*Condemns NASS jumbo pay
BY DAPO AKINREFON
MR Babafemi Ojudu was until recently the Managing Editor of the TheNews Magazine. He recently emerged the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, canddiate for Ekiti Central Senatorial District of Ekiti State.
In this interview with Vanguard, he says that the former governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose, who is also contesting for the same seat on the platform of the Labour Party, would be no match for him at the polls. He also bares his mind on other sundry issues. Excerpts:
Many Nigerians still pick holes in the just concluded voters’ registration exercise conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. What is your take on the outcome of the whole exercise?
Until INEC comes out with what they have and one has an overview of the whole exercise, one would not be able make any comment, to say whether it (voters’ registration) is good or bad. But so far, for me, except for the initial hiccups with the DDC machines, I think its been okay. The preparations may not have been totally okay, but again, I think so far, from the little I observed in my constituency, let’s give them a pass mark.
Do you now see the Prof Attahiru Jega-led INEC conducting a free, fair and credible elections?
I may not be able to come out and say that we are going to have a totally free and fair elections. It’s going to take a while before we can have credible polls in Nigeria. What I’ve seen so far is that we have democracy, but we don’t have democrats. It’s not going to be a function of only Jega to ensure free and fair elections in Nigeria, it is going to be the function of both politicians and INEC.
We have bad Nigerians among politicians, as we have bad Nigerians among INEC staff. So, Jega can only try his best. He (Jega) would probably make do with whatever is his best for now and then move on from there and learn from the mistakes that are made and also try to improve on that for future elections
There have been accusations and counter accusations from your party, the ACN, against the CPC over plans to form an alliance ahead of this year’s elections. As an insider, could you tell us what went wrong?
I would not say I have enough information for me to comment on this. All I’ve seen particularly in the last few weeks is that the alliance is, perhaps, not working. May be, if I’ve not been involved in running my campaign here (Ekiti), I would have my hands on exactly what went wrong. I’ve read statements from our party, I’ve read from the CPC; it’s just that, things are not just working and the parties have decided to go their own way. Let’s see what happens at the end of the day.
Some aggrieved members of your party have cried foul over how candidates were imposed on them. Even, the national chairman of your party confirmed that the leadership of the party imposed candidates in some cases…
(Cuts in) I will not agree with that. The party never did say that they imposed candidates, rather he (Bisi Akande) was trying to say that, in places or situations, where it was difficult to arrive at a candidate through the process of election, if everybody could come together and reason together, look at the situation on ground and say if this candidate was going to be good enough for our party. That I think is what he (Akande) said; he was not justifying a position, he didn’t use the word imposition. And that, for me, is accepted in a democracy.
A party subjects its members to primary elections and in some areas, the elections were inconclusive and then, the party leadership came together, met and looked at the situation and the factors on the ground, and they now agreed on who is qualified or more suitable to represent the party. That’s exactly what they did.
How true is it that most, if not all of the aspirants were asked to sign a withdrawal form before participating in the primaries?
Well, that has to do with the fact that you may prefer a candidate and before the closure of nominations by INEC, you may have some information that can disqualify that candidate and it may be difficult for that candidate to step down on his/her volition, it would be better to ask such candidate to sign an undertaking before the nomination that if you (candidate) are found wanting at any point in the process, you are going to drop your candidacy. That is what such thing stands for.
Were you asked to sign?
Of course, I did. Let me just say that I have a fair enough knowledge of the party. I believe that a lot of reconciliation is going on across the states in Nigeria and the leadership of the party has a mechanism to resolve all of these issues. In primaries all over the world, people feel disaffected, some feel cheated and they cry foul here and there, but with time, the leadership comes in and try to reconcile people who are quarreling and then, we move on.
Everybody comes on board and plays his own role at the general elections. I believe that is already going on in the ACN. What I have seen so far is that, the media is over promoting this conflict in the ACN; we do not have the kind of conflict that the PDP has in Ogun State for example.
They have two parallel lists of people who should contest and they have to go to court to resolve this issue. I’m not sure there is anybody in the ACN who has gone to court to challenge anybody’s nomination. It’s not as pronounced in our party like we have in other parties.
There were reports that you were given the ticket to represent your party at the House of Representatives, how true is this?
There is a lot of misinformation in the papers. There was no time I was given a ticket to go to the House of Representatives, it is not true. I’m going to the Senate. I think there is some conspiracy among the media people locally here to feed people with that kind of falsehood. It is not true.
What steps have you taken to correct this misinformation?
I have addressed a press conference where I said anybody who cared to know, should go to INEC to find out whose name has been submitted for Senate in the 2011 elections.
The jumbo pay controversy in the Senate has continued to heat up the polity, what steps do you think can be taken to address this issue?
I’ve made my position known very clearly that I do not agree with that level of pay for Senators or for members of the National Assembly. Nobody can justify it, it is very wrong. Look at the income of this country, look at the problems on ground and when you try to do a comparative analysis with other parts of the world, I think, there is no way anybody can defend that. That has been my position over the months.
Now that you will be representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District, what change do you intend to bring to the district?
First of all, I will make my presence in the National Assembly felt and I’m going to be a drum for Ekiti. I have cited problems of infrastructure as one of the major problems facing us in Ekiti State, I will vigorously called attention to that. Iwill make noise about it, I will network to solve that problem and I will ensure that these problems are known at the national level, so that it will be immediately solved. I will also resolve the problem of unemployment of youths.
Some of the unemployed youths in Ekiti have resorted to crime, some have taken to riding okada, all of that also, needs some kind of attention. All of these can be solved and if I find myself in the Senate, I am going to call attention to those problems and insist that they be solved.
Do you see yourself as a match for the former governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayo Fayose, who is also vying for the same seat on the platform of the Labour Party?
I challenged him when he was governor and I won. I am challenging him. I don’t underrate my enemies but I will also tell you that as things stand today, if there is any election in this district today, I’m going to defeat him and he knows.
He knows the kind of stuff I’m made of; I don’t suffer fools gladly. I’ll go in there and I’ll battle him in a very fair manner and at the end of the day, I’ll be victorious.