It’s no longer news that Senator Babafemi Ojudu, the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Political Matters, is running for Ekiti governorship this year. He is fully prepared for the race. Only last week, the tall and ebony complexion veteran journalist turned politician, returned from a rigorous campaign tour of the United States, where he met Ekiti people in the diaspora, to rally round him to wrest control of Ekiti State from Governor Ayodele Fayose, who wants his deputy, Kolapo Olusola to succeed him when his term ends in a few months time. Ojudu has already met with Ekiti people in the United Kingdom (UK) and France before now.
And he is so sure that he would beat whoever Fayose presents to contest against the All Progessives Congress (APC) candidate. Ojudu who is in APC told City People last week that he is so sure of victory and that he has what it takes to run Ekiti.
Truly so. He has a rich political profile. Born 27 March, 1961, he is a journalist, who was elected Senator for the Ekiti State Central Senatorial District in April 2011. Ojudu ran on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN).
He is from Ado-Ekiti . He attended Ado Grammar School in Ado-Ekiti (1973–77). In 1976 he won a scholarship jointly sponsored by activist lawyer, the late Gani Fawehinmi and Jùjú musician, King Sunny Adé, for indigent students of the state. That was the start of a long-term friendship with Fawehinmi.
In 1980, Ojudu was admitted to the University of Ife, Ile-Ife to study English. He took an interest in Journalism, while in the university, joining the Association Of Campus Journalists and reporting for COBRA, a hot 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 Scheme, Ojudu worked as a Reporter on The Guardian stable, while attending the University of Lagos (1985–86), where he studied for a Master’s degree in Political Science.
In 1987, Ojudu started writing for African Concord Magazine, initially as a Staff Writer and moving up to become Assistant Editor. The job involved extensive travel in Nigeria and to other African countries. In 1992, he resigned in protest at a request by the late Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, the publisher, to apologise to President Ibrahim Babangida over an article critical of the military regime. In 1993, Ojudu and other former workers of the African Concord established The News magazine, with Ojudu as its first Managing Editor. Gani Fawehinmi assisted in funding the magazine with a contribution of N25,000. However, when Ojudu much later refused to support Fawehinmi in his campaign against Bola Tinubu, elected Lagos State Governor in 1999, Fawehinmi demanded a refund of his money. The first version of The News did not last long before it was banned by Babangida in 1993.
Years later, when Babangida said he was interested in running for president in the 2011 democratic elections, Ojudu said that the second coming of Babangida to rule the nation should be resisted by every Nigerian, who wanted progress for the country. He said “IBB does not have anything good to offer us. We have suffered enough in his hands… He is a trickster. Look at how many journalists were killed during his time. Look at what he did to our colleagues (journalists)… Look at what happened to our institutions when he was around. He destroyed the system and he is now seeking to come back. “.
Ojudu was arrested, tortured and detained several times during the Sani Abacha regime (1993–1998). Ojudu was arrested and detained for 3 days at the notorious Shagisha prison in the outskirts of Lagos on 11 August 1996. The cause was an article in The News about Oil Minister, Dan Etete, which alleged that Etete was giving government contracts on behalf of the Nigerian State Oil Company to his family members and friends. Later in 1996, Ojudu went to the USA for 6 months as a Fellow at the School of Communications, Howard University, Washington, D.C.. On his return in June 1997 he was appointed Group Managing Editor of Independent Communications Network Ltd, Publishers of The News, P.M. News and Tempo. He was arrested on 17 November 1997 after returning from a conference in Kenya. In July, 1998, (after the death of Abacha) it was reported that he was suffering from typhoid fever and jaundice, both life-threatening, caused by the unsanitary conditions in which he was detained and denial of access to medication.
In addition to his Managing Editor’s work, both before and after the return to democracy, Ojudu has been a member or chairman of several organizations and committees involved in media and human rights. In total, Ojudu spent 26 years in the media before entering politics in 2010.
Ojudu formally declared that he would run for the Senate in August 2010. He left his post as Group Managing Editor of Independent Communications Network (Publishers of The NEWS, TEMPO, PM News) to run for office. The 10 January, 2011 primaries to pick ACN candidate for the Ekiti Central Senatorial seat were held in 3 of the 5 Local Government Areas (LGAs) that make up the Senatorial District, and Ojudu won in all 3. The primaries for the other 2 LGAs were rescheduled, but were ultimately not held. The ACN submitted Ojudu’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as its candidate for Ekiti Central.
However, on 17 March, 2011, a Federal High Court in Abuja issued a judgment that recognized the incumbent Senator Festus Bode-Ola as the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate for Ekiti Central. The Chairman of Ekiti State ACN, Chief Jide Awe, accused Bode Ola of forgery in the papers he had filed, saying the INEC had recognised Bode Ola as candidate. On 31 March 2011 the Federal High Court in Abuja set aside its 17 March judgment.
In the April, 2011, election for the Ekiti Central Senatorial seat, Ojudu polled 67,747, running on the ACN platform. Labour Party (LP) candidate and Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, then received 29,773 votes. Kayode Alufa of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) received 29,488 votes. After conceding defeat, Alufa congratulated Ojudu, saying: “Our God in His wisdom has chosen you with your experience and good credentials, which I am sure you will deploy for the service and improvement of our impoverished area.”
On January 7, 2016, Ojudu was named Special Adviser Political Matters by President Buhari
How was your trip to the US? What was your mission?
It was fine. Essentially it was to meet with the Ekiti professionals across United States. Last year, I did that in Britain and in France. The intellectual base of Ekiti is situated outside Nigeria. Many of them are educated but there is nothing to engage them. It is either you go to Ife to go and lecture or you on to Abuja, Port Harcourt, Lagos, France, and Britain abroad. That is why Ekiti is the way it is today. Our educated people are not at home. They are all concerned and worried about the trend back home. That was why I honoured their invitation to go and meet them and see how we can collaborate and form a movement and then change what is happening there right now. They came out in large numbers in places like Maryland, Virginna, New York, Boston, Connecticut and those in all those areas. I went to Atlanta, Houston, the West Coast, Los Angela.
What are your views about Ekiti State today? What are your view about the situation on grounds?
The situation on ground is very terrible. It’s very bad. There is so much hunger in that place, Unemployment has sky-rocketed, almost all the students who come out of school are just roaming the streets doing nothing. Some engage in commercial motorcycle, (Okadas). We have a governor who does not even care about development; He is just there trying to deceive them. When Xmas is coming he will give them a bag of rice and ask them to raise it up for photographs, dehumanising them. When his birthday comes, cuts cake into pieces and goes to the market place and puts it on the mouth of market women and take photographs of them. Its all about food and stomach issues. It is that bad. I have been to the other parts of the country and I have seen what people are trying to do and you won’t find such developments in Ekiti-State.
Beyond the lack of physical development, he has also battered the image of an average Ekiti person. The perception out there about Ekiti people is very poor right now. People no longer take us serious. Everybody thinks we are all hungry and begging for food and that this is the lot of an average Ekiti person. That is not true.
All of that, we are working very hard to reverse, and see how we can take our young people off the streets.