The media, especially the social segment, has been awash recently with the return to the country of a presidential aspirant, former students’ leader, Omoyele Sowore. It would have gone unnoticed but for the tumultuous crowd that came out to welcome him and the traffic snag that it generated within the precincts of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and interconnecting roads.
A mammoth crowd follows his entourage wherever he goes since his emergence on the political scene three months ago, while the fully packed town hall meetings at various parts of the country that followed the airport incident express a real intent of a determined shot at the nation’s highest seat of power. This is remarkable for an aspirant who has not announced an affiliation with any existing political party.
The name, Sowore, would need very little or no introduction. He was the brave young man was the President of Students’ Union Government (SUG) of the University of Lagos and had ceaseless battles with the university authorities, student cultists and the then military government. To take on a brutish military Gestapo at that time required the indomitable courage of the steel-hearted and only a few would attempt it because of the dire consequences. Indeed, for the writer, at the time he was to start academic activities at Unilag in the mid eighties, a very close cousin who had taken much liking to the late Tai Solarin whose column he followed regularly in one of the newspapers, told me he wanted me to be very controversial and radical. I replied that I could only take his advice if he were a lawyer and would be there to bail me out each time I got into trouble with the authorities.
But I chose to stay out of trouble and out of students’ union activities, except to pay the mandatory levies. Therefore, there is much to admire in a student union leader of that era because they put their lives on the firing line.
Sowore did not only confront the establishment but equally endangered his life in the dangerous battles with cult groups. The young man suffered untold hardship, detentions, and threats to his life. That he survived all these difficulties showed that God had other plans for him in the future.
Sowore has displayed bravery once again by aspiring to vie for the presidency, not even governor of his state, nor senator of his senatorial district, House of Representatives member nor local government chairman. This shows that he is not afraid to thread where angels dread. His take it back message is very apt for the times and conforms to the vision and philosophy of his campaign. He has taken his message to far and beyond to those in the Diaspora notably Canada, US, UK and others, and back home in Nigeria, he has visited several cities and met with prominent personalities to drum up support. At these fora, he discussed the prevailing problems of Nigeria, challenges ordinary Nigerians face and reassures them that their days of facing these problems were numbered. His followership cuts across ethnic lines. The reactions to his online publications indicate that there are as many people who believe in his vision just as those who think that he is a pretender. He has a strategy on how he hoped to wrestle the presidency from the hands of “looters”. This can be adduced also from his interviews on different television channels. His online publication, Sahara Reporters has been of immense benefit in unraveling shady deals of some politicians.
Sowore has not announced his political platform and the issue of independent candidacy is not yet clearly defined in the country’s constitution nor tested in practice. He certainly needs a good platform to actualize his vision. It will get clearer in the days ahead.
Sowore is not the only aspirant of youthful age or disposition who is gunning for the nation’s number one seat. There are other contenders such as the motivational speaker, Fela Durotoye, 46, who has managed to stir some serious online debate on the chances of a new comer. Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, political economist and lawyer by training, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, is another formidable ‘young’ contender. Former Cross River governor (1999-2007), Donald Duke,56, has since thrown his urbanely styled hat into the ring with the now famous January statement,” It is high time Nigerians begun to project people with technical know-how to take the country to the promised land”. Former Kano State governor Ibrahim Hassan
Dankwambo has also made it clear he was throwing his red cap into the presidential ring one more time. Current Ekiti State governor,Ayodele Fayose,57, the self-styled ‘voice of the nation’s main opposition party, the PDP’ whose term runs out in a couple of months, in no particular order, brings up the rear of these main youthful gladiators in addition to several ‘oldies’ all gearing up to square it out in the 2019 election. They have declared they want to be the president of Nigeria and have told anyone who cared to listen that Muhammadu Buhari’s time in Aso Rock as president is nearing its end. Sowore and the other new comers like Durtoye and Moghalu in particular would be interesting to watch in the days ahead.
Although largely in the garbs of military government, the youthful segment of the population has had some fair shots at the topmost position of leadership in the country. Most heads of state by their official age were less than or barely 40 years old when they mounted the saddle of leadership. However, with the advent of democracy, the “oldies” have taken over the control of power and they are not in a hurry to quit the stage for the younger generation. It will be recalled that the likes of Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro and others had an early start as youngsters at the nation’s leadership. While they were yet students, some of them enlisted in the country’s agitation for independence.
Needless to say, we live in a world of paradoxes: women want a female president but when they have the chance to elect one, they would ignore her and choose the male candidate instead. The youths who recently got a boost with the signing into law of the ‘not too young to run bill’ by President Buhari have long sought for a president who is youthful and just one of them. Significantly, the population of youths in Nigeria makes up a large proportion of the voting population. Will they embrace the chance in 2019 or blow it? Whether Sowore or any of other young ones becomes the president in 2019 or not, the political landscape would no longer be the same, it would have been redefined. Nigeria cannot be isolated from the political wind that is blowing in some parts of the world where the older ones are giving way to the younger.
Ojenagbon, Estate Surveyor & Valuer, writes from Lagos via [email protected]