Omoyele Sowore, a political activist and a presidential candidate in the last general election, shortly before his arrest and eventual detention by the President Muhammadu Buhari regime spoke with Ejikeme Omenazu of Daily Independent. Excerpt:
How do you feel being an activist in politics?
I am a political activist. My activism is based on happenings in my lifetime. Many think that politics is meant for professional politicians alone. I started as a political activist right from when I was in university.
How would you explain your 2019 electoral loss being your first attempt?
There was no election in 2019. You cannot lose an election that did not happen. In boxing, two people are expected to be in the ring. If you lock up the ring and prevent your opponent from coming in, or you allow him to come in with his hands tied and you bring in a referee when the other person is tied, that is not boxing. So, there was no election in 2019.
Don’t you think Nigerians are not ready for a young president?
I am not exactly young. I am 48. Most of the old Nigerian leaders today became active when they were young, some in their 20s. Muhammadu Buhari became a Head of State in his 40s. Nigerians want a leader that will make a difference. They need an agile leader, who is sound intellectually. Nigerians have been looking for such a leader that will make them realize their potentials. I am not against old people. But, I am only against the age of their ideas.
What is your plan for the 2023 election?
The 2023 general elections cannot be free and fair unless there is a revolution. It is only through a revolution that Nigerians’ votes will count. There must be a showdown in the democratic space to allow someone like us take part and take back what belongs to us. If not, the results of the 2023 elections have already been written.
Could you explain the revolution you wish to begin on Monday, August 5 in Nigeria?
It is the people’s revolution against unjust and divisive order. It will change the conduct of people in and out of government. It is a revolution being undertaken to make people reject the old order and say ‘Enough is Enough’.
Could you provide the details of the revolution?
It will take place nationwide. Over 25 states have signed into it. The protests will hold in major cities like Lagos, Abuja, Abeokuta, Akure, Owerri, Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Nsukka, Onitsha, Awka, Benin City and several others. It has been exciting preparing for it. An eminent personality like Professor Wole Soyinka has endorsed it. His presence will be felt on Monday, August 5 when the revolution will officially take off. We are going to shut down major towns in Nigeria. August 5 is the first day and it will be continuous. We expect that workers will stay at home. International travels will respect our airspace. We expect respect for our desire to shut everything down.
Are you carrying the nation’s Labour Movement along in this revolution?
Yes, but we have not had many successes relating to the trade unions. But, a lot of labour units will participate. The Federation of Informal Workers Organisations of Nigeria (FIWON), the largest workers’ group in the country, has already endorsed us. The General Secretary, Gbenga Komolafe, is with us. A lot of Okada riders’ groups and Keke NAPEP associations have endorsed it. We are discussing with the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). I believe the lawyers will also support us.
How prepared are you to confront the establishment? Are you not worried that you may be arrested, detained or harmed in the process?
I am not worried. It is too late to worry. I have been confronting establishments from my university years. It is not about me. It is about Nigerians whose voices have been shut down, who had no voices. The action will continue with or without me.
As you prepare for the revolution, what message would you pass over to Nigerians?
I urge Nigerians to stand firm with us totally and be resolute. They should not back down regardless of the crisis. They should take inspiration from Sudan and other African countries, where people took to the streets and liberate themselves. It is our turn and there is no turning back.
Could you give an insight into the current leadership crisis in the AAC?
It is a contrived crisis. We knew it would happen and we were prepared for it. In trying to tackle the status quo, we knew they would come after us. We have moved to the next stage, which is a revolutionary party. Our idea is not to share money but to move this country to a greater level. So, there is nothing to worry about.
We learnt that AAC is discussing an alliance with some other parties. How true is it?
Yes, we are discussing with pro-people organizations and political parties to form a coalition against the oppressive system. We are forming the Coalition for Revolution (CORE). We have a lot of groups, including workers, unions, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), which are part of the coalition. We are building a partnership with international groups in Diaspora. These include Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom (UK). Some embassies within Nigeria will witness out protests. The National Conscience Party (NCP) in Lagos is part of it. AAC has entered into a partnership with some parties in Lagos. Lagos is the home of every Nigerian. In Lagos, some of the parties are part f the coalition, although some of their leaderships may not.
With the 93 political parties in Nigeria, INEC said that about 200 associations are awaiting registration. Don’t you think the number of political parties should be reduced?
Our problem is not the number of parties, but to practise the all-inclusive democratic system. If we accept democracy, one of its key elements is multiparty. If the country can run several ministries and agencies concurrently, it can also handle the number of political parties that have been registered. Let the people choose the party they wish and let the agency, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), follow the modern democratic practice. The problem is that we are still adopting analogue system of election handling. If INEC adopts electronic voting, the people, even the blind, can vote. We can use our devices to receive or send information and money. We can also use our devices, including phones, to vote through codes of the parties. Bigger countries like India have achieved this. As long as we adopt fraudulent practices, we will not adopt transparent systems. With the population of India, their election results are announced by noon and they do not go to courts to challenge the results as we do here because their system is transparent.
How do you see President Muhammadu Buhari’s new ministers?
I don’t think anybody is impressed. They are a team of mediocre individuals. When Buhari said he would appoint people he knew, we expected low-calorie individuals. Even the screening is lack-lustre, with all the 'bow and go' we witnessed in the Senate. That is why we are telling Buhari to also 'bow and go' through our intervention.
What is your advice to Nigerians?
I urge the people to stand wherever they may be and look out for information on the revelation. This must be sustained. It is a compact struggle we have to do to achieve success. It has to be total and successful. If not, the people you revolt against will come back to power. We do not want that