Why I want to be a senator, by Babafemi Ojudu

Friday, April 16, 2010

 Babafemi Ojudu Bill Board

By Olukorede Yishau

Babafemi Ojudu, one of the founding editors of TheNews, has signified his intention to seek a seat in the Senate in the next dispensation. When OLUKOREDE YISHAU met him in Lagos, he explained why he wants to represent Ekiti Central Senatorial District on the platform of the Action Congress (AC). He also spoke on electoral reforms and the need for professionals to embrace partisan politics.

You have put in so many years into journalism. Now, you are leaving to embrace partisan politics. Why have you taken this decision?

Well, I am really constrained to leave the media. But in the last one year, I have been looking at the situation of the country, I have been looking at the situation in my state and I am so worried that if we continue to pontificate in the media, and continue to write stories and publish and some of us do not intervene in the affairs of the country, in a manner of going in and participate in politics, this country may be in jeopardy. I love journalism, but I said to myself, let me take a risk. Let me go there and sacrifice. That is why I am going into partisan politics.

 What are those things you believe the current occupier of the seat is not doing well?

I wouldn’t want to criticise him because he was my senior in school and in manner of speaking he is my brother. But this is not a matter of sentiment. I have not heard him make a single contribution since he was elected into that place. It is going into almost a year now and when you look at my state, especially my senatorial district, good representation is a matter of urgency. There are problems that I see each time I go there. I don’t think representation is just a matter of going there and be a senator. As I speak to you, all the roads leading to my area are in a state of disrepair. It used to take about three hours from Lagos to get to Ado-Ekiti; now you have to spend about five hours. If you are coming from Akure, the road is also bad. If you are coming from Ikare and others, the roads are equally bad. If you talk about the state of schools, the state of hospitals, electricity is virtually non-existent there. I have a house there. I have never experienced public power supply for one hour and nobody is talking about these things; nobody is shouting and yet we have people who are representing us in the House of Representatives and we have people who are representing us in the senate and in the House of Assembly. All of these are happening because we do not have the right people representing us. Diseases that we thought we had eradicated in the past are making their ways back into the communities. So, why then should I have all that it takes and sit without doing something? I have education, I have the capability and I have the passion. So, why shouldn’t I go there and help our people out of these problems? That for me is why I am going in there and that is what I have not seen in those who are serving in that capacity now.

 What are your chances?

Since I am not going into gambling, I have assessed my capability. I know I am capable. I am well-known there. They all know my antecedent. I have done quite a lot of things in the community. What I need to do is to market myself. Let them know the kind of challenges I have set for myself. Beyond that is also the fact that people have in the last five years been calling on me to come and contest elective office. I used to say ‘let others go, I will support them.’ I have been doing that. This time around I know that things are not going on well; so, we need to provide example to those who are coming behind. I know people who have Masters Degree who are okada riders. Even common access to information as to where there are vacancies, the people do not have it. Nobody is providing them that information; information as regards vacancies in Customs, in the Prisons Service, even in the Army. My people know who I am, they know my capability and they know I have the passion to serve.

 What are your chances in picking your party’s ticket?

I am going to pick it. Like I said, I am not just coming from the blues. I have been in politics, but not in partisan politics. Some years ago, I discovered that there was a vacuum, that professionals like me were staying away from the affairs of the state. We were no longer going home. I called a few of my friends that we cannot abandon that place. That was how we formed E-11 and we have been participating in trying to help those we could help, in trying to organise the place and we have drawing back our brothers in the Diaspora. People know me for a lot of things, mentoring the younger ones, assisting them here and there within my own capability. I am not a stranger to them.

What has happened to E-11?

E-11 is still thriving. Last year we still had what we call our annual dinner. We call an expert to come and talk to us about the different models of economy available to us in Ekiti that we could choose from. The year before we gave out scholarships to students going to higher institutions. The two candidates who contested on the platform of AC and PDP are our members. It was deliberately so. We thought that if they went into an election that was free and fair, one of them will emerge winner. But, we went into that election and those who were not part of our own agenda hijacked the process. People went into election, rigged election and led to the problem we are on our way to resolving through the judiciary. So, as soon as that is over, we will be united again and do what we set out to do.

 You just spoke about rigging. How do you see that affecting your chances of getting to the senate?

 Well, I recognise that possibility. That is why I am one of those campaigning vigorously for electoral reforms in Nigeria. I am a member of the Save Nigeria group. I am also participating at some other levels to convince and compel the Acting President to do electoral reforms, believing that with that, there will be minimal electoral fraud. The Acting President has assured us in the Save Nigeria Group that he will do electoral reforms. If he does that, I believe it will go a long way to reduce the incidence of electoral fraud in our elections. But if it does not happen, I can tell you as an individual that I am going to ensure my election is not rigged in that state. I am going to make it very difficult for them. I am going to mobilise the youth in such a way that I am going there to serve them and I will let them see what they will lose if I lose the opportunity of serving and I believe they will defend their votes.

  Money plays a pivotal role in politics in this part of the world. How much of that do you have to spend?

Well, I think it is also about creativity. I have seen people run campaigns in this country and I have seen that a lot of money is wasted unnecessarily. I have studied the process of campaign here and I am going to do something different. I am coming with a model different from what we have. I am going to organise in such a way that everything will not be based on money. I will let the people know I am sincere. If they know that if you get there you will not abandon them, they will stay with you. That way you spend less money. That is not to say I will not spend money. I am going to spend money. But the money I will spend will be mainly for logistics. I will not need to bribe people. Go to the state and you will see that the people can relate with me, right from the day I was in student unionism, when I left to become a journalist and all our struggles under the military. They know I did not do all that for money. So, if they know me that way they will not demand money from me. Now, where we need to spend on logistics, I know that a good number of my friends will assist. I don’t have so much money stashed in the bank. Obama did not win election in America with his own money. He got dollars donated by friends and admirers. I am going to adopt a similar model and we are going to raise reasonable funds to embark on this campaign.

Politics in Ekiti State is volatile. Looking at your face, you cut the image of a gentle man. Are you ready for that now?

 It is not just about Ekiti State alone. Politics generally all over the country is very, very volatile. Again, I tell you, for me, this is not about an ambition. It is a mission and when I am going for a mission, I go for it with all I have. I told a colleague when he was advising me about not getting killed that when I am going for a mission, I don’t think about death. I told him that at the age of 27, I drew up a Will and since then I have been updating this Will. So, if I could survive the barrage of attacks under Abacha and Babangida, I believe God has a task for me to do. Since I came out of detention in 1998 after nine months of incarceration, I have dialogued with myself and told myself that whatever is left for me on earth, I will devote it to serving my people no matter the consequences. I will not go into violence, but I will not be scared by violence. As a person, I will not plan violence; I will not be part of it. But if you are on the side of the people, you should not be afraid of something like that. I can tell you I am not afraid. I am going to pursue these things vigorously and I have the belief that I am going to make a difference, not only for my community but also for this country. I have seen what goes on there and I know I can do better. I will link up with like minds and we will make a difference.

 It is believed in some quarters that PDP and AC are parties of almost equal strength in Ekiti. What is your take on that?

  I disagree with you. I believe that the AC as a party has an upper hand. What has happened, which the whole world has seen is that the PDP is good at rigging because they have all the machinery. If you look at what happened during the rerun, you will see that they were matched. And from the revelations coming out of the tribunal, you will know that they have just been manipulating elections.

 Source: www.thenationonlineng.net

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