By Mike Oluwagbemi
I remember receiving a call from the security men at my estate one fateful harmattan day in 2016. The identity of the VVIP was not apparent until a joyous booming voice came roaring on the phone. “My name is Babafemi Ojudu, His Excellency said it will be nice for us to meet!”.
That fateful contact, with a friend of his and another mentor, led to my meeting someone I have since considered a friend, a mentor, a boss and indeed our Oga, as I like to call him.
As his towering and cheerful disposition warms a room, so did his presence bring assurance that fateful day he walked into my home on a mere phone call introduction. He is humble, he is deep and perspective, he is patriotic and what you see is what you get. After that warm meeting that day, we have never looked back.
I remember the fateful experience he gave many of us who were first timers in Ekiti politics. We saw his love for our state shine through, as we visited every single local government, 131 towns in Ekiti and 177 wards, preaching the gospel of unity and progressivism to our people. He is a hard worker.
Many days after spending hours to no end campaigning and meeting folks from all walks of life, I saw him grab any meal he could find , get his swollen feet rubbed and gulp any liquid in sight to just stay hydrated. Until the very last moment of that experience, I had a fortunate front seat to history as I watched a family man, community leader, lover of his people and most especially a patriot do politicking the way it should be done. Through it all, he insisted we should not lose our soul just for the allure of power. And that was the way he ended it.
After that experience, just like a pugilist who never gives up, he dusted himself up and told me straight up that the big fight was about to start. That the 2019 race for which we just had a dress rehearsal for was about to get going. And going, it did.
I lost track of his countless travels with the Vice President, many at moment notice all for the service of our fatherland. He was determined that Nigeria was not going to go back to Sodom of the lost era and he called on us the young lads that had coalesced around him to service.
An open, giving and intellectually stimulating man, he worked tirelessly without caring who got the credit. He asked of us and our labour, what even paid employment couldn’t justify. This was even as his vision for what electioneering should look like was superimposed quietly in the background in that election, even as others hugged the limelight. Oga SBO, was and is exemplary for this attributes. Grit, common sense, patriotism and intellect.
I did not just meet SBO the day he came into my home, I met him severally on the pages of magazines, newspapers and write ups while growing up. He was the journalist that dared look military dictators in the eyes, and got punished severally for it. The Newseum in Washington DC have a few artifacts that bear witness to this.
He is a living legend to the spirit of adventurism, entrepreneurial intellectualism and “Glocally”rooted values that we should be demanding of leaders. A well travelled and exposed man, it was a joy gallivanting with him around Tunisia with few other friends just before COVID struck. It was an experience to relish.
A man who doesn’t live a life of excuse, he demands of others just a tiny bit of what he demands of himself which is exacting! Trust, integrity and loyalty are his watchwords. Any time I want to blow steam and enjoy good stories, Oga is a sure sport. He never seem to run out of them. His football skills by the way is legendary, I mean you must have watched him captain his team to victory at last year’s novelty match for our boss, the Vice President just before the lockdown.
How can I finish this piece without mentioning how such a family man he is? There is no time I visit he won’t speak of one of his kids whom he is very proud of. The way he banters with them reminds me very much of the Ekiti egalitarianism that I grew up around, where father and children mix freely and exchange ideas. This Ekiti ethos of fatherhood is one that Oga exemplifies and endears us to him. We are all of course grateful for a tolerant wife, who amongst us Ekiti men can survive with that? May God bless Aunty.
As our Oga climbs the sixth floor, we cannot but wish him long life and prosperity. The exacting demands of public service is just about to bear itself on him, but I’m confident that given the manner of preparation you’ve had for this calling, the nation is blessed in waiting to have you engage in the public sphere. The top is calling and it shall end in praise!
Congrats Boss and Happy Big 60!
Engr Mike Oluwagbemi is an entrepreneur, public intellectual , farmer and rancher.