From: AgroNature Admin
Babafemi Ojudu, a former journalist, Senator and current Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, in this interview shared his vision to reposition Ekiti State into agriculture hub in Nigeria. The gubernatorial aspirant unveiled plan to establish Farm Settlement in Each Local Government in Ekiti and focus more on processing. Excerpts
Some are thinking of consensus candidate, are you in the race for bargain or just for it?
I planning to work, set up mobilization for our group. We mean business. We are convinced that we are capable of building the new Ekiti and make Ekiti a place of example for the rest of the country. This is no joke and I keep telling people that it is not an ambition for me but a mission to rescue Ekiti, rebuild and show the world the possibilities in that state.
Whats your reaction when the governor removed your profile alleging that you have not paid the right fee and some had said that those crowds were rented.
I couldn’t have rented crowd. I did not rent any crowd. If you look at the video and how enthusiastic they were, you will know they are largely members of our group, Ero rebirth organisation. We have a group present in all the wards, all the towns in Ekiti state. We have 177 coordinators in the wards and 60 coordinators in the local governments. We have headquarter in Ado-Ekiti. We have been working on it. We also have branches in the major cities in US, Britain, South Africa, Australia and Ghana. We have a branch in Abuja here, Lagos, Port Harcourt. So we have people, who came from all over the places.
So what are your plans for Ekiti State. You have highly educated people but in spite of that the state is still backward, How do you change that narrative?
Let’s diagnose the problem. People say Ekitis are learned. Yes. When you go to school and become an accountant, engineer, Medical Doctor, there is nothing to do other than to move out of Ekiti to look out for greener pastures in Lagos, Maryland, Washington, Atlanta, Germany and everywhere. Those left at home are people struggling to heck out a living, you have the civil servants, the teachers. So, yes we are educated but a lot of people who are doing well are not in Ekiti state. The few, who are living in Ekiti state are civil servants and teachers, whose salaries have not been paid in 12 months. They are perpetually poor, they can’t pay their rent, medical bills, they can’t do anything for themselves. Someone who has not gotten salary for 10 months, what will he make of his life? Won’t the children go to school? The graduates can’t find employment, they don’t have a hope, the infrastructures are dilapidated while schools are run down. So there is no life. I have been in this government for more than two years now, whether its PDP or APC, or APGA, I have seen what the governments have done. Some of them are very creative and intelligent. Look at Kebbi for instance, all the lands have been turned to rice and wheat farm but in Ekiti, nothing has happened. You wait for end of the month, he takes his own and everybody can go to hell. When FG paid Paris fund, ….. he was just gallivanting around. He has turned himself to one project governor. Criticize Buhari, abuse Buhari, that has been his only agenda. So when you get to Ekiti state, you see suffering, grief and hunger. You see hopelessness and that’s the problem we are facing now and trying to find solutions to.
How do you change that?
First, you have to ensure there is productivity. Wherever there is no productivity, there can’t be wealth creation. We have a basic formula to resolve the problem in Ekiti. Yes we are educated but knowledge without enterprise can lead to poverty. We want to add enterprise plus knowledge to create wealth and development. You cannot wake up and go into heavy industries. Land area in Ekiti is very fertile. Less than 10 per cent of land in Ekiti has been cultivated. I have done a research on that. We have done research on that and calculate what is available as land space. So we want to move people back to agriculture so that they can farm and produce heavily. When they produce, you can then find private investors to come and do processing as its happening in Kebbi. In Ekiti, we have five dams, they are not used to providing water for the people and not used for agriculture. They are just laying their fallow. With those bodies of water, we can grow maize all year round, vegetables, tomato with market in Lagos, Ibadan even Abuja, we will make good money. We are not talking of cutlass and hoe agriculture but mechanized farming. This will firstly move large number of our young people to the farm using tractors and other farm machineries to do agriculture. If you look at history, you realize that 40 per cent of revenue generated in the western region, that Chief Awolowo used to build free education and develop the region. Talking of Cocoa, the cocoa are still there now but they are old. Initially, we were producing 80 pods per tree but currently producing 4 pods per tree. We want to review that and focus on agricultural development. The entire south of Ekiti state is cocoa belt. If we have that now, we will be swimming in wealth. So we are going to really encourage the renewal of those farms and see how we can renew cocoa farms estate. Like Awolowo, you won’t export the raw cocoa but you dry it, bag it. We will keep the pod here and ask the private sector to establish processing plants that will process them and ship them out. It will add more money than shipping them out raw. So basically, within two years of being in government, we will have established the estate in every local government where you can rest, provide electricity and modern technologies such that young people can stay in the villages and live a very good life. If they want to watch football competition, they can do that after farming and then they can be productive. You don’t see youths who just walk across the streets. Every young man today in Ekiti state is a politician. Many of them are already on drugs, many have become thugs.
