Political activist Omoyele Sowore’s supporters have called for the Nigerian government’s release of the vocal figure. The 48-year-old was detained on Aug. 3 for allegations of “threatening public safety, peaceful co-existence and social peace” on the heels of his “Revolution Now” protest (Aug. 5), BBC reports. The call to action was fueled by opposition to the regime of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and a need to revamp government policies that’ll better reflect the desires of the country’s people.
Here are five things to know about Sowore and his call to action.
Omoyele Sowore taught us not to ever trade our dignity for anything, he built our confidence to always speak truth to power and never feel less-human in any circumstance we find ourselves! #RevolutionNow #FreeSoworeNow pic.twitter.com/JmXQn3S5ir
— Revolutionary MO (@officialmo_cas) September 18, 2019
1. Sowore Launched Investigative Publication Sahara Reporters In 2006
Sowore began the online publication with the sole purpose of pinning a spotlight on corruption and holding politicians accountable for wayward actions. Since it was founded in New York City, a number of Nigerian officials have filed lawsuits in U.S. courts against the website for defamation. The Daily Beast nicknamed the outlet as “Africa’s Wikileaks” for its unabashed coverage of corruption in Nigeria.
The site “is providing information to Nigerians in a way they’ve never had it before,” Sowore said. Its content is fueled by anonymous Nigerians “who want to see a different country.”
2. He Announced His Presidential Campaign In 2018
In an interview with Amsterdam News, Sowore unveiled a “10-point plan” to help Nigeria become a global force through economic, social, and technological changes. He also likened his desire to create a better lifestyle for Nigerians to the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s messages. “I am such a Fela disciple. He was one single activist who took on the system all by himself using music,” he said. “I didn’t have a good voice so I couldn’t sing, but I am using media, I am using my body, my skills, and I am using the internet to fight the government.”
Sowore has remained critical of the government since 1989 when he was a student at the University of Lagos. He also obtained a Master’s Degree from Columbia University in public administration.
3. Protests From New York City To Italy Call For His Release
Earlier this month, Facebook user Osuya Vivian called for Sowore’s supporters to organize a peaceful protest in Italy that demands his release. “As concern Nigerians, we all have a responsibility to speak out and secure the release of our own because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and whatever affects one directly, affects all directly,” Vivian’s statement reads.
On Thursday afternoon (Sept. 19), supporters appeared outside of the Nigerian embassy in New York City to bring awareness to Sowore’s detainment. The African Renaissance Organization previously issued a petition to the United States Department of State that claims the Nigerian government is placing the limelight on “increasing threats to democratic freedom,” according to the group’s convener Onyinye Chuks.
4. According To His Wife, Opeyemi Sowore, There Are No Formal Charges
Opeyemi Sowore said her husband has yet to face any charges despite an investigation being spearheaded by the country’s government or the Department of State Services (DSS), per Democracy Now. His time in jail without bail has surpassed the court-ordered 45-day mark that the government has to bring charges against a detainee. On Twitter, #FreeSoworeNow mobilized the global community to demand his release.
Opeyemi Sowore also notes that her husband’s detainment might stem from his meeting with Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). In 2015, he was arrested for treason. Kanu has called upon the United Nations to support the movement’s mission of Biafra’s secession from Nigeria, according to Sahara Reporters. In that same statement, he also demanded Sowore’s release.
— #RevolutionNow (@TIBmovement) September 18, 2019
5. Nigeria And Freedom Of The Press
Under section 39 (1) of Nigeria’s constitution, freedom of expression including freedom of the press is protected but past and current instances of censorship have placed a strain on the gather and dissemination of information. “There have been numerous arrests, also in the context of the 5 August demonstration, that actually did take place, where numerous people were arrested, including a number of reporters that work for Sahara Reporters,” Nani Jansen Reventlow, a lawyer representing Sowore said to Democracy Now. “But various other human rights defenders in the country have been arrested over the past months.”
Earlier this year, a Premium Times reporter was arrested for “refusing to reveal a source,” CPJ reports. Office raids have reportedly occurred within the last four years, another journalist at Daily Trust stated.