In the second and final part of his interview with thegazellenews.com‘s duo of JAMIU YISA and DARE OJELADE, Ekiti State APC governorship aspirant, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, speaks on his plans to improve the state economy and improve the standard of living of the people of the state.
You became a poster boy during the Abacha era when you came out of prison with your photograph when you were released from detention becoming global sought-after media item. How has that experience prepared you for this?
Well, I believe that if I could survive that period there is nothing I cannot survive.
It was a very harrowing experience. A period where you have a publishing house and almost all the management staff and senior editors were locked up at the same time. One of us was even tortured to death. I am talking of Late Bagauda Kalto. We were deprived of anything that makes for humanity. Coming out of it and seeing all your enemies who are mighty falling down like Goliath, then nothing else can shake me again.
For as long as you are on a just course and for as long as what you are fighting for is not for yourself, not driven by selfishness and it is for everybody, I believe that victory is always certain.
As Governor of Ekiti State, what are you bringing on board?
I want to provide solutions to the problems and challenges confronting the state. We are not going there for fun, we are not going there to party and we are not going there to steal. It is not about that ephemeral title your excellency. We are going there to make history, to leave a legacy, a legacy of sincere and committed service. We have itemised the problems in Ekiti state: there is hunger, unemployment, dilapidated infrastructure, the schools are bad, the health facilities are bad, the roads are not good enough, there is malnutrition and lots more. We have also found out that there is no productivity in Ekiti state, majority of the people are not productive. There is nothing to do. Past governments have not created opportunities. Talking about agriculture, the few that are doing it in Ekiti state are the Ebiras from Kogi state and the Igedes from Benue state. Our own people just walk the street, they don’t do much of farming.
I was in Isreal. I met with some young farmers and we use Google map, then we find out that only 5 percent of the land in Ekiti is being cultivated, the rest is virgin land, nobody is cultivating them. So, where do you find the food to eat? Where do you find resources to run the state? There is no single industry in Ekiti state that can employee up to 30 persons. I mean if we just have a fraction of industries in Otta, Ogun state in Ekiti state, Ekiti will be seen to be rich. But there is none of those industries at all that you can find in Ekiti state.
Beyond private primary and nursery schools, sawmills employing 4-5 persons; you cannot find any other industry in Ekiti state. Beer parlors, petrol stations are the businesses you find in Ekiti State.
What we need to do in the immediate is to take the people back to farm. We are not talking of farming with cutlasses or hoes. No that is not going to help us. We want to do modern merchanised farming.
We will establish farm settlements in each local government, provide modern amenities in those establishments, have all the necessary equipments there. Ekiti is so blessed, the land is fertile.
I have never seen someone using fertilizer to grow anything in Ekiti state, and there is nothing that cannot grow in Ekiti State: rice, tomatoe, banana, plantain, okro, cassava, cocoa etc.
In the 60s, at the height of the Awolowo phenomenon in western Nigeria, 40 percent of the resources came from Ekiti state through cocoa plantations. Those plantations have grown old, they are no longer as productive as they used to be, where they have 100 fruits or pods on each tree, they now have about 4-5 pods on them which is not good enough. So we want to rebuild those farms and start new ones too.
Unlike the Awolowo days, where the cocoa were harvested, dried, bagged and sent abroad, we will bring private investors to come and put processing plants on ground and process the cocoa so that we can earn more money. As we are mobilizing to farms, we are looking out for private investors to process the products coming from the farms.
For instance, cassava is of high demand both home and abroad: the peel from cassava is used as feeds for animals, and the water drained from it can be used for ethanol. These are in high demand by both local and foreign industries. We just want to concentrate on agro allied businesses.
For all the products coming out from here, we will get private investors, take them from the farms, process them and add value to them in Ekiti before we take them to the markets. For the cows that have become emaciated on their way from the northern part of the country, we will get private investors to take them, feed them, put them in good shape: where they are weighing 100kg, we will feed them to the point of 300kg before they are taken to the markets in Lagos. On a daily basis, 6000 cows are consumed in Lagos, we want to be able to supply a good percentage of that figure. On a daily basis, the price bill of food in Lagos is N6 billion, if Ekiti can take 20 percent of that, supply oranges, banana, plantain, fresh corn daily throughout the year, then our economy will improve and the standard of living of the people will also improve drastically.
We can do it. We will generate a lot of wealth to feed our people, erase the malnutrition, send something to the market, generate money, the industries will begin to function properly, people will pay their taxes, employ people and the economy will boom. We won’t be relying on allocation from Abuja alone. So, these are the kind of things we have in mind to revive Ekiti State in the immediate.
