Nigeria 2023: ‘I’m the only revolutionary in race for Presidency’, says Sowore

By Eniola Akinkuotu

Posted on Friday, 3 February 2023 10:46
Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, and presidential candidate for the 2023 Nigeria elections
Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, and presidential candidate for the 2023 Nigeria elections (photo: Twitter)

He wants to legalise marijuana, probe President Muhammadu Buhari, limit the influence of the west in Nigeria, free separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu and increase the minimum wage by 733% if he becomes the next President of Nigeria. Described as a revolutionary by his supporters but a traitor by the Nigerian government, Omoyele Sowore will be taking a second shot at the Presidency in this month's election. 

We are in his house located in Lokogoma, a sprawling suburb in Abuja, sipping black coffee as he takes me on a trip down memory lane. Sowore, who is the publisher of the online news outlet, Sahara Reporters, burst into Nigeria’s political scene while he was a student union leader at the University of Lagos.  

Sowore burst into Nigeria’s political scene while he was a student union leader at the University of Lagos.

He was vocal during the struggle for the actualisation of the 12 June 1993 Presidential election won by business tycoon MKO Abiola but annulled by the military government. 

It was around the time of this same election that Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu also joined partisan politics. All three of them will be on the ballot in the upcoming Presidential poll and they have all made references to the 12 June era which is a watershed in Nigerian history. 

While Tinubu has modified MKO’s ‘Hope 93’ slogan as ‘Renewed Hope 2023’, Atiku told The Africa Report in a previous interview that then Head of State, General Sani Abacha, almost killed him for insisting that the military must leave the stage. 

12 June hero 

But Sowore dismisses both Atiku and Tinubu for trying to exploit the 12 June struggle for political gain. He tells The Africa Report that although Tinubu featured in the struggle, he (Sowore) played a superior role because while Tinubu and many others went into exile to escape the wrath of Abacha, he stayed back to the lead the struggle among Nigerian students and was detained on several occasions. 

“If anybody is to ride on the back of the 12 June struggle, it would be me because of all the candidates running, I paid the highest price. Tinubu had the luxury of leaving Nigeria after he claimed his house was bombed.”  

“He left in 1993 while we were here going in and out of jail until we delivered democracy in Nigeria in 1999. I was still arrested even in 1998 at the NUGA games at the University of Lagos when Abdulsalami Abubakar took over,” he recalls.

Sowore further argues that Tinubu could not be deemed a hero of the struggle since it was around this time that he was accused by American authorities of trafficking heroin, forcing him to forfeit $460,000 to the US government. 

If anybody is to ride on the back of the 12 June struggle, it would be me because of all the candidates running, I paid the highest price.

“During the period Tinubu claimed to be fighting for democracy in the US he was involved in drug trafficking, according to American authorities. He wasn’t charged because he entered into an agreement. If this happened in 2008, he would have been jailed.  

“How could someone who claimed to be fighting for democracy be paying fines for drug trafficking at the same time?”  


Although he is now a politician, Sowore remains an anti-establishment figure and continues to court controversy. At a recent signing of a peace pact by Presidential candidates, he publicly accused the Chairman of the Peace Committee, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, a retired general, of being part of the establishment that brought Nigeria to its knees.

In 2019, barely months after losing the Presidential election wherein he came 10th out of the 73 that contested the poll, Sowore was arrested by Nigeria’s secret police for treason for leading a series of protests tagged #RevolutionNow.

The government defied court orders for his release, detaining him for about 125 days. He was subsequently designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International

His passport was seized and he has been unable to visit his family in the US. After his release, however, he refused to back down and is hoping that the youths – Nigeria’s largest voting demography – will vote for him. 

The activist says he will embark on judicial reforms and adhere strictly to the rule of law. To this end, he says he will release the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, who has remained in detention despite court orders for his release. 

“I will release Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally. There is no condition to add to a court order unless you don’t believe in the judiciary,” he says. 

The activist also plans to probe the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and instil fiscal discipline and transparency

He says once this is achieved, he will increase the minimum wage from N30,000 ($65.3) to N250,000. 

“The biggest thing fuelling corruption in Nigeria is that we do a lot of things in opaque ways. We don’t want people to see what we are doing. But the moment you make things open, you will have brought down corruption by about 70%,” he says. 

“I will probe every dime spent by the Buhari administration,” Sowore adds. 


