It was a charged discourse as members belonging to different radical groups, were locked on the mechanics for intervening in the 2019 election at this discussion forum, organised by the Campaign for Workers and Youths’ Alternative (CWA), at the weekend in Lagos with the theme: “2019 General Elections and the Impending Nigerian Revolution”. When the
It was a charged discourse as members belonging to different radical groups, were locked on the mechanics for intervening in the 2019 election at this discussion forum, organised by the Campaign for Workers and Youths’ Alternative (CWA), at the weekend in Lagos with the theme: “2019 General Elections and the Impending Nigerian Revolution”.
When the dusts of the heated but lively polemics and engagements settled, members with considerable leverage in students, labour, informal sector and the civil society, resolved to back Mr Omoyele Sowore, who’s contesting for presidency on the platform of Africa Action Congress (AAC), one of the newly registered parties.
Dissecting what was termed as the “Sowore Phenomenon,” in obvious admission of the massive youth support that the campaign has engendered in different parts of the country, it was the general view that members needed “to support the campaign and give it some direction”. “We cannot stand aloof but must massively intervene to give the Sowore campaign the necessary support and direction” was the chorus from several speakers.
Sowore who’s campaigning under the banner of the TakeItBack Movement, has a daunting task up his sleeves as he takes on 73 candidates of different political parties including the incumbent, Mr Muhammadu Buhari, the flag bearer of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
With many of the candidates still reeling from the burden of garnering the huge resources to finance the campaign across the country, the race is generally perceived as a two horse race between Buhari and his main challenger, Mr Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
But Sowore, who is deploying his arsenal of reaching out to the youth, said to constitute close to 65 per cent of the voting population and former World Bank Vice President, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili of the platform of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), who has opted for neighbourhood campaigns, appear to be the other two candidates that are making some noticeable showing in the presidential contest.
A pro-democracy campaigner, blogger, lecturer, writer, Human Right Activist, Sowore, 47, is founder and publisher, Sahara Reporters, an online news agency that mainly reports on corruption scandals within government agencies that have rattled the Nigerian elite.
Sowore was raised in a polygamous family and had to start fishing for the entire family at the tender age of 12. A Yoruba from the southwest by extraction, he was was born in the Niger Delta region and his passion for media was born out of the iniquities of the authoritarian rule of the Military which held sway in Nigeria between January,1966-October,1979 and January,1984-May, 1999.
After his Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Planning from the prestigious University of Lagos, Sowore who was also president of the Students’ Union between1992-1994, proceeded to obtain a Master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Columbia.
In 1992, Sowore galvanised over 2,000 students in protest against the policies of the General Ibrahim Babangida led government. Seven people died when the Police opened fire on the demonstrators. He was later arrested and tortured by the security. He was also part of those who advocated for a democratic government following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election won by Mr Moshood Kashimawo Abiola.
Sahara Reporters which he started in a tiny room in Manhattan, New York in 2006 to oppose corrupt practices in government is supported by grants from Omidyar Foundation and Ford Foundation.
Sowore’s 8 Point Plan for Nigeria code named ‘SPICER HE’ covers Security, Power, Infrastructure, Corruption, Economy & Job Creation, Restructuring, Health Care and Education. The highlights include creating five million new jobs and reducing unemployment by 30 per cent from the current level of 18 million.
He envisages 774,000 agriculture sector jobs by training and enabling 1000 youth in each of the 774 local government areas of the country. He also targets 160,000 primary health care jobs with 200 for each LGAs, 200,000 jobs for young graduates, 250,000 jobs from the building of commercial ranches and 200,000 new teaching jobs across the country.
Apart from projecting to raise power generation to 24,000 megawatts from the current 7000 megawatts, Sowore promises to build 200,000 kilometers of new roads, 3,700 kilometers of rail lines, construct 17 million new homes by providing 20-30 year mortgage and provide 3.4 billion gallons of drinking water per day.
