, first in a basic elementary school and then in Community High School in Kiribo, Ondo State, and later in Ofedepe Comprehensive High School Okitipupa, Ondo State for his WAEC. Sowore then went on to study Geography and Planning at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), where he earned a Bachelor’s degree between 1989 and 1995. He began his political and activist career as an undergraduate and was expelled twice before graduating. Sowore graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in public administration.
In 1989, he participated in student protests against the terms of a $120 million International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan for a Nigerian oil pipeline. One of the terms of the IMF loan was to reduce the number of universities in Nigeria from 28 to 5. In 1992, Sowore led a protest of 5,100 students against the Nigerian government. During the protest, police opened fire, killing seven protesters. Sowore was detained and tortured. On June 12, 1993, Omoyele was also involved in the demand for a democratic government to take over military rule. As a result, several arrests, detentions, and life-threatening treatment were administered by government officials.
His desire to positively impact people led him to accept a position as a lecturer of Modern African History at the City University of New York, as well as Post-Colonial African History at the School of Art, New York.
Omoyele Sowore founded Sahara Reporters, a media company. He founded Sahara Reporters in 2006, in a small room in Manhattan, to provide a platform for him to fight against corrupt government practices in Nigeria. The Ford Foundation and the Omidyar Foundation have provided financial support to Sahara Reporters. Sahara Reporters does not accept advertisement proposals or financial support from the Nigerian government as a matter of policy.
Sowore announced his intention to run for president in the 2019 Nigerian general election on February 25th, 2018. In August 2018, he established the African Action Congress (AAC), from which he intends to run for president in 2019. Sowore was elected as the party’s presidential candidate on October 6, 2018, but he lost the election. He has also emerged as the African Action Congress (AAC) presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
In the Presidential elections of 2019, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged the winner with 15,191,847 votes while Sowore came fifth with 33,953 votes.
- During his time in Unilag as the SUG President, there were claims that he was a cultist which attracted enemies from rival cult members. They eventually caught up with him during an attack where he was reportedly injected with a chemical called “Lead”. He had to be flown to America for proper medical treatment in 1999 and survived.
- During the 2014 election, Sowore was accused of collecting bribes from President Buhari to ridicule former President Goodluck Jonathan.
- His media company Sahara Reporter has been accused of extorting Government officials for his personal greed.
- Sowore has had beef with almost all the politicians in Nigeria, resulting in his life being threatened or in other cases facing legal charges.
- He has a long list of political enemies including, Senator Dino Melaye, Bukola Saraki, and Ted Ikuru just to mention a few.
Lastly, he was arrested by the DSS on the 3rd of August, 2019. Sowore had announced that he will lead a nationwide protest called #RevolutionNow protest. The Federal Government of Nigeria later admitted to issuing the arrest. The arrest of Sowore was condemned by notable activists such as Wole Soyinka and Oby Ezekwesili. Sowore was later charged with “conspiracy to commit treason and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari”.
He was granted bail by the Federal High Court Abuja on the 24th of September, 2019. This was based on the condition that he surrender his international passport within forty-eight hours. At first, the DSS refused to release Sowore claiming ignorance of the court order. Sowore’s wife led protests at the UN plaza when the DSS’ refused to release Sowore. The detention of Sowore sparked a global decry as many supported Sowore and saw this as a failure in democracy in Nigeria.
On 29 September 2019, when Sowore made his first appearance in the media since his detention, he described the poor manner in which he was treated. He was locked up in a dark room without the sunlight and denied access to telephone and Television. The court again declared Sowore free on the 5th of December, 2019 after confirming that he had settled his bail terms. However, DSS operatives still evaded the premises to re-arrest him. Sowore was finally released on the 24th of December, 2019.
Sowore is married with children. He and his family have been residing in Haworth, New Jersey, his wife’s name is Opeyemi Oluwole Sowore. She is a Nigerian-American. She came to public view when she led a protest for the release of Sowore after the journalist was rearrested by the Department of State Services. Sowore had been arrested on charges of threat to National Security including treasonable felony, cyberstalking and money laundering on December 6, being earlier arrested on August 3, 2019.
On September 24, 2019, Opeyemi Sowore led several protests and discourses at the United Nations plaza over the detention of her husband by the Department of State Services. The protests were advocacy for global intervention for Democracy and the US Senate intervention in the release of Sowore.
Omoyele Sowore has an estimated net worth of $10 million, according to the value of Sahara Reporters as estimated by indicators. Sahara Reporters’ estimated earnings per day, on average, is $3,000.