The Special Adviser to the President, Political Matters, and a governorship aspirant in Ekti State, Babafemi Ojudu, has boasted of having what it takes to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party in the state. He spoke with journalists in Ado Ekiti. Shola Oyeyipo was there and presents the excerpts:
How are you preparing for the primary ahead of the July governorship election in Ekiti State?
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 nominations. 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 of 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 other 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 will find time to sit down at the table and then address issues. We will come out with strong points that can serve the interest of our party and state.
How is the party preparing to nib 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 would 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 formula. 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 that 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 Matters, has 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 anyone to 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 a team of lawyers; one of them a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. 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 am 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 organisations, Pan-Yoruba organisations and others. 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 at the Ado Progressives Union, I belong to the Parapo Association of Ekiti generally. I have given scholarships 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 care 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, the 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 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.
Is there is a zoning arrangement?
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 kilometre. 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. Ilasa is East and between Ilasa and Ikole its just 10 minutes drive. From one end of Ekiti to the other end it is less than one hour. We speak the same language every time in Ekiti. We are one people, we are all related.
Governor Ayodele 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?
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?
If Fayose can defeat an incumbent, what arsenal do you have to defeat him now that he is in government?
Mind you, he is not contesting; but even if he is contesting, I am telling you now that I have defeated him many times over in the past. If somebody is an incumbent and I was not a politician then, I was a journalist like you and I was able to impeach him. Also, I was not an incumbent, I defeated him in a senate election. I am telling you that I am the one who is capable of defeating him and I will defeat him again. I can tell you this too. I am from a constituency that if you don’t have, you don’t win in Ekiti State. If you have my constituency, you will win. From 1999, whoever Ado- Ekiti supports becomes the governor. Whoever Ado- Ekiti does not support is taken out of Government House. I am from that community. That community has never had somebody as governor before. They have always conceded deputy but now they are saying ‘we want to be governor’ and they are ready for that.
From traditional rulers, to market women, to workers, to NGOs, to our party members, they are determined and have decided that this time around, an Ado Ekiti person must be governor and they are ready. Right now, if you look at it, Fayose is demolishing houses all over. Nobody has done anything to him. He will just wake up from Government House and call bulldozers to demolish houses without prior notice or compensation. These are houses that are not on the roads. What has happened to him, nobody knows. But I think and I suspect that it is because the people of Ado have removed their support for him and he wants to punish them before he leaves.
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. 90 percent of school leavers 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 to buy and eat. Whatever is left will be taken to Lagos for people to buy.
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 footballers, sprinters, boxers, wrestlers,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 to make Ekiti a better stare.
Do you think your party is electable?
Millions of people have been mobilised back to farm.I have been to Jigawa, Kebbi, Ebonyi, Cross River, when I saw rice plantations; rice processing plants, I knew that change has come. We need to consolidate the foundation. Right now you can say we are fighting corruption, has corruption been eradicated in Nigeria? There is nowhere corruption has been eradicated, but we have succeeded in making corruption an agenda, when we pursue that agenda, one day we are going to succeed.A lot of things. We are diversifying the economy, we are trying to build a rail line from Lagos to Kano, a rail line from Lagos to Calabar, the Second Niger Bridge which became a totem between Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan regime, now people are working there.They are piling and it will be delivered very soon.So many things are taking shape. We are blocking loopholes in governance. I am a Special Adviser, I don’t have an official car, I don’t have an official quarter and my office is not furnished. We are making sure that we save money.