Meet AAC's presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore, leader of a people's movement

Omoyele Sowore is seeking to upset the odds and put an end to Nigeria's old political establishment at the polls next month.

Omoyele Sowore

With just four weeks left before Nigerians troop to the polls to elect a new president, he's one of the many outsiders who fancy their chances of pulling off an unlikely victory.

Even though the outspoken candidate is more popularly known as the founder of Sahara Reporters, a media outfit that started operations in 2006, his years of advocacy could be said to have prepared him for what the online website has been able to achieve over the years.

His activism kicked off fully in 1989 as a student of the University of Lagos, where he studied Geography and Planning, and he soon took centre stage when he became the president of the institution's student union government in 1992.

He was most notably an active campaigner for the return of democracy in the 1990s and led several protests against the annulment of the 1993 presidential election, a struggle that earned him occasional detentions by authorities.

With a marked distaste for the abuse of power and mismanagement of resources, most of Sowore's work with Sahara Reporters has been about exposing the rot in the Nigerian government.

His media activism, that has exposed several government officials and many others, has won him admirers and nearly an equal amount of detractors.

However, Sowore, who also holds a Masters degree in Public Administration from Columbia University, does not care for detractors as long as people trusted with power are not allowed to continue to operate with impunity.

This is what also drives his quest for the presidency, the seat where he believes the most impunity that has held Nigeria back the most happens.

His disdain for the established political class is not the most well-kept secret in the world, so his decision to finally attempt an upset of it is hardly a surprise.

When he first declared his intention to run for president in February 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu, and current Lagos governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, were some of the victims of his outrage.

He later disclosed during an interview that his motivation to run for president was partly fueled by "the complete capitulation and collapse of Buhari to corruption and corrupt influences, his lack of direction and motivation to do what is right at all times".

If you ask Omoyele Sowore, Nigeria's myriad of problems boils down to a failure of quality leadership, a problem he hopes to solve with a win at the polls next month.

"It is clear to me that the challenge Nigeria now faces, and in truth has suffered for some time - is a crisis in leadership," he said last year.

He believes leaders who lack the political will to transform the country will continue to hold it back and let it wallow in mediocrity while they pilfer its resources.

To begin to reset Nigeria's course for a more prosperous destination, his focus is on fixing the nation's epileptic power supply, insecurity, unemployment and creating an enabling environment for businesses to grow.

Fighting corruption is also not left out, of course, as he believes it's directly responsible for poor economic growth and the reason for the worsening Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast region, an insurgency that's been active for nearly 10 years now.

"Corruption thrives because our leaders have lacked the political will to act against corrupt officials. I will act decisively to deal with this national cancer," he said.

Sowore is eager to prove himself to the Nigerian people as someone worthy of their trust, someone whose words mean something.

And he has said plenty.

His most popular campaign promise is the plan to increase the national minimum wage, currently N18,000, to N100,000, an amount he regards a living wage that'll exponentially improve the lives of Nigerian workers who have been underpaid for years due to the lack of political will to reward them while politicians smile to the bank.

He's also promised to fire every general in the Nigerian Army who's involved in fighting Boko Haram, alleging that their corrupt acts have allowed the insurgency to drag on for years.

To combat Nigeria's housing deficit, he promised earlier this month that he'll set aside $3.6 billion to turn Nigerian into a construction site that'll eventually provide homes for millions of people.

Even though some of his campaign promises have been tagged 'populist', even by fellow candidates, Sowore believes political will to improve the lives of every Nigerian will go a long way in steering the country in a happier direction.

The AAC flag bearer has run an impressive non-traditional campaign, by Nigerian standards, that has been praised by many as forward-thinking. His campaign has been largely funded through crowdsourcing, with donations of $135,584 (nearly N50 million) on GoFundMe alone.

He's held town hall meetings in the country and abroad and has travelled the lengths of the country to spread his message of hope to students and youth, organised labour, artisans, trade associations, chambers of commerce, religious and ethnic associations - groups he considers "relevant constituencies".

For Omoyele Sowore, his candidacy is the embodiment of a people's movement, an assertion that'll be put to test when Nigerians vote at the polls on February 16.

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