As a governor that has both political and financial power, how will you wrestle power from the incumbent?
Over the last two years, people have seen that it’s a deceit; he doesn’t mean what he says but just deceiving them. If you say you are friend to the common ma, yet you are not paying their salary. The stomach infrastructure you used to campaign, you no longer give the rice anymore. This last Christmas, we were waiting for him to give them rice and chicken but because he knows he no longer contest the election, he didn’t give them. People now see that it’s a deceit. When you like at his lifestyle, you wake up one day and bought four armored Lexus jeep at N8 million per one and you said no money. You went to Benue and donated relief yet you didn’t pay the salary of your people. You built a 2 kilometers bridge in a town where there is no traffic or water, just because you want to make money, you awarded the contract which initially was N4 billion, now re-awarded for N16 billion. Imagine putting N1 billion in each local government in the state for social housing. You can build a bungalow for N5 million in Ekiti. Estimate the number of N5 million you can get in N1 billion and the number of houses. Imagine the number of jobs you will create along the value chain. He didn’t do that but he is building a bridge to nowhere. So everybody has come to see that this man is a liar and deceit. He has cut the salaries and allowances of Obas in the state. Everything is just going wrong so they are just waiting for that day to vote in APC.
Many people know you even if you don’t want to blow it, as a philanthropist, how do you change the narrative so they can affirm that you are not just for the gain?
As you said, they know me and I don’t hide anything from them. What is paramount to me is the development of that state. I even told them, I have a three bedroom bungalow in Ado-Ekiti. If I’m elected, I’m staying in that bungalow to make a statement that we have to cut all of these wastes attached to governance in Nigeria. My governor leaves Ekiti at least times in a week. He charters plane. A one hour trip from Abuja to Ekiti is $13,000 and if you have to take chartered plane for 2 hours to Abuja and return, they will take you for free but if it is beyond two hours, they will charge another $13, 000. That is $26, 000 for return trip. Multiply that by three, per week, you know what that is, going to Benue, Gombe, Port Harcourt all over the country, playing some politics and yet you owe salary. If you cut off all of the wastages and parties you organize in the government house, if you cut off all those expenses on luxury and then be prudent. Now as I’m talking to you, that man is building 25 private houses in Ado-Ekiti using proxies. Where ever he sees space on the roadside, he will send the police to buy it. If it is government land, he will give the CofO to himself. There are six storey buildings and we know. We have taken pictures of the building. They are similar architectural designs. We know and we have taken photographs of those projects. He can no longer take the money to the bank or keep them at home. So he is using them to develop houses, 25 that I have counted. Sometimes, he will come to your house, say, it is old and by the road, demolish it and send someone to meet you and sell it to him. Before you know it, in three months, everyone knows that no one have that kind of resources to be developing those building without being the governor. I had a land which he went and bulldoze the frontage and I decided this land is no longer useful for me. Let’s get someone who can buy it, and he sent someone to buy it. Just next to the high court, he is developing a six storey building on it now. So everybody knows that, if you are not a thief, creative and committed to the people, you cannot be talking of poverty in Ekiti state. But because you know that you came to rape the people, that federal allocation is enough for you to steal…look at the governor, who was first given N9.8 billion for bailout. Three months after, he was given N4.5 billion. He has not explained to us till date what he has done with the money. He didn’t do anything with it. The money just vamoosed like that and monthly allocations, you collect bail-out fund to pay salary, yet you still owe. Where is the money?
How will you rate your chances within the APC?
