By Bola Bolawole
(Published in Bolawole’s “TREASURES” column on the back page of New Telegraph newspaper of Wednesday, January 25, 2022).
Babafemi Ojudu is in the news – but again for the wrong reason. The first time Ojudu missed his steps was when he regaled the world with the story of the Sunday Igboho he claimed to know. This time around, Ojudu went on the roof top to announce he would not support Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s presidential ambition and why. Ojudu is a presidential adviser on political matters detailed to work in the office of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; so it is safe to say that Osinbajo is Ojudu’s principal and having worked together closely for many years, both men might have struck a harmonious relationship that will be hard for any “outsider” to break. Besides, it is rumoured that Osinbajo himself will run. Whereas Ojudu and Tinubu are no strangers to each other, it is understandable if the friendship of the moment supersedes the friendship of yesteryears. The prospects of one may also shine brighter than the prospects of the other. Principles apart, Nigerian politicians seek after their selfish interest; they go for the highest bidder, and hardly will turn their back on where their bread is best buttered. So, it suffices to say that it is understandable if Ojudu chooses to support the presidential ambition of Osinbajo rather than that of Tinubu. It is Ojudu’s prerogative. And we can even advance cogent reasons for him doing so. But Ojudu goofed when he went public on his decision the way he did – as if he was deliberately trying to put down an old friend and benefactor. Tried as he did to prove the contrary, he cut the sorry picture of an ingrate!
But Ojudu ought to have made a sounder judgment! He is a veteran journalist; one of those who fought, laboured, and suffered for this democracy as he was hounded, harassed and eventually detained for months because of his principled stand on June 12, the struggle to end military rule and return this country to democratic governance. Ojudu is, therefore, eminently positioned by his professional training and cognate experience, which cut through journalism and politics, to consider the likely consequences of his utterances before vomiting them. He failed to do that in the statement he issued on Igboho; he also failed to do similarly in the statement he issued on Tinubu. On Igboho, Ojudu got gutted, in fact, incinerated, that he quickly beat a retreat, his tail between his legs. He went quiet thereafter, only to surface with another faux pas, this time on an old friend and benefactor. What Tinubu did to deserve the treatment meted unto him by Ojudu, Ojudu did not tell. Except that Ojudu is now in another company, possibly a better company in his own reckoning! The Yoruba call such people “ariyawo ko iyale” A husband who abandons his older wife with the coming of a younger sweetie!
Ojudu’s Igboho story came at the point Fulani herdsmen were running roughshod over the entire Yoruba nation, killing, maiming and raping. The Federal Government not only looked the other way, the utterances of top government officials who are Fulani also gave a fillip to the atrocities of the Fulani herdsmen-cum-terrorists. The political leadership of the South-west were incapacitated by the body language as well as the embarrassingly un-presidential and openly biased statements oozing out of the presidency and the tacit support given to the killers by the Fulani who controlled, and still control, the military apparatus and other critical organs of government. Miyetti Allah had become a law unto itself, countering the half-hearted measures of the FG and boldly entering into the fray on the side of the killers and insisting nothing could be done to the contrary by anyone, least of all the victims. That was the unfortunate situation when Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho came to the rescue by first giving the Fulani herdsmen an ultimatum, followed by a quit notice! When everyone had thought Igboho was merely making mouth, as they say, he made good his threat by storming the theatre of conflict; fishing and flushing out the terrorists. The fame of Igboho spread like wildfire in the harmattan. Igboho thereafter led the resurgence of Yoruba nationalism with street protests in major Yoruba cities. The long-awaited messiah, defender, and liberator of his long-suffering people had arrived on the scene! That was the situation when Ojudu fouled the air badly with his “The Igboho I knew”
Of course, the Ojudu diatribe against Igboho, in which he depicted Igboho as an enforcer, political thug, killer, and as brazenly corrupt, was seen by many as a hatchet job; the errand run by a fifth columnist, and enemy of his own people doing the bidding of outsiders for whatever consideration, reason or reward. Igboho’s response was: “I don’t know Femi Ojudu… I am not close to Adedibu but I know Ladoja…” If we do not believe the account of Igboho, what of the diligent investigation of Ojudu’s statements carried out by PREMIUM TIMES which, with dates, punctured some of the assertions made by Ojudu? Dapo Olorunyomi, top notch at PREMIUM TIMES, and Ojudu were both directors at The News.
