The story of the gruff and grudge contest for the Ekiti Central Senatorial ticket of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2011 was one that stretched the imaginations of the partisans of that party. The struggle for the ticket was a keen contest between three close associates of the ACN national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu: Babafemi Ojudu, Opeyemi Bamidele and Dele Alake.
The ACN, which had won the reputation of not conducting primaries, had to side-step tradition as it was forced to conduct a primary to nominate a candidate due to the unwavering determination of the three men to get the better over one another.
What happened thereafter is now at the crux of the battle of wits between two of the major candidates, Bamidele and Ojudu. Ojudu has recently claimed that there was a deadlock and he was consequently picked to take the ticket. Bamidele, however, disputes saying that he won the primaries but was compelled by party officials to surrender the ticket -- which was handed over to Ojudu.
Opeyemi, who was compensated with a ticket to the House of Representatives, now feels betrayed: what should have been a show of gratitude from Ojudu is now turning into a character assassination campaign by the senator to damage him. The hurt was overflowing penultimate Friday as Opeyemi during a session with newsmen poured out his feelings on the tribulations and temptations he claims to be passing through in the hands of the senator.
On perceptions about him in Ekiti: "When you see yourself as a change agent it comes with a lot of risks, a lot of denials. But God sees my heart that I mean well for the state, I mean well for democracy and I am not the aggressively ambitious man that some people are trying to portray in different quarters. And I am not apologetic for the philosophy that I carry in my own head and my commitment to change and passion and drive for speedy change. I believe that when we hold ourselves out as people who are capable for delivering on certain aspects of democracy as leaders, I believe that we must be ready to walk our talk at every point and ensure that we do the best that we can."
On Senator Ojudu’s assertion that he, Opeyemi, did not win the ACN Ekiti Central Senatorial primary: "For the record I want to say again, that I ran for the senatorial race in Ekiti and for the record I want to say again that by the grace of God and the support of the people I won the primary of the party."
Over riding interest: "Again for the record, I want to say that in the overriding interest of ACN and the appeal made by the national leadership of the party, and again as a Christian who believes that it is God who makes kings and princes and he has his own timing for every one of us, I chose to be the good boy of the party. Unfortunately, a lot of people were assuming that I will always choose to be the good boy. But in 2011 I chose to be the good boy of the party and conceded it, not to Babafemi Ojudu, but to the national leadership of the party, because I won that mandate and I gave it back to the leadership of the party to hand it over to Babafemi Ojudu."
On speculations he wants to run for the governorship: "This is what I will say to that: at some time it will be a 'yes or no' question, and I don't think it is anything that anybody would need to hide, in that regard. But let me say this, I am one man who believes in timing, I am one man who believes in strategy, whatever I want to do there must be a strategy of doing it. there also must be timing for it when I feel it is time for me to make an open declaration, I still believe what am going to be doing next sincerely gentlemen I will. Whether or not I will or I will not run for governorship in Ekiti, I think I have gone past that, definitely I will. The only thing left to announce is the timing."
On difficulties of challenging a sitting governor and the peculiarity of his party (ACN): "About the party, I will say this again that I believe ACN as a party, given the current political dispensation, given international political best practices and given the much needed desire to have a united front within the party, I don’t think ACN as a party will encourage any kind of imposition."
Relationship with the governor and the party hierarchy: "I am in consultation with the party hierarchy and I meet with the governor from time time. Do I have to visit the Governor? If I find myself in the state house for instance, it depends on what we called visit. Whatever takes me there, if the governor calls for a meeting I will attend; if the party calls for meeting I will attend and in the course of it the governor might be there, you know. as much as possible I try to avoid personality. I try to take personalities out of this issue, so that issues don’t get compounded, so that the whole thing doesn’t look like it is a personality clash."
On when last the governor called him: "The only meeting that I remember not attending was when I was away in south Africa and the governor met with the National Assembly caucus, this was last month actually, this February. And the meeting was in Abuja and of course the governor himself knew I was in South Africa, that is the only meeting that I can remember and everybody knew where I was."
Speculations that he plans to contest the governorship under another platform: "I am glad you use the word 'speculation', and I think the speculation has become open. I just said in the course of this interview that some people paid for posters announcing that I was running for governorship on the platform of Labour Party.
"They are trying to make it open, again I emphasize that whatever I am running for is going to be under the platform of the ACN, ACN of today. If tomorrow we get registered as APC, on the platform of APC, I am saying that again the leaders of our party are committed to internal democracy."
On differences with Senator Ojudu: "If you ask me I will say that Senator Ojudu is so paranoid about me and about what I do and, to the glory of God, what people say about me on the streets of Ekiti because he feels that, at the very least, I would go after his senatorial seat in 2015. And in an attempt to do this, he also has done everything that he can to build an alliance with other people.
"And also, early enough he started creating the impression that I was preparing to run for governor. Ojudu also needed to fuel that kind of rumour to ensure that he got Governor Fayemi and I at loggerheads to protect his own interest.
"It is my own opinion that Senator Babafemi Ojudu since April 2010 that he took the membership card of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN that the party has not known peace in Ekiti. He became a card carrying member of ACN in 2010 and before then, he had interacted very, very closely and very broadly with the PDP."
Campaign rostrum: "Ask Ekiti people, who was standing next to Chief Ayo Fayose on the campaign rostrum of PDP in 2002 and 2003 and he was the closest person to Fayose until almost two years into his administration until they quarreled. And as soon as they quarreled he became the chief organizer of the anti-Fayose campaign to get him out of office.
"While all of us were campaigning for Dr. Fayemi to be governor of Ekiti State between 2005 and 2007, Senator Ojudu worked for Engr. Segun Oni and I don’t think any of us begrudged him for it. It would be funny for somebody like him to say that he is endorsing any candidate for a second term, he can only be hurting such a candidate. And as much as possible, I feel that he is not the issue, and if you ask me with respect to the politics of Ekiti and the rating of the people, my brother is no more than a footnote."