Senator Babafemi Ojudu, a member of the 7th Senate is a Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters. A journalist and human rights activist, Ojudu is now aspiring to be governor of Ekiti State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In this interview with a select group of journalists after his governorship declaration in Ado Ekiti, Ojudu speaks passionately on why Ekiti State needs a new lease of life and insists he is the right man to dethrone Governor Ayodele Fayose and his agents from Ekiti politics. THERESA TEKENA reports.
How has it been so far?
It’s been encouraging, challenging and stimulating; but we are poised and ready to do the battle, we are ready to win the soul of Ekiti people.
There are so many aspirants in the race, how does your party want to manage them?
It would not be right to say there are many of us in the race, the parties have not called for sale of nomination form, in about a month’s time they would call for nomination then we can obtain form, when you know those that picked the form, we would know those that are truly in the race.
You know that this is politics, I know that some of the people saying they want to contest for the governor now are only interested in being local government chairmen, state house of Assembly members and chief of staff; they just want to use this to negotiate, so that they can say I wanted to be governor with you, it was me and you that contested the primaries.
Can there be a coalition of the entire APC aspirants?
Some of us are meeting and talking, elders are saying we should talk, it would not be difficult; we are Ekiti people, some of us are close; we would find time to talk and sort things out.
APC primaries always end in division, what is the chances this would not be the same?
Well, in case it occurs we have elders who would decide and bring people together. One thing that is going to go down in this primaries is transparency of the process, and I have been assured of that;
I was the one who conducted the Anambra governorship election primaries of our party, you saw the transparency of the process on the television, and you saw the man who won was not even Andy Uba as expected by everybody. After the process, Andy Uba was happy with the outcome of the primaries.
Are you prepared for the Ondo governorship primaries formula?
Someone asked me same question, if we are ready for the Ondo formula in a previous interview, I said I don’t know what the Ondo formula is, and they said manipulation of delegate’s list.
They have assured us that the process would be transparent; they would give us guidelines to study before the primaries, it would be difficult for anybody to do that.
In this race we have Segun Oni, who is a former governor of this state, and no one wants to do that, I would set up a team of lawyers which will include a SAN to study the entire process.
Why should people trust you with their votes?
I was born here and am passionate about the people of Ekiti. I have been with the former governor, I have held positions in the past and set up grounds for others to strive, on the social level; I belong to Ado Social Union, Iparapo, I have given scholarship to youths and even before I became a politician I gave empowerment to Ekiti people, help the youths by giving them jobs.
For me I think it is not a difficult thing to do, I have told the people I am going to live in this compound, I have a bungalow all this show of riding expensive cars I would not be part of it, I would live with what am been paid, I am a professional, I want to make sure things work here in Ekiti State.
Has the governorship position been zoned to a particular part of the state?
Ekiti is just Ekiti, when you talk of zoning you want to satisfy different language and zones, here in Ekiti we are one people here and we speak one language, every town in Ekiti has Ekiti at the back of its name.
we are one here in Ekiti, what we want is someone who would bring development to the state, I am a development agent, I am not into tribe, we don’t have zoning here in Ekiti State, Ekiti is not like Ondo State.
Are you hoping to use federal might?
No, we do not believe in that, if there was an election I would defeat Fayose 116 –0. It would be like that in this election.
You witnessed the election in Anambra State, did you see any rigging, Buhari does not believe in that; if you are contesting against Aisha Buhari, the President would say go and work, go and canvass for votes from the people, he does not believe in that.
But you are contesting against the forces of the incumbent governor of the state?
All that Fayose is doing would work against him. The people have not been paid here for several months, the people here are hungry, this is a government of deceit, forget about the stomach infrastructure, it is all deceit , we were told he released a secular that our bill board would be removed, let him go and remove them and lets’ see.
I am his husband; in 2006 I took his lawmakers to Lagos and they came back to impeach him; in 2011 I defeated him in the senatorial election. I know that he does not command the popularity again here as he claims, I would defeat him.
