Born into a polygamous family with sixteen siblings, Omoyele Sowore developed his passion for the media in the days of military rule in Nigeria. According to him, the vibrant criticism from the media then towards the ruling government gave him a sense of direction of what he wanted to do.
So, when he left Nigeria in 1999 for the United States for proper treatment after the cultists’ attacks, he knew he would not stop serving his fatherland. In 2006, he founded Sahara Reporters in a small room in Manhattan.
It was not until December 2006 that Sahara Reporters became an international household name as the first news source to identify and publish the photo of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Since then, it has published over 5,000 stories and has a massive followership within and without Nigeria.
Though Sowore practices his citizen journalism in New York where he is protected by the First Amendment Rights, he receives several news tips and beats from even reporters in Nigeria whose editors are afraid to use their controversial stories. He “resumes” work by midnight, New York time, when many Nigerians are already up and about.
How it all began
The fiery activism of this man in his 40s got national prominence between 1992-1994, when he led the Students Union Government of the University of Lagos. When his mates chose the glittering broad way of life, he combined his Geography lectures with a firm determination to put a stop to cultism in the university.
As is expected in every life situation, his adversaries could not bare his torture anymore and chose to put a stop to him. It is alleged that on a fateful day in 1994, some of these cultists came in their number to beat, torture, strip Unclad and inject him with lead.
Those whose ox have been gored have not failed to threaten Omoyele and his team. He explains that it is for this reason he sometime does not publish evidence or names of the reporter so that the well-meaning person will not be traced and unjustly punished.
To be able to thrive with its increasing growth rate, Sahara Reporters is supported by grants donated by the Ford Foundation and the Omidyar Foundation. Contrary to what many might think, the name “Sahara” was given based on a passionate drive to kick up a storm in Nigeria, not based on a geographical location.
On the side, when he is not revealing some hard truths about the Nigerian government, Omoyele is teaching in School of Visual Arts, New York or giving a talk somewhere.
However, that story, as with many others concerning Omoyele, has been met with a lot of controversies. Many claim that Omoyele was actually a brutal cultist fighting other rival cults with his SUG sit-tight presidency. It is said that it was when these rival cultists felt they had enough of his troubles that they attacked him while he was attacking another cultist. Those who validate this report opine that lead cannot be harmful except given in large quantities. Hence, the cultists could not have injected him with lead if they really meant to do him harm.
Still on the controversies, many have also said that Omoyele’s Sahara Reporters is a strong media tool used by Omoyele to extort money from politicians. They also say that he is in the pockets of some political officers who have given him cash or kind to ridicule their rivals on his online platform.
One of the most popular controversies is that it was alleged that Omoyele received a huge gift from sitting President Mohammed Buhari to ridicule former President Goodluck Jonathan during this year’s election campaigns.