Senator Babafemi Ojudu is the Special Adviser on Political Matters to President Muhammadu Buhari. He recently declared his intention to run for the governorship of Ekiti State. He speaks on how he plans to win the governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and ensure that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is defeated.
How prepared are you for the governorship primary considering the army of aspirants in your party?
It would not be right to say we have so many of us in the race because the party has not even called for nominations. In about a month’s time, the party will call for nominations, and then we will obtain forms. It is when you see the number of those who obtain forms that you can now say whether we are many or not. Right now, some of those saying they want to become governor actually want to use it as a bargaining chip either to become chairmen of councils, commissioners, board members or legislators. They are only doing it to call attention to themselves.
Do you foresee a situation where the aspirants would form coalition to enable them get the ticket?
Many of us who are in the race have been compatriots and if there is crisis, we have elders and leaders who will bring everybody together. What everyone wants is transparency, fairness and justice in the primary. I was one of the people that conducted the primary in Anambra, and you saw how transparent it was. During the campaign, all the aspirants came together to support the candidate. Even Andy Uba, who everybody thought would have won, came to embrace the man who won and they went into the election in unity.
Some people talk about what happened in Ondo where there were allegations that the delegates list was manipulated, but I am certain that it will not happen here. I have been to the party headquarters and they have assured me that they will give us the 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 into 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 and I was a journalist, media manager and senator, so it will be very difficult for anybody to do that in my presence.
Among the aspirants, there are those with pedigree who will not tolerate any foul play and will ensure that none of such happens. We have aspirants like Segun Oni, who had been governor before and is now a deputy national chairman of APC South, it will be difficult to give him nonsense. I have set up a team of lawyers who 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 am passionate about this state. I was born and raised here. 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 removed and installed governors here. I have awarded scholarships and assisted people even before I became a politician. I have empowered and employed Ekiti people, I have paid my dues. This is not an ambition for me; it is a mission to prove that governance should not be as difficult as some make it appear. I told people that I will continue living in my three bedroom bungalow when I am elected. I would not need to move in a long convoy, blaring sirens and chasing people off the streets. I want to give my profession the dignity it stands for because journalists make things work. When you leave your house in the morning as journalist, you are supposed to come back with results 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.
Won’t the zoning arrangement of your party affect you?
We have never had zoning here. Ekiti is not like Ondo, where you have Ilaje, Akoko, Owo, Ondo and Akure. When you talk of zoning, you want to satisfy the interests of different people, who have different languages, culture and 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 10km. 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. Ilasha is east and between Ilasha and Ikole is 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.
What about the claims by your opponents that you are planning to use ‘federal might’ to rig the election?
No, we don’t do that. You all witnessed the election in Anambra; did you see any use of federal might? President Buhari, the leader of our party and president of this country does not believe in federal might. He will tell you to go and work. If today, I contest with his wife, Aisha, he will not raise a finger in favour of his wife. He will probably advise her on what to do to win the hearts of voters.
You sound as if the incumbent governor won’t be a factor in this election, why are you so optimistic that you will win?
He is going to be a factor but he is going to be a factor of failure. There is no longer stomach infrastructure again. It is a myth. Civil servants and local government officials have not been paid and you are talking of stomach infrastructure. If I am a civil servant and you have not paid me in 12 months, what is the stomach infrastructure in that? If truly, you are doing stomach infrastructure, you must regularly pay the workers so that they can feed themselves. This last Christmas, he didn’t even give them rice as he used to give them. This is a government of deceit, Fayose is just deceiving the people. Go around with him now, nobody hails him anywhere again. Since we got into Ekiti, he ran away. We told him ‘we have our billboards in town, come and remove one and let me see you’.
In 2006, I chased Fayose out of this place. I took all the lawmakers who were members of the PDP to Lagos for two months. I kept them there and when I was ready, I brought them back to impeach him. In 2011, he contested against me for Senate, I defeated him. I had 68,000 votes, he had only 21,000 votes. So, forget about all these myths he sells to you out there. I am back again and I know I am the one who can chase him out. If there is anybody he fears, it is me. We will take care of him on July 14.
If Fayose who was outside government could defeat an incumbent, what arsenal do you have to defeat him now that he is in government?
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 he was an incumbent and I was not a politician then, yet, I was able to impeach him, how much more now. I am the one who is capable of defeating him and I will defeat him again. I am from Ado-Ekiti and if you have my constituency’s support, you will win election. From 1999, whoever Ado- Ekiti supports becomes the governor and whoever Ado- Ekiti does not support is taken out of Government House and I am from that community. That community has never had somebody as governor before but now, they are saying they want to be the one to produce the governor. Traditional rulers, market women, workers and our party members are determined to ensure an Ado Ekiti person emerges as governor.
What are those things you desire to change if you get to power?
There is hunger here. 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 because the land is fertile here. There is nothing that cannot grow in Ekiti State, so, we must motivate people to farm. If we didn’t have Ibira here, Igede 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. The infrastructure is dilapidated and 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 with modern agriculture technology. We are going to make sure food is available to them at cheap rates to buy and eat and whatever is left will be taken to Lagos for people to buy. Whatever we cannot sell in Lagos, we will export. Lagos has a food market of N6b per day and we want to take about 25 percent of that.
In the 60s, about 45 percent of the cocoa that formed the resources with which Chief Obafemi Awolowo built Ibadan and provided the resources for free education came from this part that we know as Ekiti today. But unlike Awolowo, we are not going to ship the cocoa raw to foreign lands; we are going to bring in private investors that will bring in processing plants here. We are going to do our own chocolate as they are now doing in Ghana. About 100 percent of the yams consumed all over the world are produced by Ghanaians. We grow a lot of yams here but what we don’t have is the motivation to take these yams outside. We are also well positioned as a state between the north and south and we plan that all of those emaciated cows going from here to Lagos can be sold to private investors who will buy them up before they get to Lagos. We will put them in ranches here and fatten them. From 100kg, they will become 300kg and we will sell them for good price in Lagos.
We already have our manifesto which we call FINE Agenda. I am also collaborating with Ekiti people in Diaspora and 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 Ekiti would become a reference point for those who want to understudy.
Going by the performance of the APC at the national level, do you think that your party is electable?
APC is electable. What you are seeing is what you see when change is about to happen. I can tell you today that the billions of dollars that we were taking to Thailand to buy rice, we are no longer spending that kind of money again. I have been to Jigawa, Kebbi, Ebonyi and Cross River, when I saw the rice plantations; rice processing plants, I knew that change has come.