By Yushau A. Shuaib
I received a strange call one night from a foreign telephone number requesting a confirmation over distributions of relief materials at a residence of a top politician. The caller said he had pictures to buttress the incident.
As the spokesperson of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), I confirmed the story but insisted that the beneficiaries of the relief items were internally displaced persons (IDPs) and poor Nigerians at a residence of a community leader.
Since the story could be wrongly interpreted over the genuine humanitarian efforts, I appealed to the caller to consider the plight of the beneficiaries rather than the person whose facility was used for the distribution. He magnanimously dropped the story.
The caller was the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore who now wants to throw his hat into the ring of presidency come 2019.
During my dilemma with Dr, Ngozi Onkonjo-Iweala, before I was forced out of the public service in 2013, Sowore was out in full force in my defence through regular coverage of my plights and strong editorials in SaharaReporters. When I crossed over to the other side as the Media Consultant to Nigeria’s security apparatuses, we balanced our relationship, and in fact, Sowore has been one of the great pillars of support in managing security reports.
It was during my engagement with the security system that I discovered that Sowore has credible informants from virtually every sensitive unit of government. The system as at that time tolerated some of his excesses and never threatened his businesses. Most influential media personalities including reporters were closely monitored for their safety and protection. Meanwhile, on few occasions, the system interfered ‘intelligently’ with his platforms to prove its technical capability. In fact, his media outfit and few others were used as guinea-pigs to test-run latest acquired intelligence facilities against stubborn online and social media. Surprisingly, Sowore would never make noise about those secret interferences, even though I personally intervened when his platforms, in few instances were compromised.
The system was aware that Sowore has large volumes of sensitive and sometimes classified information on virtually every who-is-who in security and political circles. He has been very considerate in managing the information in his disposal especially on privacy and national security.
While he doesn’t spare top political and security top shots for wrongdoings, he is always careful in not attacking the institutions and innocent operators within the structures.
I could mention several instances where Sowore had protected the reputation of Nigeria’s security from public ridicule and embarrassment. His occasional private warnings and technical advice on issues towards safeguarding national security were heeded while his medium too deliberately self-censored information leakages that could be injurious to Nigeria’s territorial integrity.
The renowned Defence Spokesperson, General Chris Olukolade (Rtd), could testify to some of the amazing supports from Sahara Reporters that he once told me “This Sowore of Sahara Reporters is an interesting enigma in every sense.”
Because I was involved, he has turned down invitations and snubbed the receptions from many top public functionaries because of his radical disposition. He neither visited public offices nor sought help from public officers at least as at May 2015. Surprisingly, he never made noise about the calibre of personalities that he rejected their hands of fellowship. He is also choosy and reluctant to accept legitimate business patronages and advert placements from politicians, public officers and suspicious businessmen.
My relationship with him was never rosy. We have the occasional cat-and-mouse game since I am neither an activist nor a full-term journalist that could damn the consequence of contentious media reports. I am a public relations person that believe some information are not publishable for stability, especially on privacy and national security. PR as a profession, unlike citizen journalism, has ethical standards and regulations. Our mutual friends, especially Musikilu Mojeed of Premium Times, do intervene occasionally when we (this writer and Sowore) engaged in hot exchanges of words privately on burning issues.
I am aware that he has damning dossiers on many top public officers, he has been conscious of releasing information that could compromise national security. In fact, till date, some system officials seek his intervention on self-censorship and other strategic support.
In my interaction with Sowore, one could see his sincerity and passion for a better Nigeria where there will be economic stability, political progress and social harmony where the rich and the powerful cannot intimidate and harass the poor and the weak. He means what he says even though he is too radical and naughty in his views.
Sahara Reporters online media does not attack the poor and the weak. The medium merely exposes the powerful and the rich for their dirty antics and deals. It uses its influence to hold public officers accountable through investigative reports and editorial contents. His true friends remain the like minds in activism, the oppressed masses and the voiceless.
On a personal note, I am highly indebted to Sowore of Sahara Reporters for being part of the few individuals who stood by us when it really mattered and ensured he gave us a platform free of charge for PR stuffs. I will definitely donate to his campaign funding since he never accepted a kobo for the services he has so far rendered to us.
Meanwhile, I won’t know if I can vote for a very blunt and an extremely radical activist as Nigeria’s President at this very critical time even though Sowore has demonstrated fine PR skills in his exchange of words with Communication Minister, Barrister Adebayo Shittu recently.
Yushau A. Shuaib