“The young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change, people in power have misused it, and now there has to be a change. And a better world has to be built and the only way it’s going to be built is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone—don’t care what colour you are—as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”—Malcolm X at the Oxford Union in December, 1964.
A couple of weeks after the 2019 presidential elections, I met Omoyele Sowore at the Sahara Reporters’ Civic Media Lab and after we exchanged pleasantries in his usual "hey professor" way, he told me in a sombre tone how travelling across Nigeria during his one year intensive campaigns had made him (upon his brief return to the United States) value things he had hitherto taken for granted having been practically away for twenty years.
Sowore told me how he came to appreciate the leaders of America for the good roads, stable power, modern schools, world-class health care, mortgage facilities, welfare programs, etcetera.
I listened to him with rapt attention and pity as he held the stand of the red water tank inside the compound. When he was done talking, I said the following words:
"Sir, please leave us here with our poverty and return to the states."
Unknown to many, Sowore is rich and comfortable. His children neither live nor school here. If I had a twelfth of the opportunity Sowore has, I would have forgotten the location of Nigeria on the world map. I am writing this as clear as I can with a heavy heart. Nigerians who are most hit by poverty and hunger have shown the most love to those inflicting those indignities on them.
Although, a friend of his warned that he could dislike me for asking that he leave Nigerians with their poverty, I had to say it nonetheless. I do not know what could motivate someone as comfortable as ‘Sho’ to leave his family, job and convenience to fight against base conditions that ordinarily have little effect on him.
Nigeria is a space of dead people. It is a dangerous black hole where no amount of good manifests as a result of its nature of neutralizing anything worthwhile thrown at it.
The same people castigating Sowore are dying in hunger, writhing in pain and smiling in agony; yet clutch in vain hope, struggling to take a seat on the podium where praises are heaped on the custodians of their chains.
How will a country led by established thieves, certificate forgers and freeloaders appreciate a person like Sowore who created something out of nothing? How did Nigeria treat Professors Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Pius Adesanmi and Ayodele Awojobi? Did Awojobi, a genius professor of engineering not threaten to go study law? Did the Nigerian government not frustrate him that he once broke down in tears in court?
If I had an herbalist, I will not think twice before taking Sowore's name there and cause him to forget the name of his country. For thirty years since he found his voice, Nigeria has chained, arrested and molested him. Until two years ago when he overcame the fear of death, he used to sneak in and out of the country. As it stands, the day I leave this country will be the last I will complain about it. The argument that there is no place like home holds water when there is one to begin with. How has Nigeria been made home for Nigerians? Did the president not say the southeast was not a part of his constituency?
Daily, we live in fear. Fear of insecurity. Fear of devaluation of a weak currency. Fear of war. Fear of an increase in the pump-price of petrol. Fear of a social uprising. Fear of everything. Anyone resident here with no fear in his/her heart is either dead or delusional. The reality is that this country will not get better anytime soon—not with the ruinous path her wicked handlers have intentionally put her. The thought that the rest of the world left us in the 17th century to move to the 21st is enough to prove my point. Look around you: from the roads politicians build to the rail, from agriculture to education, and from our hospitals back to our governance system, can you spot a difference between them and those that have been around since the time of Isaac Newton?
Unlike many, Omoyele Sowore is a firm believer in Nigeria and Nigerians. In July when he met with Nnamdi Kanu, one of the things he told him was his aversion to the snide remarks members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) make against members of other ethnic stock in Nigeria.
Sowore told him everyone outside of the political class is suffering a form of injustice or the other and efforts must be made to speak for all and not to call for the balkanization of the Lugardian Contraption. Sowore's vision is to have a borderless African continent in the way and manner our Pan-Africanist ancestor, Kwame Nkrumah envisaged.
His positions are on the internet. Sowore does not and has never advocated for the dissolution of the country although he has a right to do so. His anger, like mine, rests solely on the criminal minds ruining this blessed land of milk and honey.
While it is within the rights of anyone to fault the methods and timing of his many interventions including the most recent, #RevolutionNow, what is unacceptable is his traducers’ penchant at distorting his motives and passion at seeing that this present order of blood and death is put to an end. A country peopled by individuals who fail to appreciate little things will find it unworthy to reckon with the heavy sacrifices a few persons from amongst them make.
Whether the despotic government of Muhammadu Buhari frees Sowore or not, I have no doubt that individuals averse to the rot in this society will keep up with the momentum as a means to end this condition of suffering and sin firmly in place in Nigeria .
The government arrested Sowore in body thinking they could get a hold of his soul. Those championing #FreeSowore should at least be consoled that no one on earth has the capacity to chain a body whose mind is free.
I congratulate Sowore.
Sooner than later, Nigerians will rescue Nigeria.
Modiu wrote via [email protected]