My chance is very bright. I will tell you this, there are set of people in Ekiti who says because of what we have seen in Fayose, who came back, we are not going to accept that again. You can’t seek re-election so you can decide not to do anything. You can just decide to come and get your retirement benefit. So, there are elements who said no. There are those also, because of their antecedents, some have offended Obas, students, party men or oppositions, so people are waiting. These people are carrying a lot of baggage. There is nobody in that space who did not know my role since 1999. If a government is not doing well, If one becomes so troublesome to the extent of beating up Obas, I will go there and organize his impeachment. I organized the impeachment of Fayose in 2006. In 2011, he contested against me and I defeated him. I had 68, 000 votes, he had 21, 000 votes. So they know my antecedents, they know that I’m forthright and I have never stolen money. My name has not shown up in any theft or embezzlement. I have never been investigated as a public official in my life. I live within my means, I don’t promise what I can’t do, I have an antecedent. They know my role in bringing about democracy in Nigeria. So, my credentials stand out.
In terms of politics, journalism, activism and then a philanthropist, how did you mixed all?
It has to do with having genuine heart. Whatever I do, I add passion into it. I have never been investigated. Whatever I don’t have passion for, I stay away. Then I want to say that I’m not motivated at money. If you say Femi Ojudu, there is money two kilometres away from here to be taken; I’m not going to take it. If you call me and say a young man or woman is being oppressed 10 kilometres away, you are the one who can save the person, I will run with all the energy I can summon to save the person. That’s is the kind of person I am. So when you talk about activism, yes. I am passionate about human right, good governance and democracy as well freedom of the press. It is passion. The same thing with governance, I believe that this country can be better if we all decide to say no way to corruption. When you are a governor, your people are poor, you spend four years and you then go to GRA to buy a house worth N1.2 Billion, what are you trying to show to the public. For me these things are not right and I feel very touched. How many homes will you live? You have a house in Abuja, another in Lagos, Atlanta, London..how many nights will you pass in day at these houses. These are the kinds of things I’m not comfortable with so these ignited my activism. When I see people doing that, I want to campaign against them. Without corruption, there can be something for everybody in this country.
If there is anything, as special adviser to the President on political affairs, how will you react to fight against corruption
Let me tell you. We have all benefited from corruption. All of us in this country, that is what this administration is taking away from us. If I were SA political affairs to Jonathan, you won’t come and see me here. For this interview, you won’t come and see me here. I will take a suite and have all of the champagne and foods for you to drink from. And when you are going, I’ll say Yomi, take $10, 000. I won’t know I’m giving you anything and when you get home, you are doing a construction project in your house you send $5, 000. If you have a girlfriend, you give her $1, 000, tickling down. That is how people benefit. You are jeans maker, you are not producing anything but by just knowing Mr. President, the Minister, 100s of millions of dollars come to you and you buy private jet, hire crew, two pilots and gallivanting all over. You come to Abuja, you buy a mansion and yet you are not producing but taking from the state. Then, if somebody comes and say I’m taking away all these, you can no longer pay your pilot. You can’t service that jet, you can’t pay the insurance, and your girlfriends can no longer travel first class abroad, so she abandoned you. Things are just collapsing. You can’t just maintain the house you bought, you can’t pay the school fees of your child you registered in a very expensive school in America, there is no way you won’t hate the man but the man didn’t hate you. The man is saying let us use the resources of this country for the benefit of our people. You are in this town. When I was in the senate, I observed how pastors, bishops, emirs, alfas pays visit to the villa. When they are going, they give you a bag of $200, 000 in trunk of their cars put in the t. If you now have a president that says all I can give you when you come is bitter kola and tom-tom, and a handshake when you are leaving there is no way you won’t be angry. Just last week, I had an experience, a retired army officer, who is now a pastor came to office and said you are a special adviser, a Yoruba man, warn the VP to stop stiking-out his neck on corruption. What is his business? That was just two days after the VP went to Lagos, to speak on why we should continue to talk about corruption and condemn past government on the way they ran economic of Nigeria. Why we should he be the person. It’s not good for him. You mean this man has a future where corruption thrives? I said no. I am disappointed sir. You are an old man. What kind of country do you want to leave for your children if you are coming to me to advise the VP to stop condemning corruption? Everybody who has benefitted from corruption and are no longer benefitting are angry. They are manipulating the media and causing trouble in their locality and all kinds of things to give a girl a bad name so as to hang it. Some years ago, you see a girl, who just completed youth corp using an iphone worth N500, 000. The hair is from Brazil, which cost N50, 000 and rented a porch apartment in Asokoro for N20 million per annum, riding a range rover. You then ask where she got all that kind of money. It is from corruption. All of that has stopped. I am not saying that corruption has been totally eradicated but largely, it has been blocked wastages and that is why many are angry. That is why they want Buhari dead, and out of government. They want the country to collapse and corruption thrive but the man said, whatever you do, I must get this country going in such a manner that majority of Nigerians benefit from the resources. Under Jonathan, I was in Senate and the budget for infrastructure was just N24 billion in the whole of ministry of works. The year after, it went up as far as N740 billion and that was at a time that oil price dropped to from $110 per barrel to less than $40 per barrel. That was at a time that crude production dropped from 2.5 per barrel to less than 500, 000 per barrels. So that means there was so much loot. In one month, N153 billion was shared among top cards of PDP. That money will construct all of the roads in Nigeria. So when you are looking for why people hate Buhari, some are talking good of me. That is the reason.
