Babafemi Ojudu is Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters and former senator representing Ekiti Central in the National Assembly. In this interview with select journalists, Ojudu, now a governorship hopeful in Ekiti State speaks about his vision for the state. MUYIWA OYINLOLA was there.
How far so far in your preparations for the APC primary ahead of the July governorship election in Ekiti State?
I will say it is quite encouraging, very interesting, stimulating and we are ready to do battle. To do battle, in the sense of winning the souls of Ekiti people.
There are so many of you in the race and people are worried that you don’t have enough time, how will the party mend fences after the primary?
It would not be right for now to say we have so many of us in the race. The reason being that the party has not even called for nomination. We have not obtained forms, in about a month time the party will call for nomination. Then we will obtain forms, when you now see the number of those who obtain forms, it is then you can now say whether we are many or not.
Right now I know those who are out, saying they want to become governor but some of them actually want to become chairmen of local government councils, some want to become commissioners, senators and members, House of Assembly. People are calling attention to themselves, they want people to know them, and they want to have something at hand to negotiate with. If I become governor and someone comes to me and say after all I wanted to become governor, so what do you have for me? These are some of the prevailing circumstances so far.
Don’t you think others may equally have this explanation and should there not be a coalition between you and others?
We are talking, some elders are calling them. They are talking to people for us to come together. It is not going to be as difficult as you think. We are all Ekiti people, many of us who are in the race in quote, have been ‘compatriots’. Somehow, we’ll find time to sit down at the table and then address issues. We’ll come out with strong points that can serve the interest of our party and state.
How has the party prepared to nip in the bud post-primary crisis?
In case it occurs, we have elders and leaders who will bring everybody together. But, one thing that is going to determine what happens after is the transparency, fairness and justice that people are able to observe in the course of the primary. I was one of the people that conducted the primary in Anambra, many of you must have watched that primary. You could have seen how transparent it was, how fair, and everything was in the open. It was difficult for anybody to come out and say no, I won’t accept this. See Andy Uba, who everybody thought would have won, came to embrace the man who won and they went into the election in unity.
But, the Ondo experience is still fresh in the memory of the people…
Someone asked in the course of an interview if we are prepared for Ondo formula. I said well, I don’t know of Ondo fomula. I said what is Ondo formula? He translated it as manipulating delegates list. I said no, that will not happen here. I have been to the party headquarters and they have assured me weeks before the primary they will give us list of delegates which we all have to study and bring back our observation. They will now invite us to a round table, to resolve issues observed in the delegate lists amicably before going to the primary. I don’t think that was done in the case of Ondo.
I expect that this may be different because I am Special Adviser to the President on Political Matter, I’ve been a journalist, reporter, editor and media manager. I have been a Senator and it will be very difficult for anybody to come and do that in my presence. There is Segun Oni, who had been governor before, who is now Deputy National Chairman of APC South, it will be difficult for give him nonsense. Others who may also want to come have pedigree and reputation and I can assure you that I will be as vigilant as I can. I have set team of lawyers; one of them a SAN and they will examine every process and make sure everything is just and fair.
Why should Ekiti people prefer you to other contestants?
Why they should vote for me is because I have been involved and I’m passionate about this state. I was born and raised here. I struggled for this place. I don’t think there is anybody who has been governor here from 1999 till date that I have not been involved with. I have headed so many associations here either Ekiti Progressives, E 11, human rights organizations, Pan Yoruba organizations; I have done so much here. I have removed governor here, I have installed governor, so I have done quite a lot. On the social level, I belong to the Ado Progressives Union, I belong to the Parapo Association of Ekiti generally. I have given scholarship here, I have assisted people quite a lot even before I became a politician. I have empowered and employed Ekiti people in so many figures. I think I have done quite well for the people, I have paid my dues.
That is why I told everybody who cares to listen that this is not an ambition for me, it is a mission. It is a mission to make an example that governance should not be as difficult as some make it to appear. That we can do it, I want to show that we can turn governance and make it easy. That we can reduce all those things that make governors swollen headed. I told people that I will live in my house when elected. I have a three bedroom bungalow, so I am living there because if I leave governance I will go back there. So, why don’t I just live there, then drive to the office every morning? All these methods of driving with several cars in your convoys, blaring siren and pushing people off the roads are odd. I won’t be part of that. I want to give my profession the dignity it stands for. Journalists make things work. When you leave your house in the morning as a journalist, you are supposed to come back with result to your office in the evening. That result is your story and when the story is published the following day, you feel accomplished. That is the kind of thing I want to bring to Ekiti.
What is the zoning arrangement in the party?
There is no zoning here, we have never had zoning here. Ekiti is not like Ondo, where you have Ilaje, where you have Akoko, Owo, Ondo and Akure. Here in Ekiti, the kind of things people are talking about is just geography. When you talk of zoning, you want to satisfy interest of different people, who have different languages, culture and different background. Here there is nothing like that, Ado Ekiti is central, Ikere Ekiti is South and between Ikere Ekiti and Ado Ekiti is less than 10 . You can get from one side to the other in less than five minutes. Ilawe is South and between Ilawe and Ado Ekiti, it takes 10 minutes to get there. Ilasha is East and beween Ilasha and Ikole is just 10 minutes drive. From one end of Ekiti to the other end it is less than one hour. We speak the same language everywhere in Ekiti.
