President Muhammadu Buhari has been told to block all illegal payments received by federal lawmakers. Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana made the call in reaction to an expose by Shehu Sani, the senator representing Kaduna Central that he and his colleagues receive N13.5 million monthly as “running cost”, aside a N750, 000 monthly consolidated salary and…
Moremi Ojudu is the daughter of Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Political Matters. She is an outspoken, strong-willed and conscientious young woman passionate about youths becoming involved in politics, which is key to achieving their desire to see change in Nigeria.
She was the lady that took over the baton from popular musician, Tuface Dibia, to lead hundreds of Nigerians in the massive anti-government protest, ‘I Stand with Nigeria’ after the artiste backed out. Recently baged an award for her forthrightness and bravery at the Joseph and Caroline Olanlokun Annual Lecture Award in Lagos, this enterprising young lady also runs fashion and catering businesses and strongly believes in people taking responsibility to bring about change rather than just talking. In this interview, she speaks on her entry into politics, what she is doing to get other youths involved in politics and the price she paid for championing the ‘I Stand with Nigeria’ protest.
Where did you get the idea of becoming a politician?
It is something I have always had. I think it is actually an inborn quality. I grew up in an informed environment, where we were always abreast of political activities around us. My background was such where every policy the government made affected our lives. My aunties and uncles were always informed. And naturally as a child I just took it up. I started reading newspapers at a very young age. Beside reading books centered on politics and governance, I remember that in secondary school I would always win the top prize in Government as a subject. My parents really contributed to this. They were like the very major tool in participating and improving my present qualities and traits.
From your point of view, is it odd for a lady to embrace politics?
No. Funny enough, I don’t see that barricade. I actually find it strange that we have very few women who are political gladiators. It actually amazes me to not really find women who show firm and real interest in politics. From my background, I never saw a disadvantage of the girl-child (the limitation as a girl-child.) So there was no big deal for me. I stepped out and it has been an embracing feeling all the way. I have received encouraging support from friends and family and so far I don’t see the limitation. Though in this society, there are some places I go to and people are like, ‘You are a lady, why do you have to talk that way?’ And am like, ‘Excuse me, like serious, this is who I am.’ You just have to know who you are and whether people like it or not, they will just have to accept you.
So who is Moremi Ojudu?
Moremi Ojudu is a dynamic individual. She is highly passionate and she goes hard at whatever she does. As much as that, she has a very soft heart within. A humanitarian who loves to care for people; to help in the best possible way she can. Basically, Moremi is Moremi. She is simple, real and humble.
Would you say the level of your political quest is a product of your dad’s impact or is it still inborn?
I would say it is a mix up of both. My parents are political supporters, political watchers and automatically finding yourself in such an environment is natural for you to pick it up. I remember back then in secondary school, my daddy was readily available to answer all my questions on whatever issues I had or what was not clear to me like governance processes, the system and so on. I was always a curious child. And my curiosity was mostly towards political atmosphere and system.
Give us an insight into your educational background?
All my schooling was done in the University of Lagos (Unilag). I attended the primary school in Unilag and also the secondary school – International School, University of Lagos and on to the university proper for my tertiary education. I read French for my first degree (laughs). You would have thought I would have studied Political Science but I am looking to do it later maybe for my Masters or as a crash program. But I have always found myself at seminars and have had some form of educational training along the line.
Based on your exposure to our political system, what do you think is wrong with the political system?
A lot is wrong with our political system. From our education sector to our health sector, a whole lot is wrong. Greed and selfish interest are the things affecting us. If we can have the right set of leaders that are credible, that would truly work for the people and willingly contribute to the development of our country, then our country will grow. The president or corrupt leader that is stealing money will still ply the route that the citizens ply. It is high time we had the right set of leaders who are credible, have the people’s interest at heart and quality representation in governance.
And that is what I am trying to do through my non-governmental organization. We are trying to raise new minds, trying to recognize people who actually have core interest in politics and are ready to provide quality representation in governance.
Are Nigerian youths duly represented in governance?
Youths are not duly represented in governance. And it is unfortunate that our leaders and our parents have not been able to embrace our participation in government. Well, we have our own fault and share in the blame by not being able to understand what we stand for and understand the level and intensity of our position in the society. But I know with the right information, things will look up for the better. Social media has helped a lot in grooming us better, enlightening us better and has also helped in making us realize that if we do not come out and just keep complaining, nothing will be achieved and nothing will be done. Thankfully, about 40 percent of our youths are beginning to show interest and acknowledge that it is our time to stand up for our right.
What is the significance of a youth activist in this our political age?