What is your message for Ekiti people?
That it is time they use their votes to imagine a future for themselves and their children. Those young people you see on the street, who are jobless are very brilliant and talented. All they need is someone who can motivate them, someone to how them the path, a pathfinder and that’s what we want to do. We want to create opportunity for them, the young should go to the farm for purpose of consumption and selling to that huge market in Lagos where the daily food bill is N6 billion. For the purpose of exporting, and earn good money, we want to ask them to go back to the farm. Secondly, we are also looking at the possibility of building a technical school in each of the local governemnts where people can be taught how to use their hands and brain. Right now in Ekiti, if you want to build a house, you can’t get good plumber and electrician, tiller and some one who will do POP for you. You can’t get someone who will roof the house, you have to travel to cotonou to bring labour and young people are roaming the street. They can earn good morning from doing those things. We will train them to do those things, use them locally and export them to earn income and bring back home for development. We wil borrow from what Brigadier General Ogemudia did when he was governor of Bendel state, who looked at the young people and created sport city in the state. At that period, Atuse became training centre for people who are going for common wealth games, Olympic and all African games. Bendel state then was known as place for the best soccer players, best swimmers, athletes. In fact, within three months of my getting to power is to build a big computer centre with 250 computers and internet enabled and 24 hours of electricity. I will put all these young men there, get them instructors, try to build applications and software. We may just be lucky that one day, one young brilliant man or woman will create something bigger than Facebook or make a new innovation and bring wealth to our state. We want to ensure that there will be no week without one competition or the other, such as best dancer, drummer, and application designers so that it will create activities. That will be traffic in the state. People will know that something is happening here. As I am talking to you, the occupancy rate of our hotels in Ekiti is less than 20 per cent and people have invested in hotels. There is nothing dragging traffic to the state. The governors house built on the hill, I will turn it to a museum of Yoruba culture and history where Yorubas in diaspora will come home and look at their history and then drive tourism, when they come, thy will sleep in hotels, eat and drop money in the state economy. So with activity, the place will bubble. It’s a small place, its not as big as Oyo state or populated as Lagos. It’s very compact. From one end of Ekiti to the other end, you can do it in one hour. If you are creative, committed and you are not a thief, you can then use it as a shining example for the rest of our country.
People will like to know your philosophy of life, Abacha’s period was when you thrived as a journalist. Are you a Satanist?
Laughs ….Satanism, for me I will say whatever will be will be. Just believe in yourself. I lost my sense of fear, perhaps at the age of 25. I wrote my first will at the age of 28 and I have been updating it since. So I don’t sense danger. I can trek the streets without policeman. I can eat anywhere without any fear of food poisoning. If you poison me, I die and so what? What’s the big deal about dying? If you say fatalism in that sense, fine. See it is when you panic or be apprehensive that you cannot achieve your dreams. When as young men, we confronted Abacha, people are saying they will kill you. And so what? We were in danger, arrested, detained but we were not killed. We survived. We did what giants could not do. In this same way, I will go into this, confront all of the giants and survive. If in the process anything happens to me, so be it. Somebody else will carry on from there.