“………there are still few decent exceptions, individuals of conscience and integrity, unwittingly corralled, trapped and enmeshed in the contaminated water of criminal enterprise of the two political parties. These individuals are victims of a genre of politics that is against the run of decency, a modicum of morality, dignity, sense of history, vision and the wellbeing of the greatest number of our people.”
Senator Babafemi Ojudu is one of the “few decent exceptions” in the current political dispensation referred to in the above quote. He is a man of conscience, who because of his love for his people has found himself with strange bedfellows in the bid to improve the society. This bid has made him an unwitting victim of a genre of politics over which he has no control. It is a genre of politics that is patently against the run of everything he has fought for all his life and that he is still fighting for. It is a genre of politics that challenges his unquestioning loyalty to “decency, a modicum of morality, dignity, sense of history, vision and the well being of the greatest number of our people.”
Babafemi Ojudu is a product of the Greatest University in the world – the University of Ife. He did not only go through the University, the Great University went through him very thoroughly without any doubt. Like others of his ilk, Ojudu is a special breed who went through what Jibril Aminu, the one time notorious Federal Commissioner of Education under General Ibrahim Babangida once called the “the melting pot of political radicalism in Nigeria.” Aminu, power drunk in his hey days, had boasted that he would break that “melting pot.”
Among his generation of this special breed from this great University are Dapo Olorunyomi, Kunle Ajibade, Sam Omatseye, Wole Iyamu, Opeyemi Bamidele, Yemi Adaramodu, Seye Kehinde, Leke Sanusi, Lanre Arogundade, Olu Fajemifo, Sola Ebiseni, George Oguntuwase, John Mafo, Dele Momodu, Kola Adepoju, Dapo Thomas, Femi Adesina and his brother, Professor Tayo Adesina, Kola “Ara ke” Kassim, Yomi Oladimeji and several others in many other professions and fields, including my humble self.
Ojudu’s story as a journalist is one that is well told and known across the land. Ojudu, along with The Irrepressibles – Bayo Onanuga, Dapo Olorunyomi, Kunle Ajibade, Seye Kehinde and Femi Obasa, had come together to create the greatest revolutionary newspaper publishing company in Nigerian history – Independent Communications Network Limited. The company published TheNews, TEMPO, AMNews and PMNews. The company was revolutionary in its ideological bent, principled opposition absolute power and professionalism. The stable gave unequaled nightmares to the Sani Abacha Junta that was a by-product of the Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) tragedy that inflicted Nigeria with a truncated democracy.
In fact, IBB once asked a group of journalists how did the journalists from the stable of Independent Communications Network Limited able to accurately report the goings-on within his regime and that of Abacha? Despite his self acclaim as an “Evil Genius”, IBB’s imagination could not fathom the dexterity of the journalists of that stable, their determination to resist despotism, their unalloyed commitment to democracy, freedom and the pursuit of “Life Abundant” (apology to Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Action Group) and their undiluted principles as well as unalloyed patriotism.
However, Ojudu’s trajectory crossed that of Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Lion of Boudillion, a man whose personality is a source of great concern for and to this writer. This trajectory led Ojudu into politics and he became a Senator from his home state in Ado-Ekiti. He went into politics with his due radicalism and his conscience as guard and guide. But unfortunately for him, he is a sheep among wolves. He was not allowed to be his true self. He was ideologically choked and almost suffocated. He went through the all consuming fire of conservative and anti-people politics, but he did not get consumed. He is still on his feet standing. And fighting.
The first act of betrayal that he faced as a Senator in the National Assembly was from the members of his own political party, the ACN which later became the APC. The issue at stake in this act of treachery against Senator Babafemi Ojudu was that of the salary of the members of the National Assembly. He perused the salary structure and he became restless and sleepless. His conscience would not let him be. He felt that this time, he had the opportunity to do something about what he felt was unjust, unfair, and unconscionable as well as a betrayal of the people of Nigeria. This time, he is not a journalist who could write and rail against this obnoxious salary structure, but someone who could really do something about it.
But unfortunately for him, he did not reckon with the moral makeup of his fellow travelers in the APC. He was counting on them to share his consternation about the obnoxious salary being paid to them. He was banking on his assumption that this was a reformist party that would put Nigeria on the path to its greatness and give some hope to the ordinary poor who have lost faith in the country. He believed that he would have support without asking from the members of his political party. But he was dead wrong!
