Sowore: The genie has left the bottle

Revolutions and momentous political changes almost always begin innocuously.

When Usman dan Fodio and his small band of Fulani followers started the revolt against Sarki Yunfa of Gobir many at the time thought them foolhardy for attempting to overthrow what was a powerful, firmly entrenched political and social order. Before long however dan Fodio’s revolt turned out to be the nemesis of the entire Habe (Hausa) political order in much of northern Nigeria and Niger in what became the Jihad of 1804.


When General Muhammadu Buhari launched his political career with only a handful of dedicated associates very few thought he will triumph over the political behemoth that was the ruling People’s Democratic Party. Today in an unprecedented political feat in the annals of Nigeria’s political history, he has not only smashed the PDP political machine but has put the once touted largest political party in Africa on the ropes to probable extinction.

In 1987, I was a young Foreign Service officer at the Nigerian Embassy in Bonn capital of the then West Germany when Erich Honecker, the East German leader made his first ever visit to West Germany. At a reception to mark the visit when, I asked a senior West German Journalist his impression about the momentous event, he remarked that the unification of Germany was a mirage because there were formidable political, ideological and diplomatic odds against that happening.  Yet two years after, following dramatic and momentous chain of events, the two Germanys were galloping towards unstoppable unification and what’s more, the once powerful Soviet Union was on the verge of its eventual collapse and consignment into the dustbin of history.

In all these, two interrelated factors have always stood out; the prevailing material  historical situation and the political morality of the ruling political system and its players.

Omoyele Sowere, the presidential candidate of the Africa Action Congress at the last election and convener of the Revolution Now movement, seemingly may not have a cat’s chance in hell of bringing about a revolution in this country. His political standing may not be that much having scored only about 40,000 votes at the election. But in his agitation, he has exposed and cast light into the murky realities of present day Nigeria which reflects unflatteringly on the drivers of the Nigerian political system and how they drive it. And because an old woman always feels nervous when dry bones are mentioned, the drivers of the Nigerian political system feel sufficiently threatened enough to clamp Sowore in detention.

Sowore did not say anything different from what is known, felt and discussed in many places in Nigeria and in newspapers, radio and television programmes across the country and in the social media.  What he did differently that has now cast him in the situation he found himself is that he not only uttered the dreaded ‘R’ word but more poignantly, he dared thrust himself out to lead the agitation for political action around the issues Nigerians are talking about. In doing this he becomes like the young boy in the fable about a tyrannical kingdom where every citizen was so given to the worship of the tyrannical King of the Kingdom that nobody dared tell him the real truth about the state of things. So full of himself was the King that in order to test the loyalty of his subjects he decided to come out and walk naked publicly to hear who among his subjects would dare say the obvious. And as he walked naked in the public space receiving the adulation of his subjects who were praising how wonderful the robes he was wearing, one young boy in the crowd accompanying his father who was also joining in the ritual of false praise singing suddenly shouted on top of his voice to the hearing of everyone ‘’ But father, the King is not wearing any clothes. The King is naked!”

Predictably, Sowore’s truth to power has drawn the ire of the hypocritical, so-called defenders of democracy. They have sought to make heavy weather of one young man’s bold, courageous expose of the ugly state of democratic practice in Nigeria and the lack of accountability and responsibility of the country’s political elite. It is mortifying that people who are known election riggers, defilers of valid court orders are calling for his head. It is ironic that the same persons who have been known to subvert the very constitution they purport to be defending are now sanctimoniously without a modicum of shame accusing Sowore of acting unconstitutionally. They have suddenly found that mojo to defend a constitution they have serially raped and desecrated through undemocratic acts.

Objectively since the dawn of democracy in 1999, we have tended to practice democracy as a continuation of the military rule that we replaced. Politics has tended to become an exclusive affair of the emergent political class since 1999 who have been perpetuating themselves and their cronies occupying not only the elective political positions but the offices of governance at all levels in the country through fraudulent means. The emergent political class have also appropriated the dividends of democracy largely to themselves giving very little to the people.


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