How Ojudu was persuaded to run for governor
By Segun Dipe
These we all know about Senator Babafemi Ojudu of the 7th Senate and currently the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters: he is principled, honest and bold; he endured so much arrest, detention and painful torture for the liberation of his fatherland as a fearless journalist and pro-democracy activist; he would give no half measure to show how much he detests cheating of any sort; he is stern yet unassuming; that once he believes in any course, he drives it without let, throwing all his being at it; his conviction about the glory of Nigeria is as massive as his built, and he is ever ready to confront any person or circumstance attempting to impede the growth and glory of his dear Ekiti State.
But little did many know that Senator Ojudu is human, very human, to a fault: his emotional attachment to things he holds so dear can be so strong to the extent of breaking down and weeping, whenever something untoward tampers with them. For example, Ojudu cannot afford bloodshed, neither can he stand torture of any sort. To him, injustice to one is injustice to all.
Truth be told, Ojudu never showed his intention, if he ever had any, to become the governor of Ekiti State in the past. Otherwise he would have thrown himself into the ring long since the beginning of the fourth Republic in 1999, when he had been actively involved in the political transformation of not only Ekiti, but Nigeria as a whole. Many of those doing so today are much later converts. Could we have forgotten the role he played alongside Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other pro-democrats, which culminated in his choice as the Chairman of the Committee set up to organize the inauguration ceremony of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the then Governor of Lagos State? Yet Ojudu chose to be politically relevant in his home state Ekiti, over and above the Cosmopolitan Lagos.
That singular act was good enough for Senator Ojudu to seek and get the governorship ticket of Ekiti, when it was within the power of Tinubu to give it. After all, those who didn’t contribute so much, got so more. But, instead, Ojudu would rather slug it out with others, not for himself, but for others. In his words then, the struggle for the liberation of Ekiti was to put the best Eleven in government, and not for any self-aggrandizement. Thus the birth of E-Eleven.
Ojudu as a brave person, which he actually is, would not have hidden behind any finger, if he had had any ambition to govern Ekiti in the past. Here is a man who does not utilise any spokesperson to present his views on any matter. He pens his thoughts elaborately, confidently and recurrently. He challenges politicians to say what they mean and speak out often. As a Senator in the 7th Senate, he tabled a bill for an act to Establish the Nigerian Poilitical Debate for Candidates of Political Parties in Nigeria. Such is his conviction against political decoy.
Ojudu does not only talk the talk, but also does walk the walk. He is never afraid to stand on the side of the people. Because of his passion for the well-being of his people, Ojudu uncovered the bribe-for-job scam perpetrated by some elements in the Federal Civil Service against some Ekiti youths who had applied for job with the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, and were asked to pay some money as inducement to get the job. He also ensured that money allocated for the road construction in Ekiti State in the budget was not diverted as intended, even when no road was earmarked for construction in the state during that particular year.
It was then a great surprise to me, when I caught this “man of steel” weeping, not for himself, but for his dear state. What could have broken him down, when neither his incarceration nor torture by the military junta could not?
The incident happened sometimes in 2015 during the travails of the Ekiti Assembly G19 members. In his typical Rambo, blood-thirsty style, Governor Ayodele Fayose had chased the lawmakers out of the state when he felt they were obstructing his misrule by observing their democratic tenets as elected representatives of the people. Ojudu, who was then a Senator, felt troubled about the development and joined some other concerned Ekiti sons and daughters to rescue the situation and ensure that the 19 lawmakers were restored to their status.
The G19 lawmakers had gathered somewhere out of the state and were ready to return to their Ado-Ekiti base, having sought and got the permission of all the necessary authorities. They had also been cleared by all the security operatives, not knowing that the State police and the military base in the area had compromised their security, having collected ransom on them from Fayose. They were waylaid at the military checkpoint along Itawure by the trigger-happy soldiers, who had been ordered to “waste” them for daring to come back to their duty post in the state against the authority of Imperial Fayose.
We all got the news where we were, that the vehicles conveying the lawmakers had been surrounded and the combined force of trigger-happy soldiers and policemen were itching to carry out the order of their benefactor. That was when Ojudu let off his emotions. I saw the brave troubled and the strong welled up with tears. Suddenly Senator Babafemi Ojudu broke down weeping and screaming to no one in particular: “You mean this Fayose is going to waste these innocent lives simply because they are serving their people as duly elected lawmakers?” Ojudu went on and on to lament about the misfortune that had befallen his dear state with Fayose in power. He kept asking no one in particular, albeit repeatedly, why this should be the lot of his home state, of all the states in Nigeria.
But not a person to easily surrender to any form of oppression, Ojudu summoned courage to play the Commando role there and then. He started putting calls to all the top security chiefs he could lay hands on their telephone numbers, including the Inspector General of Police, a Deputy Inspector General of Police, the then Commissioner of Police in Ekiti State (Taiwo Lakanu), who got a bit helluva of chastisement from the Senator and the Commander in Charge of the 2nd Mechanised Division in Ibadan. He did not stop until the compromised police and soldiers let go the 19 lawmakers. As a matter of fact, he vowed to personally take up the battle against Fayose, should anything happen to the 19 innocent souls. God forbidden.
May I reveal that it was at that point that those around and who saw the unequalled passion displayed by Senator Babafemi Ojudu, threw the challenge at him that if truly he believed in Ekiti that much and had sacrificed so much to liberate the state in the past, then he should take a shot at the governorship himself. Individually and collectively, they assured him of their support, since the very core of a man’s living spirit is his passion, which cannot be driven by anyone else, but himself.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, the greatest African leader to have ever lived, there is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. Ojudu, with his unadulterated passion, strategic thinking and political sagacity, can and will revitalize Ekiti, with his unquenchable spirit of progressivism, given the opportunity to do so.
Segun Dipe, a journalist and political analyst, writes from Ado Ekiti.