The following is the structure of the salary of the National Assembly Members that gave Senator Ojudu sleepless nights in comparison to the rest of the civilized world:
* Basic Salary (B.S) – N2,484,245.50
* Hardship Allowance (50% of B.S) – N1,242,122.70
* Constituency Allowance (200% of B.S) – N4,968,509.00
* Newspapers Allowance (50% of B.S) – N1,242,122.70
* Wardrobe Allowance (25% of B.S) – N621,061.37
* Recess Allowance (10% of B.S) – N248,424.55
* Accommodation (200% of B.S) – N4,968,509.00
* Utilities (30% of B.S) – N828,081.83
* Domestic Staff (70% of B.S) – N1,863,184.12
* Entertainment (30% of B.S) – N828,081.83
* Personal Assistants (25% of B.S) – N621,061.12
* Vehicle Maintenance Allowance (75% of B.S) – N1,863,184.12
* Leave Allowance (10% of B.S) – N248,424.55
* Severance Gratuity (300% of B.S) – N7,452,736.50
* Car Allowance (400% of B.S) – N9,936,982.00
* TOTAL MONTHLY SALARY = N29,479,749.00 ($181,974.00)
* TOTAL YEARLY SALARY = N29,479,749.00 x 12 = N353,756,988.00 ($2,183,685.00)
* EXCHANGE RATE: $1 = N162
LEGISLATORS PAY WORLDWIDE PER ANNUM
* Britain – $105,400.00
* United States – $174,000.00
* France – $85,900.00
* South Africa – $104,000.00
* Kenya – $74,500.00
* Saudi Arabia – $64,000.00
* Brazil – $157,600.00
* Ghana – $46,500.00
* Indonesia – $65,800.00
* Thailand – $43,800.00
* India – $11,200.00
* Italy – $182,000.00
* Bangladesh – $4,000.00
* Israel – $114,800.00
* Hong Kong – $130,700.00
* Japan – $149,700.00
* Singapore – $154,000.00
* Canada – $154 000.00
* New Zealand – $112,500.00
* Germany – $119,500.00
* Ireland – $120,400.00
* Pakistan – $3,500.00
* Malaysia – $25,300.00
* Sweden – $99 300.00
* Sri Lanka – $5,100.00
* Spain – $43,900.00
* Norway – $138,000.00
Source: The Economist
On the floor of the Senate, the first Senator that attacked Senator Ojudu on this issue according to the Senate records is a highly respected Senator from the APC and from my own State of Osun. He lambasted Senator Ojudu for fishing in trouble waters and urged others not to entertain Ojudu’s fantasy. This same Senator later went to meet Senate President David Mark to hatch plans to shut down Senator Ojudu on this issue among others. The PDP Senate leadership was all too glad to collaborate with other APC senators to frustrate this “diabolical attempt” on the part of Senator Ojudu to turn “Senators to beggars” and inflict penury on them. For a long time, Senator Ojudu would raise his hands in the Senate Chambers and would not be recognized. He became an invincible Senator.
It was later learnt that the caucus of the APC Senators called Senator Ojudu and warned him “seriously” and advised him to desist from trying to create problems for others. He was further advised to “drop the issue.” Senator Ojudu, a consummate team player had no choice but to calm down and re-strategize. He diverted his energy to other important issues, especially taking care of his constituency and delivering substantive results to his people.
But again, this raised a specter of suspicions and opposition to him in Ekiti State. He was marked by those who saw him as a threat to their own ambitions. His integrity and dignity was very discomforting to them. He was subjected to series of surreptitious attacks in Ado- Ekiti. Those behind the attacks were his “friends” – friends whom he had helped to advance their political careers and elevate their ambitions. While they were after him, his life was threatened several times. He had so many close calls. But as Bob Marley once preached, he “who Jah blessed,” no one could curse him! Or kill him!
But in politics, some say, there is no morality – only consuming ambition at all costs. People only show gratitude to you if you are not disposable or dispensable. If they can do without you, especially after being empowered, they will eliminate you physically and or politically, depending on which one is easier and more contingent. Those who were after Senator Ojudu were the ones who ought to protect him at all costs and at all times with everything necessary at their disposal. But if one could understand why Absalom, King David’s son could go after his father because of the throne, Senator Ojudu’s experience would be seen from a proper perspective.
Senator Ojudu is not one that is easily discouraged. He believes in teamwork. He is convinced that he could still get some of his colleagues to see and buy into his perspective of people oriented politics and selfless service where obnoxious advantages and appurtenances of office would have no place.. He has been silent for the last four years about his travails as a Senator, grinding through his pains and sufferings quietly. He has refused to complain, publicly despite his media connections and has continued to work hard with the hope that change would come. He had gone through the hottest of fire of conservative politics that care so little about the people. This is because he is persevering and long-suffering. He does not give up.
He is doing his best to be less obtrusive; he has refused to go for the second term. He does not believe in do or die politics. He is not enamoured by political office. He is trying hard to put his experience in the last four years in his past, learn from it and use it as a guide for the future. He is presently exploring other ways to contribute to the progress and the development of his people. He is still a strong member of the APC and a very committed party leader.
One is convinced that Senator Ojudu still believes that Nigeria could be salvaged, an optimism that one does not share with him. He is a committed advocate of Mohmmadu Buhari’s candidacy – another area where we also have principled disagreement. Rather, to one’s mind, the Senator’s experience is very instructive for those utopians fantasizing about the future of a country called Nigeria. As one had already pointed out in so many articles, the nature and character of Nigeria as a State, does not make for progress and development. Nigeria is an incubator for lawless kleptomaniacs.
Unless Nigeria is sincerely re-engineered via serious and conscientious restructuring to give renewed hope, freedom and self determination to its various nationalities, it would break into pieces. Its center would not be able to hold. And the time for such is very nigh.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.” – John F. Kennedy
It must be put on record that I did not speak with Senator Femi Ojudu on this article. I based this on some of the information at my disposal. I know if I did speak with him, he would be TOTALLY against it. This is not meant to promote him since he is not seeking any electoral office. But it is a task I personally considered necessary for posterity and history. And regardless, THE TRUTH IS THE TRUTH – it has no shade or colour!
By Remi Oyeyemi