Governor Fayose has been saying there will be a repeat of the 16-0. What is your take on that?
If there was 16-0 then, there will be another 16-0 in the coming election in favour of APC.
What about the claim that you are planning to use federal might?
No, we don’t do that. You all witnessed the election in Anambra, did you see federal might or federal power? You have witnessed elections everywhere, President Buhari, the leader of our party and president of this country does not believe in federal might. He will tell you ‘go and work’. If today, I contested with his wife, Aisha, he will not raise a finger in favour of his wife. He will probably advise her on what to do to win the hearts of the electorates.
You sounded as if the incumbent governor won’t be a factor in this election, why are you so optimistic?
He is going to be a factor but he is going to be a factor of failure.
What about his stomach infrastructure programme which has endeared him to the people of the state?
There is no longer stomach infrastructure again. It is a myth. People have not been paid in twelve months. Salaries have not been paid; civil servants and local government officials have not been paid. You are talking of stomach infrastructure, if I am a civil servant and you have not paid me in 12 months, what is the stomach infrastructure in that? If truly, you are doing stomach infrastructure, you must regularly pay the workers so that they can feed themselves. This last Christmas, he didn’t even give them rice as he used to give them. It is a government of deceit. Fayose is just deceiving the people. Go around with him now, nobody hails him anywhere again. Since we got into Ekiti, he ran away since yesterday.
We told him ‘we have our billboards in town, come and remove one and let me see you’. I am his husband. The Yoruba people have a saying that the mad man has a master. In 2006, I chased him out of this place. I took all his lawmakers who were members of PDP, I took them to Lagos for two months. I kept them there. When I was ready, I brought them back to impeach him. In 2011, he contested against me for Senate, I defeated him. I had 68,000 votes, he had 21,000 votes. So, forget about all these myths he sells to you out there. I am back again and I know I am the one who can chase him out. If there is anybody he fears, it is me. We will take care of him on July 14.
What are those things you desire to change if you get to power?
There is hunger here. People are hungry. If you go round and see the faces of our people, you will see that they are malnourished. We should not be malnourished in Ekiti state. Less than 10 percent of the landspace here is cultivated. The land is fertile here. There is nothing that cannot grow in Ekiti State. So, we must motivate people to farm. If we don’t have Ibiras here, Igedes from Benue, there will be no food at all in this state. Our people are not farming. Our young people are roaming the streets doing nothing. Ninety percent of every school leaver here are roaming the streets not having work to do. The infrastructures are dilapidated; the schools are in terrible shape. I want to solve this problem. Within one month of my becoming governor, we are going to mobilise people heavily to farm and I am not talking of cutlass and hoe, massive modern agriculture. That is what we are going to do. We are going to make sure food is available to them at cheap rates. Whatever is left will be taken to Lagos for people to buy.
Whatever we cannot sell in Lagos, we will export to make cool dollars from outside. Lagos has a food market of N6b per day. We want to take about 25 percent of that so that you will eat our oranges, cassava, banana and so on. Let me also tell you this: under Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the 60s, about 45 percent of the cocoa that formed the resources that built Ibadan and provide the resources for free education came from this part that we know as Ekiti today. The farms have grown old. We are consulting on how to renew those farms and then cultivate new ones. Now we have varieties of cocoa that grows and gives fruit in two years.
Unlike Awolowo, we are not going to ship those cocoa raw to foreign lands. We are going to bring in private investments that will bring in processing plants here. We are going to do our own chocolate as they are now doing in Ghana. I assure you. About 100 percent of the yams consumed by diasporas all over the world are produced by Ghanaians. We grow a lot of yams here. What we don’t have is the motivation to take these yams outside. We are going to also make some money from that. Then we are well positioned as a state between the North and South.
All of those emaciated cows going from here to Lagos, when they are passing through here, we will have private investors who will buy them up before it gets to Lagos. We will put them in ranches here. We will fatten them. From 100kg, they will become 300kg and we will sell them for good price in Lagos. So, I have a lot of things I want to do. When you have that, you will be able to absorb young people into productive activities. And when you have that, you will generate a lot of income. Beyond that, any of you from Bendel must have heard of Afuse Institute of Sports which was put on ground by Ogbemudia.. when Ogbemudia was there and even after he left, Bendel produced a large number of people who went to represent us in Olympics.
That I want to try here so that we can occupy our young people so that when you are looking for the best footballer, sprinter, boxer, wrestler, you will find them in Ekiti. We already have our manifesto which we call FINE Agenda. I am also collaborating with Ekitis in diaspora. I went to many countries abroad to talk to all Ekitis there. We are united to build Ekiti state. we have the human resources, unfortunately they are not at home. We want to bring them home to come and develop this place so that if any of you in future want to become governor, you will come and study what we have done here too make Ekiti a better stare.
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