Omoyele Sowore (275368)

The Nigerian presidential election is set to take place Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.

Hoping for “no wahala” free and fair elections, Nigeria’s 200 million people are awaiting the uninterrupted participation and the clean outcome of an election a good portion of the world is paying close attention to.

On the ground, candidates, supporters, voters and election observers are urging the voting populous to go to the polls with their PVC (Permanent Voting Card) firmly in hand, and vote their best interest.

Make every vote count is the call. Do not be swayed by politicking machinations subtle or insidious, is the advice from all parties involved.

All of the 70-plus candidates are on their starters blocks. The campaign trail has been heady and intense. Imagine career politicians, educators, business people and true patriots all vying to take the seat to lead Nigeria, one of Africa’s greatest oil-rich countries.

With dozens of parties on the ballot, the major parties are all predicting victory.

Elder statesmen leading the media stakes are Muhammadu Buhari, the three-year incumbent with the All Progressives Congress, and the opposition leader Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party. Ambitious aspirants with major name recognition include: Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria; Kingsley Moghalu from the Youth Progressive Party; and Omoyele Sowore of his own African Action Congress.

Obiageli Ezekwesili is the promising candidate who has just dropped out. She is the Harvard University graduate, former vice president of the World Bank and the education minister who fought vehemently for the return of the kidnapped Chibok Girls. With no workable opposition coalition on the books, Feb. 16 is the date set for the big election with Buhari, Atiku and Sowore on the ballot in that order.

With campaign promises falling from mouths like a waterfall, Feb. 17 should bring an end to crippling unemployment, devastating poverty, wayward corruption and dire health care.

Buhari has touted his “Next Level” manifesto as being able to assist Nigeria’s 36 states in improved infrastructure, social welfare programs and the creation of better wages. Atiku has spent the campaign telling the millions of unemployed youth that he has plans to create sustainable work for them; and a blueprint to revamp the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, and utilize and monetize current assets by privatizing abandoned oil refineries.

With 30 years of activism in both nations, the America/Nigeria residing Sowore has said that he is a third force who should be considered the first. His manifesto is summed up in the acronym SPICER-HEAT, that is: Security, Power, Infrastructure, Economy, Restructuring, Health, Education, Agriculture and Technology. Rejecting all “ethnic politics,” the creator of the Manhattan-based online Sahara Reporters, Sowore is calling for an all-out “Revolution Now” on business as usual in Nigeria politics, economics and social norms that has left a powerful nation tethered to dysfunctional ways and outcomes.

Sowore visited the Amsterdam News Harlem offices to stress that his 10-point plan can make Nigeria the powerhouse nation it should be.

With eight marathons run, and a Lagos 10k run last month under his belt, the “voice of New Nigeria,” Sowore says he is like no other candidate. He says humbly that he was a political upstart from high school—beaten and tortured by police and military as a student for the political stances he took through high school to university and beyond.

Born in Ondo State, in southwest Nigeria, Sowore studied at the University of Lagos, and in New York he got a master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University. He also taught Modern African History at the City University of New York and Post-Colonial African History at the School of Art.

“It is time for someone to run who has got a good head on their shoulders to rule Nigeria, and someone who is capable, has intellect,” he said while comfortably dressed in a hoodie and jeans and eating soul food from a local Harlem restaurant.

The married father of two has criticized many Nigerian administrations since being a student at the University of Lagos in 1989, challenging what he saw as the lack of economic and social gains for the majority of Nigeria’s almost 200 million people. Thirty years of being a career activist include the creation of his online Sahara Reporters investigative media outlet in a small room in Manhattan 2006.

Last year he said, not seeing a candidate running for office who had the correct strategy for the people and the nation, he decided with his renegade and unorthodox style to run for office himself.

It was that attitude personified and actualized which led to Nigerian media and people to liken him to the nation’s anti-hero hero musician and activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Even though he acknowledges that he can’t sing per se, this blogger-activist-teacher-student-writer-husband and father once auditioned to play his icon Fela on Broadway.

