“I am feeling very well thank you,” a cheerful, just-released political activist Omoyele Sowore told the Amsterdam News from Abuja, Nigeria, on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. “I want to thank everyone who has been in support.”
“I am very pleased he has been released,” Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer, told the paper. “We hope that he will be allowed to return to his family.”
When he was not campaigning for the presidency in Nigeria with his African Action Congress supporters and bringing attention to issues negatively affecting the populace, Sowore, 48––who received his degree from Columbia and taught in CUNY––lives in New Jersey.
In 2018 and 2019, Sowore ran a populist presidential campaign in Nigeria. After his last unsuccessful bid, the Haworth, N.J. resident was arrested in August in Lagos, after he called for peaceful protests to challenge corruption and burgeoning socio-economic disparities in Africa’s most populous nation.
Just after mid-day EST, on Tuesday, December 24, 2019, Sowore—a Nigerian native, New Jersey-based publisher of Sahara Reporters, and activist—was re-released from an Abuja jail after 4 months in detention.
In a statement, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committees U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), told the Amsterdam News, “I’m gratified to hear of Mr. Sowore’s release, and I expect the government of Nigeria to ensure his continued safety and security now that he is out of custody. I am hopeful that moving forward we can rely on the Nigerian justice system for a transparent, credible legal process. I plan to continue to closely watch further proceedings in Mr. Sowore’s case.”
“Sowore is doing well,” Opeyemi Sowore told the Amsterdam News on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019––New Year’s Eve’s Eve. Certainly during this week’s telephone call from the Amsterdam News in New York to Sowore in Abuja, the journalist and lifelong human rights activist sounded strong and relaxed. He spoke of his family, “The children and my wife are all doing well, my mom too,” he said. Reiterating that he had had his health checked out and that he felt safe, but eager to move on, Sowore is eager to return to the business as usual.
Amnesty International has declared Nigerian human rights activists and journalists Sowore, Olawale Bakare and Agba Jalingo “prisoners of conscious.”
Arrested in Lagos on Aug. 3, 2019, on the eve of his “Revolution Now!” rally, Sowore was released after 125 days following a huge international brouhaha, only to be re-arrested by the Nigerian Department of Security Services (DSS) the very next day in an Abuja courtroom on Dec. 6, and kept ever since until the day before Christmas. His stringent bail conditions means that he is without his passport, and cannot leave Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
Sowore’s case garnered international scrutiny after growing media coverage and outcry from American electeds including U.S. Senators Robert Menendez, Charles Schumer, Corey Booker and Rep. Karen Bass.
There were many protests calling for his release over the fall––from Manhattan’s United Nations, to the Nigerian consulates in New York and London. A protest is scheduled next month in London demanding that all the charges be dropped against the father of two.
Even as Sowore stays in limbo regarding charges such as treason, money laundering, and harassing/cyberstalking of Pres. Muhammadu Buhari––his concern is for Agba Jalingo, a fellow journalist detained for his critical government writings.
“He didn’t do anything. He just spoke against the governor using money anyhow.”
Sowore is of the mindset that they must drop the charges, then everything can move forward. “For now we have to fight it out,” he told the Amsterdam News.
Whilst he himself––by court order––is not allowed to talk about the case, Sowore supporters are saying their call is to get the charges dropped.
The Amsterdam News reached out to the Nigerian Consulate in New York, but the paper did not hear a response by press time.
Meanwhile, U.S Congressman Josh Gottheimer has sponsored Sowore to be nominated as a prisoner of conscience at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the United States House of Representatives. The pro-democracy activist and journalist has been designated one of “20 New Jersey people to watch in 2020” by the digital news site NJ.com.
While his trial is set to resume shortly, and he faces life imprisonment or the death penalty if convicted, Sowore’s defenders are demanding that the “baseless” charges be dropped.
“Very pleased that the AGF Abubakar Malami did the needful. What needs to happen now is that Omoyele Sowore is completely exonerated for the country to start gaining any form of respectability,” observed Odili Obi, a London-based Sowore supporter. “The people of Nigeria have seen for themselves how the rule of law has been eroded time after time. I would encourage Sowore to stay well and hearty in the meantime.”