Now that the North-West tour of the #TakeItBack movement has come to a temporary halt after a five-state visit, it is worth reminiscing on how presidential aspirant Omoyele Sowore saw Nigeria first hand.
Driving at an urgent pace in the sweltering outdoors of the ancient city of Kano, the #TakeItBack movement led by Sowore headed to the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) press centre to announce his arrival, his intent.
“I am here to tell the people of Kano that we have to take our country back because it has been beaten and broken for so long,” he said.
On the political situation in the country, Sowore told the journalists: “it is a distraction” that happens in every political cycle. He described politicians in those parties as “carpetbaggers” who, irrespective of party, are the same.
Analysts of the Nigerian polity have described the situation as an interesting dynamic, which is usual and unusual at the same time because of a movement and a recent determination, fueled by rising unemployment and insecurity. Young people across the country are having conversations about voting in fresh and creative minds.
Behind them is a muscular law: the “Not Too Young To Run” Law which reduces the age limit of political offices in the country. At the signing of the bill, President Muhammadu Buhari who is the oldest contender for the office in 2019, jokingly asked young people to wait until after 2023 before aspiring to become President. The bill is predicted to be a game-changing wave by political watchers, one that may carry Sowore ashore as President.
The next day, Sowore, 47, took his message to what symbolically looked like what Nigeria would look like at the 2019 polls: a wrestling match, called ‘Dambe’ in Hausa. The prize? Nigeria!
Men with kola-stained teeth, women lavishly dressed and happy drums filled the makeshift stadium that is the Ado Bayero Square, Sabon Gari, Kano. All was set as two men appeared, one old, taller, experienced, and the other frail, lean and boyish.
Halfway into the fight, Sowore who is also founder of Sahara Reporters, urged spectators to contend and take back their destinies by voting young, energetic, and visionary leaders who will deliver dividends of democracy to Nigerians. Minutes later, the boyish-looking contender emerged winner.
The match was preceded by a roadshow, which saw thousands of young people troop to catch a glimpse of a man they said had opened their eyes to the criminality of some of their leaders through his popular news website, Sahara Reporters. “I dey read him news, he dey try, the man get mind, we shall see in 2019,” said Emeka Okoli, one of the bus boys at the Sabon Gari Park.
Nigeria’s population is enviable, made up of about 197 million people, 60% of whom are young and below the age of 30. This is the group Sowore is hoping to drag to the polls come 2019.
The road to Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, was littered with potholes, ghost class rooms, isolated villages without power, water, mobile network service, as well as abandoned Nigerians.
“It is very bad,” Sowore said. Surprisingly in some of these forgotten villages and hamlets were modern flats, flags hoisted, serving as mini-secretariats to political parties, yet there was no government presence.
Auwalu Shehu, the Zamfara State coordinator, #TakeItBack movement, assured the presidential aspirant of the people’s vote and support. He said the movement had so far mobilized and sensitized about 526 men to register for their PVCs to change the nation’s fortunes and tackle the insecurity being faced in the state.
Also speaking at the event, Comrade Jamilu Mjiga, Zonal Campaign Coordinator, North-West, of the #TakeItBack movement, appreciated the activism of Sowore, which has brought him this far, asserting that he is the only one who knows how to get the youth what they want. He expressed firm belief that Sowore can take the country back so long as the youth get their PVCs.
One of the residents in Gusau, Mustapha Mohammed, who was at the town hall meeting, called on the presidential hopeful to remember them when he becomes President, saying: “We want him to stop the killings in Zamfara so that we can stop living in fear.”
Another resident, Taminu Abubakar, said in Hausa: “We are living in fear; when Bobo becomes President, we pray that God will help him lead us out of it. There is curfew; we cannot ride our motorcycles and make a living. Just yesterday, people were killed; we really need help.”
Sowore promised to solve insecurity in the country by rejigging the country’s security architecture, adding that there is no reason 30 thousand policemen were mobilized to Ekiti to rig elections in Ekiti State if they could not protect the lives of innocent Nigerians.
WHAT HAPPENED IN KEBBI?
Despite the charged political atmosphere in the country, Kebbi state seemed subdued, bereft of any will due to years of constant pelting of reneged promises.
Abdul Majid Musa, the Kebbi State coordinator of the movement, described one of the reasons thus: “The green and white on the Nigerian flag is missing hence the urgent need to take it back.”
Or could it be the faeces-littered dumpster that was once the centre of the Arugungu international Fishing Festival, the only reminder, a washed-out green-and-white mini stadium overtaken by grass and abandon?
The presidential hopeful bemoaned the state of Arugungu in Kebbi, which he visited before Sokoto, saying it is disgraceful that a site that was once a place of great national pride for Nigerians had now fallen to utter ruin and disrepair. However, he assured his listener that if elected, his administration will revive the tourism industry in the country.
Adamu Musa, Head of Public Affairs, Kebbi State and guest speaker at a town hall and sensitization lecture organized by the Kebbi State branch of #TakeItBack movement, said that because continuous voter registration will end on August 17, he was making a special appeal to Nigerians to do the right thing and register immediately.
Adamu expressed worries over the attitude of residents of Kebbi State to collection of the permanent voter card, which will enable them cast their votes in 2019. He lamented that of over 100,000 registered voters, only about 30,000 had collected their PVCs. He urged the youth to actively engage the recall process, which he said can only be achieved by registered voters.
LAST STOP, SOKOTO
After days of crisscrossing the North-West, the #TakeItBack train halted at Kalambaina, Sokoto State.
In his address there, Sowore said 2019 was not only about ‘not too young to run’ but also about “’too old to run’ because anyone who is old enough should let Nigeria be so that it can progress at a pace that it should”.
He added that a country that has about 70% of its youth below the age of 30 has no business being run by people with analogue brains.
The media expert said the #TakeItBack movement had toured 27 states in just five months, a record which he said President Muhammadu Buhari had not attempted in his three years of Presidency.
“We are driven by conscience, and an impatient desire to make our country great,” he said.
For Sowore and his movement of young dreamers, the trip offered many answers and insights into workable solutions for the country’s challenges.
Even as the drumbeat is changing, there is work to be done. Like other aspirants who are gearing up, Omoyele Sowore has said he will announce a political party at the end of the month where the dance will happen.