By Onyedika Agbedo
ALTHOUGH his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost power to the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the 2015 general elections, Chief Ebenezer Babatope is one of the PDP chieftains that have remained politically active ever since. It is either he is proffering solutions to steer his party out of the internal crisis it has been enmeshed in, or he is putting the ruling party on its toes through constructive criticisms of its programmes and policies.
But in spite of that, the former minister of transport still finds time for relaxation and social life. “On Saturdays, there are usually social gatherings to which I am invited. It’s not all of them that I find time to honour, but I don’t usually miss the invitations of people who are very close to me. I must also go to church every Sunday. When I am in Lagos, I attend the Methodist Church in Ikoyi. When I am in my hometown, I attend the Methodist Church, Otapete, Ilesha, Osun State,” Babatope said.
Babatope, who is an unrepentant disciple of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his political philosophy, and often proudly says so, also told Sunday Sun that he has been an avid reader of newspapers since his secondary school days.
His words: “I read newspapers very much. I think I can say with all pride that I am a voracious reader of all newspapers published in Nigeria which can be bought in Lagos.
“I have an interesting story to tell. When I was a secondary school student, my senior tutor, who is late now, Chief J. A. Adetunbi, the father of Senator Olu Adetunbi, wrote a report at the end of the school year for my parents where he said, ‘Ebenezer is a voracious reader of newspapers. He reads all papers that are available at school.’ I never forgot that; it is going to appear in my biography, which is coming up very soon. So, I enjoy reading newspapers, particularly when it contains sharp and hard criticisms of how Nigeria is governed.
“It was clear to me and all those that were close to me that I was very much interested in politics. The man who introduced me to politics in Nigeria was the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. So, I loved following his activities. When you talk of African politics, it was Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. That was how I became a voracious reader of newspapers early in life.”
A member of PDP Board of Trustees, the Ilesha, Osun State born politician, also has a place in his heart for some music genres. He revealed: “I love Ghanaian highlife music. I also love South African music, like the ones played by Miriam Makeba and co. So, if you come to me you can get all the recordings of Miriam Makeba and those of top highlife stars of Ghana.
“I love Nigerian music too, but there are some that really fascinate me. These include the recordings of Victor Abimbola Olaiya, the late Cardinal Rex Lawson and Roy Chicago. I have their recordings with me. Each time I want to enjoy or relax myself, I play their music especially when I am in my village.
“But you see, Ghanaian highlife music of that time created a very deep impression on my mind. The rhythmic sound produced with the guitar was something else. When you talk about South African music and turn to Miriam Makeba, she played music that would really spur you on in South African politics.”
Just like Babatope’s interest in newspapers started early in life, so is his love for politics. “I just love politics, particularly politics made easy for many of us at that time by Awolowo. And I can tell you that I am in possession of any book, which is purely for greater Africa. If you come to my house in Ilesha, you find these things there. I read them a lot too.”
Widely known as a politician who is highly principled and bares his mind on issues in the polity without minding whose ox is gored, Babatope chipped in a word of advise for the ruling party while speaking with Sunday Sun about his life off the political turf.
He said: “I wish the APC the best of luck but believe me, Nigerians are suffering. And I want to advise them, particularly President Muhammadu Buhari, to change tactics. Nigerians are suffering; the hunger is too much. Let him be on the side of the people; let him know that people will applaud him if he does things that are good and not based on political partisanship.”