A youth activist is one who encourages youths to participate, to be involved and is one who engages youths. The activist is a mobilizer. I feel that we do not have the right support and most youths don’t support themselves either. I want to find myself in a position where I mobilize friends of like minds and make them understand that if we do not stand up for each other, hold our hands together and lean on each other’s shoulder, nothing will be done. So, a youth activist deals with the aspect of engaging youths of like minds to be involved, be credible and making them understand that this is our time. The future is now and not tomorrow. And we have to stand up and claim our power. Power will not be served to us, we will have to grab it ourselves, aggressively.
How can an interested youth get involved in governance?
You have to start from the grassroots. Our organization is trying to encourage our friends to get involved in politics. They should go and get their nomination form to become councillors at the ward level and local government chairmen at party level. We try to tell them to start at the grassroots level because leadership and government structure starts at the grass root level. And if you decline to start from the grassroots level and want to start from the top, you will encounter hitches.
It is about telling us to go for our ward meetings. These things are actually very open. You can actually walk up to your local government whenever they are having grassroots meetings, community development meetings and start contributing your bit. Get involved. Embrace the grassroots women, the people and contribute your own bit in every way possible. And we as an organization are actually there as your support system to recognize you and link you up with the right guidelines that lead you to get to that position of power.
What do you think discourages Nigerian youths’ participation in politics and what is the way out?
Politics is actually dirty. And the level and substance that Nigerian youths are today, we don’t have the patience to go through those dirty processes, funny and dicey power play that happens in politics. This is why we are not showing interest. We feel like we are too educated for this and by so doing, we have left politics in the hands of street urchins and touts to do their thing and this is not going to help us. Unfortunately, our background also contributes to it. We come from homes where we are discouraged from embracing politics because of the seeming violence associated with it. And looking at it, you get into politics and the next thing, you may be assassinated, and you are scared for your life and need to carry security aides. As such, most youths are just feel that being technocrats or an entrepreneur is the way out than getting involved in politics. That is why we are actually trying to enlighten more people more and sensitize them well to get involved.
What gave you the audacity to push forward with the ‘I Stand With Nigeria’ protest when Tuface Dibia backed out?
Audacity! Audacity is an in-born quality in me. I was tired too of the Nigerian situation. I am a Nigerian and I go through our problems like every other Nigerian. I felt that if we did not come out to make our voices heard, our politicians would not know that we are suffering and that this politics is killing us. Truly we can’t have leaders that are not willing to provide their best; we cannot have leaders that will tell us something during the electioneering campaign and they do something entirely different once they get elected. That was what spurred me to action, bearing in mind that I was suffering too and not satisfied. And a peaceful protest was the way forward to demonstrate that we were not satisfied.
You come from a privileged background. So where did this concern for the plight of Nigerians come from?
I will say I come from a semi-privileged background. And for me, I grew up in a family where they don’t throw money at you. You have to work for it. Everything I have today, I worked for it and I grew up with that belief. My father was rarely around. So I grew up with my mother who did not lavish money. Already I had seen how horrible things were out there. I see how you have to try to raise your head above the waters and still have to struggle. When I know these things are not supposed to be so.
And people come to me to ask for charity. And I tell them I am suffering like them. So we have to stand up, fight and claim what belongs to us. If not, we will not get anywhere.
Did the protest achieve the aim?
Well, at least the government heard us. The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, responded to us by saying ‘We hear you loud and clear.’ That was actually a step. It is unfortunate that we have a government that is not so sensitive to the people’s plight. It is truly sad and unfortunate.
That is why we have to learn to use our vote to change things. We have to understand that we can use our votes to bring in the right leaders. And we have to start from now, to look out for the right minds and encourage them to participate in governance. But we will keep talking, fighting and mobilizing.
Was your life threatened after the protest?
The only thing that happened after that time was that my relationship with my father went completely sour. He misunderstood my actions in a lot of ways. The perception he had was that I had collected money from the opposition party and I was being used to rise against the government. It was really a bad situation for me, almost leading to emotional hysteria because I looked up to my father in many ways. Thankfully, things have been sorted out and the family has come to believe, that come what may, I, Moremi have a purpose to fulfill to humanity.
What is your advice to Nigerian youths?
Search within and have the mindset to understand properly what it means to be a citizen of a country. This will help us think alright, know what we need to do and what we need to have. My advice is to keep fighting, do not cut corners but keep pushing. Someday, together we will lead the way and make things better for us and our children.
What is your dream as a youth activist and how can it be achieved?
I dream for us to know a new school of credible leaders who are true to the people and ready to take us from the shackles that Nigerians have found themselves. I dream for us to have youths who will redeem this country. We will achieve this dream if we the youths stand together. We have to believe in ourselves and embrace ourselves to put in place that structure we desire.