We are going to work, we are going to dirty our hands in a positive way. We are going to the farms. We will be at sites where work is being done . Palm tree grows in Ekiti state, we will take our queue from Malaysia and grow massive plantation of palm tree,and produce oil and the derivatives that we can use locally and also for export.
There is need for you to improve on the IGR of the state, how do you intend to do this?
Yes you are right and my position is if there is productivity, IGR will improve, where there is no productivity there can’t be no improvement in IGR.
If you have people who are taking products to the markets, they will pay taxes, if you have industries processing those products, they will pay taxes, but where that is not in place, there will be no IGR. We want to create an economy that is friendly where people can come an and invest.
In the area of tourism, we have a lot of things that we have mapped out to do that will engender movement to and from Ekiti state. We want to invest in our youth. The idea of going to schools acquiring BA, Bsc, Msc and not able to do anything we want to erase . We are going to train them to be able to use their brain, they will be equipped to be able to do something on their own not waiting for government employment.
Government cannot employ everybody coming out of school, so we will equip the youths to do things on their own and even become employers of labour.
We are planning to build technical schools in each local government to train youths in various vocations. Today, I am telling you if you want to build a house in Ekiti, you have to go to Cotonuo for people who can do electrical fittings, plumbing, roofing, tiling and so on. Why should we go out of the state and our country to look for artisan to carry out our activities?
We are also planning establishing film and sports villages to train actors and sportsmen and women respectively. Our youths will also be trained in various vocations such as fashion designing, hospitality business and several other vocations . The idea is to take away our youths from white collar jobs and empower them to create wealth. We want to make our youths self-dependent . This will not only improve their economic status but also improve the economy of the state.
The incumbent governor is from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and has a reputation for violence. How prepare are you for this?
We won’t go violent. We will go in there and fight with ideas. When I contested against him, he went around beating people up. But for me, with a well composed manifesto, well printed and circulated all over the state and campaigning in every nook and cranny of the state, I defeated him. He had 21,000 votes, I had 68,000 votes. I went into a debate with him, I defeated him and I actually not just defeated him, I also disgraced him out of the place. So we are ready for him. If he wants to go violent, we will use ideas and if he wants to go low, we will go high, but we won’t engage in violence.
Within your party, there are some high profile aspirants like Hon Opeyemi Bamidele, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Engineer Segun Oni and Senator Ayo Arise among others. I hope at the of the day there won’t be rancor after the primaries in the APC among the aspirants?
We would try not to allow rancor to take place, because again we are all pained by what we have now. Any Ekiti man who thinks that he should not sacrifice something to get rid of the embarrassment we have now is not a true Ekiti man. I think we should be able to put Ekiti first in our thoughts and actions. I think I know everyone contesting under the platform of our party and I have related and still relating with them. They I presume are all Ekiti patriots.
Currently what is your relationship with them?
When Opeyemi Bamidele declared to run for the governorship seat, I wrote a letter to him. I talk to Oni regularly and Arise, we do meet from time to time, and as for Fayemi, we were friends but at a time we fell out, there is nothing fundamental, we still see and greet each other. We are in the same party. So, I don’t think I have any problem with them, I talk and relate with all of them generally.
The general impression is that being an aide of the President and a close ally of the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, you want to use their influence to intimidate your rivals. What is your reaction to this?
No, that cannot be right, I am 57 years of age. I’m not a baby, it’s only a baby that needed to be carried, I’m not also a cripple, it’s only a cripple that needs crutches to walk with. So at 57 with all my experience in life and all I have engaged in, I think I should be able to stand and fight a battle if I’m convinced it is of value and worthwhile and it is what I want to do. I respect my leaders but I should be seen to be overburdening them at my age.
Nobody is sponsoring me, nobody is pushing me to go and do this, I am convinced that I want to do it, and I will do it to the glory of our leaders and the benefits of our party and our state too.
How much has your journalism background affected your political life?
You know I practice a journalism of struggle throughout my carrier, so I’m always fighting one battle or the other. I’m never tired of battle as long as it is a just course.
Journalism has help me quite a lot: it gives me courage, it gives me perseverance, it gives me the ability to seek information, to process information and know the fake from the genuine friends and associates,to know what is right from what is wrong and it has given me the ability to communicate with certain sets of people. It has also helped me to be self analytical. I do not deceive myself.