I Come From A Family of Free Choice

By Babafemi Ojudu

LET ME SHARE a bit of my family’s history, perhaps to quell the naysayers and ignorant young men who are uncomfortable with my political affiliations and choices.

My grandparents, may their souls rest in peace, were staunch members of the Action Group, unwavering in their allegiance to Obafemi Awolowo’s ideals. However, my bold and daring father took a different path and aligned himself with the Zikists, the radicalized youth wing of Nnamdi Azikwe’s NCNC.

During the crisis of 1965 in the Southwest, my grandparents faced intense pressure to forsake Awolowo and join Akintola and Remi Fani Kayode. They defied this pressure, resulting in my grandfather’s arrest and incarceration at Ado Ekiti Prison until the army seized power in 1966. I vividly recall accompanying my grandmother as we delivered meals of pounded yam to my grandfather at Oke Bareke prison when I was just five years old. Decades later, I, too, faced arrest and detention for resisting dictatorship, only tasting freedom after Abacha’s demise in 1998.

Following the return to civilian rule in 1979, my grandparents once again aligned themselves with Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria, while my father joined the National Party of Nigeria. Despite these divergent political allegiances, we coexisted harmoniously in our expansive family compound, engaging in spirited debates and disagreements without discord. When I encountered challenges as a student unionist, they stood by me, never chastising me for my choices.

During the contentious 1983 election and the subsequent uproar across the Southwest due to alleged rigging by the NPN, my father and his household became targets. My grandparents and I served as a shield of defense for him as a UPN youth activist.

As I came of age, I vehemently opposed the military regime, with my father steadfastly supporting my activism and encouraging me to persevere. Subsequently, upon the military’s withdrawal from power in 1999, he took a step back from active politics but provided quiet support for my endeavours against governance malpractices in my Ekiti State.

A decade earlier, he played a pivotal role in a significant battle in our hometown of Ado Ekiti, ensuring that an unlettered prince didn’t ascend to the throne. His efforts resulted in his friend Oba George Adeyemi Adelabu, a lawyer and administrator, becoming the king despite opposition from the old guards in the town. He supported the future while his parents voted for the old guard. Though I faced some political backlash from the supporters of the defeated Prince Adegoke due to my father’s choices, it mattered little to me.

In 2010, I entered politics, aligning with the Alliance for Democracy (AD), later AC, ACN, and APC. With my father’s unwavering support, I became a senator in 2011. He passed away in 2012, and I have since upheld the family’s political legacy.

My daughter and I are both members of the APC, albeit supporting different factions within the party. While she aligns with the Emilokan group, I actively oppose that faction. We tease each other about our differing loyalties, yet our mutual respect remains firm. She convenes meetings at her father’s house and my house and carries out her tasks of mobilizing for her principal while I uphold my beliefs without interfering with her activities. Her team is welcomed into the house, and I entertain them while minding my own business.

During my tenure as Special Adviser to President Mohammadu Buhari, she organized protests against the regime, once staging a protest at the doorstep of now President Bola Tinubu on Bourdillon Road in Ikoyi, prompting Tinubu to call and request that I remove my daughter from his gate. Today, she diligently employs the family’s commitment, which genetics has generously bestowed on her, to serve Tinubu, working very hard towards the success of the administration. For me, this is the essence of freedom – the liberty to make choices without coercion or harassment.

Certain young individuals, ingrained with intolerance in their veins and DNA, have continued to berate us and resort to insults. They are needlessly agitating for what they perceive as our family’s political woes, causing undue distress. I recently felt compelled to lecture one such individual. I cited the example of Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, who served as Minister of Health under the Gen Ibrahim Babangida regime. At the same time, his brothers, fiery musician Fela Kuti and Beko Kuti, the medical doctor and human rights campaigner, were vocal critics of the same regime, both enduring imprisonment. Their differing stances did not diminish the love they shared as brothers. Similarly, S.G Ikoku contested an election against his father, Alvan Ikoku, defeating him without incurring disapproval.

Ours is a family where my grandparents were staunch Muslims and my dad in his early years was an atheist and later became a Muslim and my mum a Christian. My wife is today a Christian, and I am a liberal Muslim. My younger brother is a pastor of Redeem Christian Church. All my children are Christians. Freedom, free spirit, and free will are made of this.

So, I implore others to let my daughter Moremi and me be. I take pride in her actions, and she does in mine. We are a family devoted to serving our community and humanity, albeit through divergent paths and means, but towards the same end. This, to me, is the essence of freedom.

Babafemi Ojudu is a veteran journalist, art collector, and politician.

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