•Pres. BUHARI’s S.A On Politics
Babafemi Ojudu is a veteran Journalist. He has worked with several media organisations in the country before he left to go into Politics. The Ekiti-born Special Adviser on Political Matters to President Buhari, was born on 27 March, 1961 in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State. He attended Ado Grammar School in Ado-Ekiti (1973–77). In 1976, he won a scholarship jointly sponsored by the activist lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, and Jùjú musician, King Sunny Adé, for indigent students of the state. It was the start of a long-term friendship with Fawehinmi.
In 1980, Ojudu was admitted into University of Ife, Ile-Ife, to study English. He took an interest in Journalism, while in the university and joined The Association of Campus Journalists and reporting for COBRA, a campus journal. He and two friends founded a journal called, The Parrot, which he edited until graduating in 1984. On completing his National Youth Service, Ojudu worked as a reporter for The Guardian, while attending the University of Lagos (1985–86), where he studied for a master’s degree in Political Science. He had a stint with the African Concord and was a founding member of The News Magazine.
On January 7, 2016, Ojudu was named Special Adviser Political Matters by President M. Buhari.
A few weeks back, he was on City People Instagram live chat where he spoke about his life as a Politician with the Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE. Below are excerpts
Tell us about the challenges in your Job (SA to President on politics) as a media person? And how have you been coping?
It’s quite interesting in the sense that I’m an adviser, I’m not doing the task of communicating government policies. I work behind the scene. I’m not supposed to be heard or seen. I gather political intelligence and I advise accordingly. I try to let my principal know what’s happening there on the street. What people are saying. Politically, what is going on, and interpreting every action of every key player within and outside the party to my principal. That’s actually what I’m supposed to be doing and that’s what have been doing.
For me, having a background in journalism, and having studied political science at the master’s level and having been a player too in politics, I have found that very challenging, intriguing. My background has opened my eyes to a lot of things and it has allowed me to correctly read the situation, and guide him (my principal) appropriately.
At what stage would you say we are now politically, starting from the point you came in and where we are now?
We came in 2015. We went through the 4 years and we went through another election. We managed to read correctly the political situation and we got the second term. We are going through the second term now. We are navigating our way through the very difficult terrain of politics in Nigeria. It’s not quite easy, particularly on the economic front, which is not my front, but on the political front, the president, as a result of his experience and ability to study every situation without talking, as he’s very patient and likes things to play out. He understands the political situation of everybody involved before he then now interface and settles every political difference.
Talking about Mr President, a lot of people don’t understand him. As an insider, what can you say about him?
Seeing Mr. President from inside, I see a man of experience. I see a man who’s very patient. I see a man who studies human beings and their Pecadillio. He gives himself enough time to look at those who play out their games before he then shows his hand. He’s very patient and maybe that’s as a result of having been around for quite a time. He’s been in the system for quite a long time, whether as a military man. He was once a minister and a former head of State and he came back again to be president. He is well experienced.
The APC has been under criticism from the rest of us, how do you take some of those criticisms when they come?
That’s also one thing I admire about Mr President. You throw a lot of criticism at him, he takes it as one of those things. He just looks at it as one of those things and then takes note of it. And that’s why he could not see anybody locked up. He’s always relaxed. But like I said, perhaps age and experience have taught him all these lessons.
But the politicians in the PDP are saying that there’s not much in terms of performance from the APC in the last 5 years in government.
What do you expect from the opposition? If they don’t do that, they can’t be called opposition. Here is a president you can’t accuse of theft. You can’t say he has taken Nigeria’s money to buy a house abroad. You can’t say he’s bought a private jet. Prior to his coming, there’s an account that only the President could sign and take money from it without anybody raising question, but when he (Buhari) got there, he asked the account to be shut down. Here is a President who says he doesn’t need security vote and in some states, some governors are collect billions on security vote. For me, that’s remarkable. But I’m not saying there is outright banishment of corruption, but if you compare this regime and that of PDP, there is a huge difference.
As an experienced media man when you look at the media in those days and now, what would you say are you satisfied with what we have now?