With fresh air having blown over his Igboho putrefaction, Ojudu again entered into another controversy with his statement on Tinubu’s 2023 presidential ambition. To be sure, Ojudu has the inalienable fundamental human rights to decide on who or whom not to back. He said it offends his conscience and convictions to back Tinubu. His prerogatives! But he also said himself and Tinubu have come a long way; that they have both been there for each other; and that Tinubu had even given a helping hand to a business outfit he, Ojudu, was involved in at a critical point. That being so, Orlando Owoh crooned in one of his evergreen songs that the way Ojudu has treated Tinubu is not the best way to treat a friend. Bayo Onanuga, Ojudu’s colleague-cum-principal at The News magazine, in a 2012 write-up, described Tinubu’s helping hand to the organization thus: Tinubu was ever there for us in those dark days when we operated underground, when it was not easy running a ‘guerrilla’’ operation, having to contend with the constant harassment of Abacha’s goons, shut downs, and the incarceration of staff. I remember one day in December 1995 when he called to ask about our well-being and I told him we were having problems paying staff and staring at the possibility of many staffers spending Christmas in hunger. His reaction was spontaneous: there was some money with his friend in Surulere. ‘Go and collect the money’, he said. That friend happened to be Lai Mohammed, who later became his Chief of Staff when Tinubu was crowned the governor of Lagos State in 1999. The money was a big life-saver for many of our staff and for the company that December. He intervened decisively several times even as Governor in ensuring that TheNEWS and P.M.NEWS survive the harsh economic environment of our country”. If anyone should deride or pull Tinubu down openly, it should not be these folks. There are occasions when silence is golden! For some people, however, what is in their mouth right now is what matters! Such mean and vain men! If Ojudu ran Tinubu’s dirty errands going by Ojudu’s own account in “The Igboho I know”, how dirty, then, is Tinubu that Ojudu is not? Except that, now, Ojudu may have chosen to run his dirty errands elsewhere! Again, his prerogatives! But “e ma p’aja l’obo fun wa now”! ” E yee fi buredi ko wa l’obe je”! Stop selling us dummies! Tell your cockandbull stories to the Marines! Although they were then all from the same Tinubu stable, the trio of Ojudu, Dele Alake and Opeyemi Bamidele struggled for the Action Congress of Nigeria central senatorial district ticket in Ekiti in 2011. Let Alake and Bamidele tell their own story of the Ojudu they knew!
Onanuga also recounted an incident in his write-up that we should quickly recount before we draw the curtains: There was an incident that remained evergreen when he (Tinubu) sent me to Pa Abraham Adesanya at his office on Simpson Street, Lagos. Pa Ajasin had died and NADECO Nigeria was trying to mobilize funds to give the old man a befitting burial. Pa Adesanya and other NADECO chieftains were at a meeting when he was informed that I bore a message from Senator Bola Tinubu. I handed the old man an envelope containing N200,000. Pa Adesanya was utterly overwhelmed as he told me Tinubu’s donation was the biggest the group had received for the burial. Many Yoruba businessmen, he said, were afraid of identifying with the burial and had given miserly donations, the highest of which was N50,000. I believe such contribution came into reckoning when Tinubu was locked in a dispute with Funsho Williams for the Lagos governorship ticket of the Alliance for Democracy in 1999…”
Ojudu’s faux pas on Igboho was in January 2021; another faux pas on Tinubu came in January 2022: Tell Ojudu to beware of the Ides of January! A friend said he was taught a course called “Thinking” at the College of Education and that there is a textbook with the title “Critical Thinking” Thinking, he said, is not as easy as many may think. Critical thinking is the ability to dispassionately examine both the intended and likely unintended consequences of one’s statements before uttering them. I recommend both the course and book to Ojudu!
*Bolawole was editor of the PUNCH and chairman of its Editorial Board. He writes the “On THE LORD’S DAY” column in the Sunday Tribune and is a public affairs analyst on radio and television.