Omoyele Sowore: Defying brutal cults in Nigeria
When he was barely a teenager, popular dissident journalist, Omoyele Sowore, knew he wanted to change a lot about the way things were done in Nigeria.
Born in Ese-Odo, Ondo State in South-West Nigeria, Sowore says he was born into a poor but educated family. His father was an educated farmer and though they could not afford the luxuries of life, they had all the necessities.
At the age of 10, a military invasion in his village after a fight broke out in their market, shook him so much he made a decision to leave the village as soon as he had enough money and true to his word, he did.
Omoyele gained admission to the Lagos State University and was filled with a lot of excitement.
‘I was excited to have gained admission to the university. It was a dream come true. Lagos University was known to be a place of fun and had everything a student would desire in a school. So, I was very excited to have gained admission there.’
Right after entering the university, Sowore realised the cults were taking over the school. Aside abuse and torture of students, members of the cult were rampantly raping students and sexually harassing them.
It was not long before Omoyele realised the government was using the cults to control and mould the minds of these students. One of his earliest political acts was to battle against the campus cults at his university.
Sowore studied Geography and Planning at the University of Lagos from 1989 to 1995 with his academic program extended by two extra years after being expelled twice for political reasons and student activism.
He was elected as the leader of the student’s union and this gave him the platform to rightly fight these cults as he wanted.
‘The more we try to fight and expose them, the stronger they got. But I was determined to end their rule on campus by any means necessary and this always caused clashes and fights between the student’s union and them.’
In 1994, on what would have been Omoyele’s last day as the Student Union president, the unexpected happened.
‘I was just about the office when I was told a group of boys from the cult had taken over the ‘Freedom Square’ – this was a place we held our rallies. I decided to go out there and check it out. The moment I got there I was ambushed by these cult guys and had a gun pointed at me. Some substance of some kind was injected into my body and then I was stripped naked. They dragged me on the floor, questioning why I was so keen on fighting them.
During all of this, I identified one the guys as my classmate and I asked him why he would join others to do this to me. I was dragged up to the school’s podium on an elevated platform with blood oozing all over my body and was asked to denounce my presidency. Before long, a group of about 2000 students were approaching the podium from the gate and as soon as they were close enough, I jumped in their midst, almost breaking my ankle in the process.’
Sowore’s troubles did not end there, another group of about the same number was also on their way to ‘rescue’ him using the opposite end of the school gate. Both groups clashed and it took close to 15 minutes to realise they were on the same side.
‘When the discourse was sorted, I was rushed to the Lagos University clinic which was abandoned. Everyone there had run away home except the ambulance driver. He offered to take me to the teaching hospital and that was where I was treated. At this point I was very faint and could barely see because I had lost a lot of blood.’
Omoyele was operated upon and discharged, but due to all the chaos he had caused back in school, he was a wanted man.
After almost 5 months in hiding, Sowore sneaked into the school, managed to gather his friends and organised another massive demonstration to get him back into school.
In less than 24 hours, the school granted Sowore and his friends together with the cult members amnesty to come back to school and finish their exam.
This was only the beginning of Sowore’s political stubbornness. Since he left school, he has gone on to actively partake in politics, seeking to change the face of politics in Nigeria.
He foundered the African Action Congress (AAC) in 2018 and contested the 2019 elections, which he placed fifth in, with 33,953 votes.
He is also the founder of the famous online agency, Sahara Reporters. Omoyele Sowore says no other group has fought cults as much as he did back in school and it is unfortunate that these cults have transformed into street gangs in the school and causing a lot more chaos now.