June 12, Sowore and 2019

I kept postponing this piece. But President Buhari’s announcement last week on the June 12, 1993 presidential election provided a fillip to return to a personality and subject I had avoided for a while. Also, I reckoned that what better pivot to anchor a piece on Omoyele Sowore, activist and enfant terrible of Nigerian politicians who is aspiring to become our president come 2019, since that election’s annulment brought him to the consciousness of Nigerians as he joined others in fighting it. He was then the president of the University of Lagos Students Union.

Now, this is a tough nut to crack. I’ve known Sowore- as we all call him even though his first name is Omoyele – for close to three decades but we became closer when he sought me out after I arrived New York for graduate study in 2004. I didn’t want this to be hagiography where one will say only pleasant things without taking a critical look at his aspiration. Further, I decided to wait till now to see if he really meant it that he wanted to lead Nigeria. It was February this year at Accra, Ghana when he told me he ‘wanted to disrupt the system” by contesting.

We had arrived the hotel separately for a conference which I never knew he was going to attend as someone else was billed to attend for Sahara Reporters, the website he started to expose the ills of our society. “Baba Fatade,” he bellowed out in a way only him can do as I got to the hotel lobby just to stretch my legs. After exchanging pleasantries and telling him that he would pay fine to my wife who expected him at dinner in our house in December last year before he left the country, I joined him at his table. “Ha, that’s true o. Tell madam I owe her an apology and I will surely make up when next I’m in town.” Yes, we are acquainted with each other that I’ve had meals in his house in New Jersey prepared by his delectable wife, Ope, who is always a fantastic hostess. After dinner, we got talking even though I was distracted by the UEFA champions league game of that night with Manchester United playing Sevilla. After the game, I asked him some serious questions.

I discovered that he was not joking about the ambition and I interrogated him further on finance, campaign organisation and structure, staffing, publicity and others. How do you intend to finance this? Where do you think this will lead? Which party will you join? Questions and more questions. As I fired them at him, he merely kept saying, “Let’s disrupt the system, baba. We can do it.”  From then, I watched him from afar as he visited states and cities across the country and also across the globe. While some have wondered why he keep moving from one capital to the other in the world when he is running to be Nigeria president, the fact is we can no longer ignore him. I watched the video of his visit to the Emir of Kano and was shocked that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi received him and his entourage. True, his aspiration does not need validation from any quarters, but we cannot but take notice of what he hopes to achieve.

However, he has to drop the scattergun approach he is using presently. Our present situation as a country deserves more than an adhoc arrangement and our leaders must be at work more than 24 hours in a day. He must learn to put his best foot forward and put his heart into the race. Sowore also must not be deceived by his campaign’s ballyhoo and mistake it for acceptance as INEC don’t’ count likes on Facebook or twitter or Instagram but only the actual votes on election day. He needs to spend more time in elucidating what he will do if elected into office even though our president said that young people should wait until he leaves in 2023. Policy issues deserve his critical attention than populist actions or appearances. Enough of looking back too since we know his antecedents and what he has done in the past, now is only on what he can do or will do. Sowore must engage more on how he intends to tackle the numerous challenges confronting us as a country.

Last month, he declared that June 12 would be democracy day if elected into office and maybe somebody was taking notes in Aso Villa; this has been done with Buhari’s pronouncement last week. So, Sowore has something to offer after all. He must work more on his aspiration and who knows what can happen? I feel sad when some Nigerians keep repeating the lie that there is no alternative to Buhari. We have one in Omoyele Sowore, let’s examine him more critically and see if he deserves our votes.