By Segun Dipe
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” –Mahatma Ghandi
Political activities are on the upbeat again in Ekiti State, where the accidental governor, Ayo Fayose, a sneaky fellow, will soon wind down his nefarious reign and is constitutionally barred from contesting for the same position again. To cover his devious tracks on exit, Fayose has embarked on a game of puppetry, throwing up a surrogate in his deputy, Kolapo Olusola, in spite of other willing aspirants from the ruling People’s Democratic Party. How far Olusola, a Professor of Building Technology, can navigate against the run of the tide, is left for sane minds to discern, and the cataclysmic effect of such venture is better left imagined than experienced.
Come 14 July 2018, election will hold and it will be lost and won. A governor will emerge, predictably from among the opposition-progressives. It is necessary to remind the progressives what they must look out for in the choice of who leads the onslaught to totally clinch the already half-won victory. The mission is two-pronged: to rescue and to remedy. Such a person must not be seeking fame and attention at this point, yet he must be bold and resolute in his ambition. He must be prepared to first conquer disunity and disconnect within the party, he must be ready to change the character of politics in the state to promote fertile ground for ideas and reforms and he must show the signs that he is coming to improve moral standards in government and society to provide a strong foundation for good governance.
I agree with those who see politics as war. But it should be war of ideology, to be fought with brain, not brawn. War of wits, of verve, vigour, charisma and of integrity. I had once observed that being the next governor of Ekiti State after a rough rider like Fayose is herculean and largely unrewarding. Such a person will be spending quality time clearing filthy stalls. He must therefore be a self-actualized and fully functioning person. He must be a dogged fighter who is not lily-livered and willing to throw himself into the ring, not necessarily for the lure of lucre but for the good of all. Ekiti is indeed hungry and thirsty for a versatile leader, with a curious mind and humble enough to accommodate other’s viewpoints in charting the way forward.
Politics is not a child’s play, it is better left to the grown ups. Neither can it be played at some level of rookery. The world is full of aspiring political leaders but, sadly, very few live up to the leadership ideals. In fact, many political leaders seem to severely lack some of the most important leadership qualities, such as self-assurance, integrity and accountability. Such a person that must confront Fayose must be someone who would be ready to hold him accountable for his misdeeds. The person must ensure that once the election has been won, the progressives, in their best intentions, would no longer lose their hard-won power to the conservatives. He must be able to provide a high-levelled resistance against such future onslaught.
From my permutations, the strongest and most popular political formation to beat the Fayose-led PDP hands down in the July 14 2018 governorship election can only be led by Senator Babafemi Ojudu, the present Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters and a member of the Senate of Nigeria in the 7th National Assembly (2011-2015). My reasons are not far-fetched. Ojudu has an unmatched pro-democratic credential. He is a bold and brilliant journalist, an unrepentant democrat and a dyed-in-the-wool progressive. He has paid his dues in the struggle for the emancipation of his people at both the national and the state levels. I see Ojudu as the political Sun Tzu of Ekiti politics. His belief and consistency in ensuring that only the best is good enough for Ekiti is legendary. The whole state is his constituency. He does not dither, you will always know where he stands on any issue.
It is a common knowledge that Ojudu has shown more than passing interest in who becomes the governor of Ekiti State since the beginning of the Fourth Republic. At the same time, he has involved himself in struggles that checkmate anyone who mis-rules or rigs his way through. Ojudu has never lost any political battle. He came into politics with a strong resume in Human Rights activism. Recently, he called on all Ekiti indigenes to join hands and work to rescue the state from political slavery. Such is his unflinching passion for the survival of the state of his birth.
Since this is not the time to make idealistic promises but realistic claims, Ojudu is still the only tested and trusted one with the magic wand to outwit Fayose in any political contest as many times as possible. Ask Fayose who his Achilles’ heel in his political adventurism is, and he would readily mention the name of Babafemi Ojudu, who once led the team that chased him (Fayose) out of the town in the booth of a car, when he was becoming larger than life and turning himself to the Hitler of Ekiti. Again, in the 2011 Senatorial election for the Ekiti Central Senatorial seat, Ojudu exposed Fayose’s political vulnerability by beating him hands down to emerge the winner. Ojudu polled 67,747 running on the ACN platform, while Ayo Fayose came a distant second, receiving 29,773 votes and almost beaten by Kayode Alufa coming on his heels with 29,488 votes.
After conceding defeat, third-placed 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.” I guess Fayose himself has since realised this weak link in his political career and finds a face-off with Ojudu a nightmare, so much that he won’t mind sponsoring aspirants against Ojudu, even within the progressive fold.
Ojudu is thus not an alien to the type of political struggle ahead. He fears no foe and is better referred to as Arogunmatidi (the fearless one) of Ekiti politics. On so many occasions, he has put himself into such an uncomfortable situation for his people, whether or not he would be the direct beneficiary. He has fought side-by-side the strongest and the best in the human rights circle. He has done this severally and on several occasions, even when it was the least expedient for him. He is both dreaded and respected in several fields, including journalism, arts, business and politics.