Sowore took part in the #EndSARS protests of October 2020, walking alongside youths to the police headquarters. Despite his role in the demonstrations, however, Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, has become the largest beneficiary of the movement as several notable figures in the movement have thrown their weight behind him and are now using the #EndSARS social media structure to campaign vigorously for Obi. 

But Sowore, who is the candidate of the Africa Action Congress (AAC) dismisses Obi of the Labour Party, insisting that he is not an anti-establishment candidate and thus cannot be the youth favourite. 

I am not confident of a free and fair election.

“How can someone be an anti-establishment candidate when he has been part of the establishment since 2003? He left PDP to join APGA when he wanted to be governor and after his tenure, he went back to PDP and he was an economic advisor to President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.  

“He was a vice-president candidate in PDP in 2019. He was Atiku’s running mate. How is that anti-establishment? He is an establishment man. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was the one who nominated his campaign manager. So, how is Obi anti-establishment,” the activist said. 

The activist describes Obi as a man attempting to reap where he did not sow. He says Obi never took part in the protest or even showed support publicly for the demonstrations. 

“In the first-ever #EndSARS protest that took place in Abuja, I was the one who led demonstrators to the police headquarters but I don’t like claiming credit for something that was done by everyone in the nation. 

“Many of the people you call #EndSARS [activists] today never participated in any protest for more than 30 minutes. Up until last week, I was still getting #EndSARS detainees from detention. Did you see Obi at any #EndSARS protest?”  

Marijuana controversy 

Sowore has been at the forefront of the campaign for the legalisation of marijuana which is classified as a narcotic by Nigerian law.

Recently, he and activist politician Senator Shehu Sani debated on Twitter over his plan to legalise cannabis.

Reacting to the buzz that his tweet generated, Sowore maintained that Nigeria would be able to generate as high as $10bn if it is legalised, adding that 6,000 products could be made from it.

“At least 44 countries including Malaysia which have strong drug laws have all signed up on developing the cannabis market because they have found the truth about it. The part that makes people high is just 13% of cannabis. The rest is medicinal. It is the new oil. 

“My own interest is the medicinal value. There are four states that grow cannabis including Ondo State. Nigeria can generate nothing less than $5bn to $10bn from it a year,” he says.  

2023 poll 

The self-styled revolutionary says he doesn’t believe the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will deliver a credible election on 25 February. 

He says new technology introduced by INEC such as the result viewing portal and the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will not do any magic on election day

“I am not confident of a free and fair election. BVAS is a device that has the voter register pre-loaded on it and the only time it connects to the Internet is when it needs to transmit a completed election result. 

“It doesn’t curb vote buying. Without an electoral system that has the ability to control anything that infringes on the right of voters to vote privately and also count their votes, we are deceiving ourselves,” the activist says. 

Sowore further dismisses the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which aims to curb vote buying on election day and prevent excess liquidity and inflation. 

He says corrupt politicians have been able to stockpile the new naira notes in their warehouses which they will use in buying votes despite the CBN’s plan to make money scarce. 

Sowore says the threats by the US and the UK to impose fresh visa restrictions on violent politicians will not make a big difference. 

He tells The Africa Report that it would have been better if the US had revealed the identities of those affected by past visa restrictions.  

Visa ban

The AAC candidate argued that the US was not consistent with its policy on the secrecy of the visa status since the US had revealed the identities of politicians in Kenya that were barred.  

“My problem with the visa ban is that even though it may help a little bit, as long as the US does not disclose the identities of those banned, it doesn’t play any major role in discouraging electoral violence.   

“If the people know those affected over the years, it would serve as a deterrent. As long as their identities remain shrouded in secrecy, it doesn’t have much value. When they imposed visa bans in Kenya, they named names. So, why is Nigeria’s case different?”  

The activist says all the frontline candidates are western puppets and he remains the only one that can address neo-colonialism. 

“Many of the atrocities they (western nations) commit within our economic system are not possible with a strong leader in place and that is why they want a softie. Obi is a puppet for the west as well as the other candidates.  

“I am the only one that can tell you the story of the west. I have been there and back and that is why I have never accepted US citizenship despite spending 20 years there,” he says. 

When asked if he would step down for another candidate if the need arises, Sowore says: “There is no question of stepping down unless I die. How can I step down for crooks?” 

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