I’m not satisfied because out there and in there, I know a lot of things media could shed light on for people, which they aren’t doing. I remember when I started my career as a Journalist in the Guardian newspaper. When the military head of state read the budget in January, the newsroom would be bustling with activities. Somebody would take on transportation, somebody would take education, health etc.. We analysed the budget for each of these agencies and we shared and analysed it. So, we need to do something about the media in Nigeria. If we don’t have a vibrant media, it would be difficult. There are lot of questions that need to be raised. There are a lot of issues that need to be analysed. And a lot of information that needed to be shifted out. What they do is just dust off the take table; there is no digging deep as you do and some of our colleagues and that’s not been practiced.
How do you also see the social media which weren’t around in those days? Do you see them as a movement forward?
For me, it’s a movement forward. Now, we have citizen journalists. Now, I can go on Facebook and pick up issues and information presented by non-journalists and I find them very useful. A journalist can’t be everywhere at every time but people can be everywhere and every time. They are adding to the source of information. But largely I have seen social media as a positive step.
Why do we have an upsurge in fake news?
That’s one of the downsides of social media. Again, You can’t run away from that. There are madmen and women in society. People who have psychological, mental problems, etc. I think there should be a way to regulate this especially by the operators of this medium and there should also be a penalty.
How do you also respond to people’s complaints of poverty and societal challenges whenever people confront you on it?
There’s no doubt about that. I have friends, relations, the family members who aren’t able to meet their responsibility. Things are tough. Even the President recognises that. Even 2 days ago, he complained about the high cost of food. Have always said something. If our governors across the 36 states could put more effort and more sincerity and honesty like Mr. President, this country would be a better place. We tend to put all the blames in our society on Mr. President. We have Local Government Councils. We have governors for Christ say. These governors and Local Government Councils Chairmen receive allocations from the federal government every month, which they could use to ameliorate the condition of the people. But do we ever ask what they do with this money every month? We all know what goes to states and local governments every month. Are you giving road, electricity, water at the local levels? If anything happens in the corner of Bayelsa or Jigawa state, they would blame it on the President. What of the governor and Local Council Chairman, who is closer to the people?
How do you see the situation of things in your state?
I think you should excuse me not to comment on Ekiti State for now. I’m very passionate about Ekiti State and I have done a lot of criticism and I believe the government is responding to the criticism I pointed out. I think I should give them the chance to respond. Meeting of the stakeholders has been called once to reconcile everybody in conflict with the governor. What we should do now is to support him.
What can you say about the opposition party in your state?
I see opposition as positive. If I were a governor and there’s no opposition, I would create one myself. Opposition keeps you on your toes. Some of your people would come to you and lie to you about what you haven’t done, but your opposition will tell you the truth. You would be able to know where you belong in society.
How was it easy for you to settle in government coming from the media?
It was tough and it’s still tough. Quite a lot of things came to me as a shock. If you come to me to ask for money and I don’t have any, I will tell you I don’t have. But politicians don’t like that.
Can you tell us about your being passionate about Ekiti?
I was born there. My grandparents came from there. I was trained there. I had my primary, secondary school education in Ekiti. I grew up on the street, followed masqueraders, played local games, hunted rabbits on the farm and went to farm with my granddad. I had a very good upbringing from Ekiti. My father was a community man. He was always part of the decision-makers in the town. He was always there whenever decisions were taken and that itself gave me the passion and love for Ekiti State. It’s a very beautiful place and all we need to do is to be able to help the young ones. Let them have a living. As it stands now, 90 percent of Ekiti people are not productive and that saddens me. We need to engage them so that they can realise their potential. And if you go to Ekiti, less than 5 percent of the land in Ekiti is cultivated. An average Ekiti man doesn’t farm again. They claim to be politicians.
There are no economic activities in Ekiti, except filling stations, hotels, here and there. The only big enterprise in Ekiti State is Afe Babalola University. You can’t find an industry, employing people in Ekiti State. We need to create wealth in the state.
Are you saying farming is a sector that can thrive in Ekiti?
Education, ICT can thrive and when you talk about farming, you can also process agricultural products. A large chunk of cocoa, Awolowo tapped on in those days used to come from Ekiti. Hardly you find any big plantation in Ekiti now. Same thing for yam and others. But you need to be passionate to be able to do all these things.