Sowore’s plan on Restructuring involves setting up a committee to harmonise reports of all the constitutional conferences in the last 40 years. It also includes (a) Supporting restructuring proposals that devolves power to the states and LGAs, (b) Allowing local units to keep more of the resources generated in their regions and (c) Ensuring the creation of community policing and law enforcement.
Setting the tone for the casting of lot for Sowore, Mr Abiodun Aremu, Secretary, Joint Action Front (JAF), said we have resolved at JAF “to back all members of our affiliates who are contesting the 2019 election under different platforms. We must support all our comrades”. While chastising groups for working at cross purposes, he said, “We have not really defined whether we are serious about building a movement. I do not know how you can build a movement on the basis of sectarianism”.
Arguing further, Aremu said, “We’ve always been talking about the objective factor for a revolution,” noting that “Objective conditions have always existed. The challenge is how to strike a chord with the subjective factor, which is the building of a mass movement that will be the vanguard of the revolution”.
“We must work for the fruition of that mass movement if we are serious about consummating a revolution. We cannot adopt the attitude of members of the Christian movement and continue to pray for the coming of revolution in our country. We need to see revolution as a life time assignment,” he said.
The JAF secretary however cautioned that those who desire youth intervention must not be too banal in their approach and thought, noting that “the political leaders of the First Republic were youth and the Military leaders too were youth”.
“The young ones need to develop themselves. When you get to power, what do you do with power? What kind of alternative are we talking about? It is not an accident of history that people were taken as slaves for 350 years. We need to raise the consciousness of our people,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Mr Gbenga Komolafe, general secretary, Federation of Informal Workers of Nigeria (FIWON), said “We can talk about the collapse of the social fabric of our society but have we built the social movement to crystalise a revolutionary alternative,” arguing that “the indices for poor development in our country are worrying”.
“Public education has collapsed. It has suffered poor funding for a long time. Even in Lagos state that is seen as an ideal condition, some classrooms have 100 students. Whoever wins the 2019 election would be under serious pressure to deliver,” he quipped.
While explaining that the collapse of our health system can also be gleaned from the prevalence of what has become popular as sisi alagbo (ladies peddling local herbs), with most people now relying on them for healthcare, Komolafe said, “It’s a failure of our health care system that we have not researched into it after many years like other countries have done,” noting that “as unregulated and unstandardised as it is, most Lagosians take it and sometimes end up in worst conditions”
Also lamenting the poor security situation in the country, he was of the opinion that apart from the fact that it is plagued with absence of infrastructure, a greater number of the 65 per cent of the youthful population are without jobs thereby compounding the crises. Komolafe who was recently in the northeast for an assignment said that part of the country is in a “horrible mess, the country is sitting on a keg of gunpowder that may consume many of us”.
Expressing delight that left leaning parties like AAC, Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Democratic Alternative (DA), National Conscience Party (NCP) and others are now engaging in the political process the same way we had left leaning parties in the First Republic, it was his view that the radical movement “need to do more to build existing structures,” observing that “the trade union is too important to be left without direction”.
Acting National Chairman, SPN, Mr Biodun Bamigboye who also outlined the crisis facing country in his paper said members needed to understand the interest that has been generated by the ‘Sowore Phenomenon’. While observing that “The Sowore campaign has been fantastic in terms of engagement and mobilisation of the youth,” he was however of the view that “it needed to further articulate its programme and vision”.
“Sowore needs to explain his stance on the democratic control of the economy amongst other critical issues like public funding of the universities’” he said
Other speakers at the event are the National President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Biodun Ogunyemi and the National President, United Labour Centre (ULC), Mr Joe Ajaero who were both represented and Dr Goke Akinrogunde, a veteran workers and youth activist. The event also featured solidarity messages from the Dr Oluwatosin Olowojewutu, chairman, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Lagos state branch, a representative of the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS), Socialist Workers & Youth League (SWYL) and other groups.