I have defeated him before in the past in the senate election, even when he is an incumbent I would defeat him again. Am from a constituency that is very important, that if you don’t have you don’t win since 1999, whoever we support is the one that wins, and we are saying we want to go with the tradition.
Many people are saying what government is this? Fayose is demolishing houses without any notices to the people, no compensation; this is because the people of Ekiti Central have removed their support for him, he wants to punish them before he leaves office.
There is hunger here, if you go and see the face of the people they are malnourished, the land here are not cultivated, if we don’t have the Igala people here farming; there would not be food.
We would go back to farm and we would produce food that would be sufficient to feed our people and we would provide jobs. I am going to modernise agriculture in the state.
We would make sure food is left and we would export the rest to Lagos, we have surveyed, Lagos has a commodity market of 6milllion, am going to tap into that.
We are going to produce starch, ethanol, if you look back when Awolowo was the Premier here, it was the Cocoa here that provided revenue.
We are consulting, we are going to renew those ones that are grown here. What we don’t have is the motivation, take the yam out, we are going to make sure we provide cows and make sure they are well grown and we send the rest to Lagos.
We have talents in this state, we are going to follow what was done in the old Bendel State, we are going to replicate them here, we would groom the best boxers and footballers for the country; we have our experts everywhere, we are collaborating with Ekiti professionals.
I have toured the world, from Australia, Britain, USA and the rest, we are collaborating with Ekiti professionals, you have to make sure when you want to rule there is direction.
But out in the street people are not happy with APC, do you think the party can still win election?
APC is electable; what you are seeing is that change is about to take place; for example we use to go to Thailand to buy rice, that is not happening again in this country.
We are fighting corruption and have, at least it is now part of the agenda and the second Niger Bridge work is ongoing there, we are blocking all the loopholes of leakages, and I don’t have official car and my office is not furnished.
Stakeholders have said the country needs urgent restructuring; most of the states are not viable, do you agree?
We believe in restructuring of the country, it is taking place gradually, before states cannot build their power plants, before a state government cannot build rail line, these are signs of restructuring.
What the President doesn’t want is this secession; he said he is fighting for the unity of the country, he believes in the unity of Nigeria, and we have to remain as one.
There is the talk of division in the APC how true is this?
We are united in the party and among the aspirants we are. I was concerned when Fayose said he was going to remove our bill boards and among the aspirants we came together to say we are going to fight this, our people are tired of being outside government, what happened last time would not happen again.
Lagos is what it is today because there is continuity of government that is what is not happening here and we want to fight that.
My grandparents were members of the Action Group; and my father was part of Zikist Movement. When I was in the university I was part of UPN and I fought for freedom in the country, I would always be part of progressive politics. I said if I die and you put PDP flag on me I would wake up and tear it.
My last child is almost out of the university; there is problem of perception in Ekiti State and we want to remove that. If the people say I am not worthy to be governor at the end of the day no problem; it means we have to renew the fight, I am not interested in decamping.
Today you are in another party and the next day you are back in APC, I am not interested in that, I am a career person, I can say I want to go back and work as a reporter and journalist and I would be satisfied with the income I earn.
If elected as governor would you increase tax?
We would not increase tax here if am elected the governor. I know that there is no state that is insolvent. There are so many wastages in the system, if you block this you would pay salaries, and there is lack of creativity, people want to come and set up power plants here and we want to make sure it is done and I would make sure it is done.
All that Fayose is doing would work against him. The people have not been paid here for several months, the people here are hungry, this is a government of deceit, forget about the stomach infrastructure, it is all deceit , we were told he released a secular that our bill board would be removed, let him go and remove them and lets’ see. I am his husband; in 2006 I took his lawmakers to Lagos and they came back to impeach him; in 2011 I defeated him in the senatorial election. I know that he does not command the popularity again here as he claims, I would defeat him.