“I did. I am such a Fela disciple. He was one single activist who took on the system all by himself using music. 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.”

One of his big supporters who has “Felarized” Sowore is activist and performer Sandra Izadore, the influential woman who was very close to Fela. Based in California now, she is the African-American woman who some call the “Mother of Afrobeat;” she is said to have introduced the musical icon to U.S.-style Black Power politics.

“Fela was a prophet, he had vision and loved his country,” Izadore told this reporter. “He could have left and lived a very different lifestyle.” As she noted that whatever the outcome, the youth have been awakened, Izadore likened Sowore’s social and political potential to Fela Anikulapo Kuti; Ghana great Kwame Nkrumah; and Jamaica’s Bob Marley. “I had the opportunity to know Bob Marley as well as Fela. One was very spiritual, and one was political. My hope is for Sowore because change must come.”

Traveling all across the 36 Nigerian states, and Australia, Europe and back home in the U.S., Sowore has held town halls and rallies to hear what the people require. “I knew we needed to have an assessment tour,” he told the Amsterdam News.

In New York, supporters would look out for him over the years as he would loudly protest the annual October Nigerian Independence Day celebration at the Consulate General of Nigeria. “Yes, I would organize a protest,” he said, knowing that he was about to be tackled by police and parade officials alike. “I couldn’t just stand the fact that these dignitaries would come in front of people every year to celebrate the independence that they—we—don’t have. Explain what is independence when you cannot control your resources? Your people are poor. The people who [pretend] to give you independence have not left your country, they still control your resources. They still control the government.”

Last year when he launched his young/disenfranchised-people-focused campaign, Sowore became something of a social media star and a regular media column-inches-filler in the way this new breed political phenom was supported by the grassroots and hammered by old school politicians and their supporters.

“At the town hall meetings where people asked questions, that’s how they formed the program. We couldn’t find a party which would accommodate our big and lofty ideas, so we formed our own called the African Action Congress.

“Within nine months we were able to penetrate the consciousness of Nigerians, both young and old—but particularly young people. We had a slogan which they loved: ‘Take it Back.’ Everyone was using it as an empowerment tool, meaning whatever you lost with this old system you ‘Take it Back.’ It is a battle cry for retrieving the integrity of the Nigerian person.”

He claims that his SPICER-HEAT will cure all that ails Nigeria. He told the Amsterdam News, “I am worried about food security, about children going to school, about having hospitals, about pulling the country out of poverty, about redressing the child mortality rate, about corruption so that thieves don’t hijack the country and take what is meant for schools, children, immunization, hospitals, infrastructure, electricity.”

Any Nigerian can tell old tales of how NEPA (National Electric Power Authority) often “took the light,” leaving homes, businesses and public spaces in darkness. Although supposedly revamped under government-run Yola Disco, Sowore insisted what is needed is an “innovative intervention in the electricity sector. Renewable energy is a key part of what we want to do. You can have 4500 megawatts coming from solar electricity alone immediately. Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt are doing it. We all live under the same sunlight.”

The future is technology he told the Amsterdam News. “Without innovative leadership you can’t have a functional digital society. You just have a bunch of analogue brain leaders in Nigeria and you expect to see something different. The youth are digitally-wired, they love technology. There are 100 million mobile phone users, and 40 million smartphone users. My 95-year-old grandmother gets onto Facebook. WhatsApp is the new billboard.

“The new brand of leadership cannot only quantify that, but make it to the economic advantage of the people. ‘Sahara Reporters’ became one of the most prominent media outlets in Nigeria. I used social media to bring a new brand of journalism in Nigeria.”

He determined, “There’s a lot of similarities in what we are doing and what Obama did. The only difference is Obama wouldn’t have survived on the roads that I have traveled.”

As he viewed the Nigeria general elections for the presidency and the National Assembly Feb. 16, 2019, he said it takes pure focus and discipline.

“I am a long-distance runner. I have done eight marathons, one in New York in four hours: the last 6 miles is the hardest. So my life is in the last 6 miles of the marathon … for 20 years. I have to keep going until I reach the finish line. Don’t try this at home.”