Sahara Reporters’ Publisher: People we investigate ‘should be ones watching over their shoulders’
Omoyele Sowore, Publisher of Sahara Reporters has told Technology Times that people brought under scrutiny by his online investigative platform, rather than him, have cause to be watching over their shoulders.
Sowore’s fearless style of journalism has endeared million of online visitors particularly Nigerians to Sahara Reporters, the online news services he started to beam the radar on corruption and other vices in government circle.
Sahara Reporters was founded 2006 by Sowore to be ” an outstanding, groundbreaking website that encourages citizen journalists to report ongoing corruption and government malfeasance in Africa.”
Sowore told Technology Times in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of Social Media Week Lagos 2016, where he was also a speaker, that he has no fears for his chosen genre of online journalism.
If you are hoping to advise the Sahara Reporters founder about watching his back over corrupt people exposed on his online platform, he has this for you: “I completely feel like the people who should actually be watching their shoulders in this country are the people I report against. And if it is possible in my life time to turn the tide against them to the extent that they will be the ones constantly watching their shoulders because I have nobody watching mine.’’
[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”left” arrow=”yes”]If you are hoping to advise the Sahara Reporters founder about watching his back over corrupt people exposed on his online platform, he has this for you: “I completely feel like the people who should actually be watching their shoulders in this country are the people I report against. And if it is possible in my life time to turn the tide against them to the extent that they will be the ones constantly watching their shoulders because I have nobody watching mine.’’[/quote]He also addressed the perception that there are powerful forces backing him when he says that “there is no invisible eye around me or any international backing.”
According to Sowore, “my own understanding of that is maybe I have some connections abroad, in the U.S., maybe the CIA, and that makes me feel untouchable? Completely no. If there is any backing, it is internal backing. So you can take the ‘national’ part of it out. I have internal conviction about what I am doing. If I’m doing what is right, what my conscience tells me is right, I should do it without watching my shoulders.’’
Sowore, a former Student Union President during his years at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) says that as someone who has been involved in so many struggles in the past, he sees no basis in being afraid of the activities of Sahara Reporters, though he admits that some necessary precautions are to be taken at times.
“I have been a student activist at the University of Lagos during military rule. I suffered fighting for change in Nigeria, asking for true democracy for people to have the right to vote their leaders and then we get to a democratic era and we are confronted with another monster of corruption, of primitive accumulation by leaders of this country who only know how to take and never give’’, Sowore adds.
According to Sowore, “I completely see no reason why we should be afraid of them, and as a result I do not feel afraid. I take precautions where possible. For example, I wasn’t coming into this country through the airport for eight years. I will go through bush axis in and out of the country and keep a low profile. I turned 45 years old this year February 16, and one of the things I said to myself when I was growing up is to see a revolution happen in my lifetime. And to some extent, I felt like I have been part of some kind of revolution like the peaceful transfer of power from one civilian government to another in Nigeria without a coup d’e tat or any kind of massacre or genocide; and to kick out a ruling party from power using the instrumentality of information, peaceful sharing of information. That’s revolutionary.’’
The Sahara Reporters chief says he is on a mission of sort when he adds that thus: “You see, I graduated from University of Lagos at the age of 23. That was after I have been expelled twice (laughs) and I said to myself when I was leaving, I was almost killed, and never thought I will live to be 30 years old. And now, I am 45 years old. So, I lived extra 15 years outside the realm of my predictions”
And how does crossing that prediction threshold make him feel? Today, Sowore feels that “if anything happens now, like you must have heard the saying by the popular American artist/singer, Doris Day, ‘que sera sera.’ (whatever will be, will be) and I hope the little kind of life I’ve lived will inspire younger people to be bold to confront powers and ask questions as well as demand transparency in governance from people they vote into power, even when they don’t vote them into power, they deserve it.’’
On his description by an American news reporting website, The Daily Beast as the Wikileaks of Africa and whether he has international backing like Julian Assange of Wikileaks who has come under the protection of the Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, whom he shares similar political views with, Sowore says that “talking about if my organization receives support from international foundation? Yes. There are foundations that support the kind of creative work we do or if you like , you can called it ‘daring’, like the Ford Foundation and the Omidyar Foundation but not government.’’
For Sowore, “the most important thing in doing what we do is that we know there are consequences attached to it and when these consequences come I am not going to be a nail biter like, ‘oh why did I get myself into this?’ I am completely prepared and I am saying this for aspiring journalists who want to go into investigative journalism. They just have to be prepared because you see I’m a pessimist. I expect the worst and hope for the best. But I know some people feel like how can this guy be living so dangerously on the edge? But that’s who I am and how I’m wired. I am cut out for this. Note that I am not boasting or bragging about it. I live my life one day at time. I don’t hang up on what a lot of people are hung up on, don’t care about holidays, life, properties and wealth.’’
But Sowore who says he has a family that he loves so much and does not fear for their lives but however would still not do what will put them in the line of danger.
“I do have family that I love. I have kids that I love maybe some that I don’t know too (laughs) and I’m not scared at all for their live but in all fairness, what I do is that I don’t put them on the line. I try to separate my private life from my public life because I don’t want them to be unfairly targeted when they don’t know anything. They are not here. For instance, if I were to be living here, they will have to live with it because that’s their father and if I were to be successful on the other hand, the kids are going to benefit from it too. It’s neither here nor there. I tell my kids all the time this is who your father is and they are getting used to it. But I’m sure if they have to deal with the consequences as per read what people write in comments about me sometimes. They will be heartbroken in a way but it is not a difficult thing to explain to them that look, unfortunately this is who your father is. He is hated and loved in equal measure. So when the love comes, enjoy it and when hatred comes live with it. I have no room in my daily thinking to look back.”
The Sahara Reporters Publisher says that he remains committed to the pursuit of a better society and wants others too to not to be afraid to step up actions to do what needs to be done.
Sowore tells Technology Times that “my attitude is if somebody wants to kill me, he will just shoot one time and I might be like ‘oh God, I don’t want to die.’ And if the bullet gets me, well that’s it. And the moment I die, all of this is over. The rest of you will move on with your lives. Sometimes I wish everyone had my attitude, I think life will be a little simpler for all of you because you don’t have to worry about nothing. The people who use fear to discourage people from doing what is right will find it to be a currency of no value because anybody preventing people from doing what is right shows that they are afraid.”