Pre-1999, Ojudu was at the forefront of the democratic struggle that eventually routed out the military from power. When in 1992 Ojudu resigned from Concord Newspaper, it was in protest of a request by Basorun M.K.O. Abiola, the publisher that he, along with other editors, should apologise to then President Ibrahim Babangida over an article critical of the military regime. In 1993 Ojudu and other former workers from African Concord established The News magazine, with Ojudu as its first Managing Editor.
Years later, when Babangida said he was interested in running for president in the 2011 democratic elections, fearless Ojudu raised the people’s angst against him, asking every Nigerian who wanted progress for the country to resist the second coming of Babangida to rule the nation. He said Babangida “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 plays politics of ideology. He is not an “igi da eiye fo” politician. He is consistently progressive, which he sees more as a movement than a platform just to realise an ambition. He is unwaveringly involved in the party that started from the AD to AC to ACN and eventually transmuted to APC. It is on record that he has neither dithered nor oscillated between progressivism and conservatism since he joined politics. His hatred for PDP and all that the party represents is unparalleled. Neither does he have any history of betrayal in politics. Rather, he is loyal to a fault.
Two clinical examples of when Ojudu’s loyalty had been tested were, firstly, in 1999 when he refused to support Gani Fawehinmi, who had earlier assisted in founding The News Magazine with a contribution of N25,000, in his campaign against Bola Tinubu, for whom he had pledged his support. When Tinubu got elected Lagos State Governor, Fawehinmi demanded a refund of his money. Secondly, when he was appointed the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, his leader Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu was out of the country, Ojudu chose to wait for his arrival to personally brief him and receive his blessing before accepting to serve.
Bold and brilliant Ojudu was arrested, detained and tortured to the point of death several times during the Sani Abacha regime (1993–1998). Ojudu was arrested and detained for three days at the notorious Shangisha Prison in the outskirts of Lagos on 11 August 1996. Later in 1996, Ojudu went to the USA for six 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.
Ojudu was arrested on 17 November 1997 after returning from a conference in Kenya. He had the opportunity of staying behind in exile like some other activists. But despite his knowledge of being on the junta’s wanted list, he resisted the suggestion that he stayed behind and returned home to the waiting hands of his predators. 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.
It is not a coincidence in our clime that for many people, the word “politician” has such negative connotations. However, there are still a few who come close to the leadership ideals and who are good examples of an effective political leader. Most of all, leadership in a political framework requires ‘statesmanship’ as opposed to just being a ‘politician.’ This means having the integrity and willingness to stand up for what is right, even if it means resigning a position in government or ceding an election. Ojudu has proven this on many occasions.
But despite his strength of character, Ojudu has conscience and he is selfless. He is persuasive and not coercive. He focuses on coalition and building. Ironically, his effectiveness as a leader results from not being a hustler. Rather than using manipulation to get what he wants, he uses inspiration and motivation. Several times, he has planted trees, under whose shade he never thought of basking.
One of the key leadership qualities many political leaders lack, but which Ojudu possesses in quantum, is ability to take responsibility. A lot of political leaders are very adept at pointing the finger at everyone else and few like Ojudu seem to be able to accept responsibility for their mistakes, admit their failures and acknowledge their own contribution to a problem.
Accountability is crucial to effective political leadership, as without this, there will be no respect from the followers. A good political leader is someone who will be honest and responsible for their own actions and decisions and who is willing to admit when they have made a mistake. They will focus their energies and time on representing the people rather than spending all the time “covering their backs” and criticising others.
Leadership in the political framework requires a focus on the long-term good of a people, above and ahead of any personal short-term gains. Good political leadership requires a combination of charisma and integrity, as well as the ability to assess a situation and make a decision based on what would be best for the greatest number of people.
Ojudu is undoubtedly a revolutionary. He would always argue that only resoluteness, compassion and selflessness would enable the progressives to win the coming election. As a political leader, he is of strong character, with both conscience and charisma. He is endowed with good communication and inter-personal skills. He is someone with the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said, rather than just tell the general public what they want to hear. He is someone who is willing to make difficult (and possibly unpopular) decisions for the greater good.
Given the chance, Ojudu will work with a range of other people, regardless of political ideology or opinion, to achieve the greatest good for the general population. He is someone who can resist the various temptations and lures of the political arena, someone who serves as an example of integrity and loyalty to the people he represents, and even other political leaders. He is willing to listen to the needs of the common people and to represent them faithfully, without flinching. Ojudu knows the value of power and how it can be shared without leaving out anyone out among his people. His position is that no one, high or low, should languish in powerlessness.
Segun Dipe, a journalist and political analyst, writes from Ado Ekiti