Omoyele “Yele” Sowore (born 16 February 1971) is a Nigerian human rights activist, pro-democracy campaigner, former presidential candidate, and founder of an online news agency Sahara Reporters.
On 3 August, 2019 Sowore was arrested by the Nigerian State Security Service (SSS) for alleged treason after calling for a protest tagged RevolutionNow. He was arrested again and beaten during a protest in Abuja on January 2, 2021.
Early life and education
Yele Sowore is from Ese-Odo, Ondo State in South West Nigeria. Sowore was born in the Niger Delta region of the country (comprising six states in South-South region, Ondo, Abia and Imo States) where he was also raised in a polygamous home with sixteen children.
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 the President of the University of Lagos Student Union Government between 1992 and 1994 where he was involved in anti-cultism and anti-corruption advocacy Sowore holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University.
In 1989, he took part in student demonstrations protesting the conditions of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan of $120 million to be used for a Nigerian oil pipeline. Included among the conditions of the IMF loan, was a reduction in the number of universities in Nigeria from 28 to 5.
Sowore led 5,100 students in protest against the Nigerian government in 1992. The protest resulted in police opening fire and killing seven protesters. Sowore was arrested and tortured. Omoyele was also involved in the demand for democratic government taking over military rule on June 12, 1993. This resulted in several arrests, detentions and life-threatening treatment by government officials
On January 12, 2017, the Lagos State Police Command arrested Sowore over a petition by a magazine publisher, Lekan Fatodu.
Mr Sowore and four others were arrested during a protest tagged #CrossOverProtest held on December 31 in Abuja.
Sowore and four other activists were arraigned on three charges of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and attempting to incite others.
They have denied the charges.
It is been ordered Mr Sowore and the others taken to Force CIID in Area 10, in Abuja till January 8.
Sowore was arrested by the DSS on 3 August, 2019 ahead of a planned nationwide #RevolutionNow protest. He was later charged with “conspiracy to commit treason and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari
On 24 September, 2019, Sowore was granted bail by the Federal High Court Abuja, on the condition that he surrender his international passport within forty-eight hours. The DSS’ refusal to release Sowore led to protests at the UN Plaza in New York led by Sowore’s wife and has sparked a global decry on Nigeria’s failed democracy.
On 29 September, 2019, Sowore made his first appearance in the media since his detention. He described his poor treatment, being locked up in a dark room without the sunlight. He also mentioned that “Boko Haram commanders who are engaged in high level terrorism have access to telephone, TV and even cable in their cells” while he is being denied such access. The court again set Sowore free on 5 December, 2019. However, there was a wind of change the next change in court when DSS operatives evaded the premises to re-arrest him. He was finally released on 24 December, 2019.
Sowore started Sahara Reporters in New York City in 2006 to fight against corrupt and wrong government practices. Sahara Reporters is supported by grants from the Ford Foundation and Omidyar Foundation. As part of its policy, Sahara does not accept adverts and financial support from the Nigerian government.
On 25 February, 2018, Sowore announced his intention to run for president in the 2019 Nigerian general election. In August 2018, he founded a political party, the African Action Congress (AAC), for which he will run for in 2019. Sowore came fifth in the election.
Sowore and his family have been residents of Haworth, New Jersey.