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The Daring Lion Of Our Time: Yele Sowore In The Eyes Of A Journalist, By Niyi Babade

June 13, 2022

It goes to show that it is not the size or the height that matters but the God-given ability to command respect and be the leader of men.

It isn’t life that matters but the courage you put into life, neither is it the size that matters but the exemplary leadership traits displayed at all times. This is the story of Omoyele Sowore, a born activist, a social crusader and a great fighter for justice, equality and fairness for all. 

My encounter with Sowore started in the June of 1993, as I flew to Lagos to cover the elections for Reuters News Agency.


The annulment of June 12 election made my path and that of this young lad to cross as he took the frontline and led from the front like great leaders in history. Part of his unprecedented feats was him singlehandedly holding the police and some hoodlums spellbound from hijacking the burial activities of MKO Abiola when he died in the Nigerian government’s detention on July 7 1998.

Hell was let loose upon the street of Lagos the evening the Nigerian Government announced to the bewilderedness of Nigerians that MKO Abiola passed on. This continued till the next day, with pockets of riots at every nook and cranny of the state. I was on my way to MKO Abiola’s house to await his body that the Government under General (Abubakar) Abdulsalami was sending to his house for burial according to Muslim injunction, when all of a sudden I met a mammoth crowd of students and hoodlums by Palm Groove bus stop in Lagos on their way to Abiola’s house, chanting various war songs in a situation that looked like the 1963 million-man march of Martin Luther King Jnr in America. I stopped as a photojournalist to take some shots and report the situation when the hoodlums attacked me and were going to confiscate my camera. It took the intervention of this young lad who was the one leading the students of the University of Lagos to Abiola’s house to stop the attack on me. But what baffled me most on that day was the hoodlums who despite not being part of the students of the university obeyed him and followed his commands then.

This singular act made me respect the young lad who happened to be Yele Sowore again. It goes to show that it is not the size or the height that matters but the God-given ability to command respect and be the leader of men.

Another intriguing scenario was at MKO Abiola’s house when policemen wanted to force their way to MKO’s street to confront the peaceful students who had come to mourn and pay their last respect to the late winner of the June 12 election. The young lad Sowore swung into action again and went straight to the police vehicle and stopped them from entering the street. Many of us at the scene had to stylishly move back when the police threatened to shoot Sowore, a threat that had no effect on the young man as he yelled back at the police “shoot me” before the Abiola’s family members came to talk to the police to obey Sowore and leave the scene, which they immediately did.

“Where did you get your boldness and determination from” a question I was forced to ask him when I later met with him.

“As long as you’re genuine in your actions and stand in defending your people at all times with everything you own, then rest assured their spirit will keep protecting you,” Sowore said.