Western Daily Press (Saturday)

‘I’ve faced hate and lost friends, but I’ll fight for Brexit’

- ALEX ROSS alex.ross@reachplc.com

JIMI is not your typical Brexit Party supporter. For a start he is a university lecturer, then he lives in the proremain city of Bath and, finally, he wasn’t even born in the British Isles – he is a Nigerian prince.

But the newly-selected parliament­ary candidate for the Brexit Party is clear in his beliefs and is determined to overturn a stigma which he says leaves him feeling like “the devil reincarnat­ed”.

Adfefolaji­mi Ogunnusi, better known as Jimi, became involved with the party due to his frustratio­n at what he claims have been attempts by MPs to negate the result of the EU referendum.

But, as the 54-year-old explains in an interview with the Western Daily Press, it has not been an easy ride.

He first faced resistance from his wife who voted remain, then colleagues at the University of the West of England warned he would lose friends.

Then, while campaignin­g to become a party MEP at this year’s EU elections in London, he faced hate on a scale he had not seen before.

It is all good practice for a man hoping to win the parliament­ary seat of the city of Bath, where 68 per cent of people voted to remain in 2016.

Jimi, who has been dubbed the ‘Passionate Remolder’ for work in ethnically-split Nigeria, says he is looking forward to the “extremely huge challenge”.

He said: “I look forward to it – one

thing growing up in a very tough environmen­t but also in terms of my stature, my height, I have always picked on the biggest and toughest bullies. I’m very particular about people being picked on, I will stand up for anyone.

“For me the fact it is actually 32 per cent, it is not a big issue for me and in terms of the task ahead I’m not shying away. I do choose my battles very carefully, this is one battle where there is a worthy cause. I don’t want to be part of a European super state called the EU.”

Born in Nigeria’s former capital of Lagos, Jimi is a prince of an ancient town called Agbowa-Ikosi thanks to his grandfathe­r being king of the district which has a population of more than 100,000.

It is purely a title, he says, as he explains he moved to London aged six months to be closer to his father, who worked as an aeronautic­al engineer for the RAF in Cardiff.

Aged nine he travelled back to his home country where he was schooled before returning again, this time to Bristol, aged 17.

He went to South Bristol Technical College and then studied business studies at the University of West of England. He then did a masters in management and organisati­onal learning at the university.

His higher education led him to start a consultanc­y firm called BQM Consulting Limited alongside working as a lecturer at UWE, where he has been for 18 years.

During his work for the university he has helped establish links with universiti­es in Africa. His work in Africa got noticed by the British Council which he has done entreprene­urship workshops for in Nigeria.

It was for his work in Nigeria where there has been ongoing tensions between the Muslim north and Christian south of the country where he was given the title ‘Passionate Remolder’.

And it is this role of engaging with people from all background­s which he hopes to use when campaignin­g for votes at any potential upcoming general election.

But, as he accepts, it will not be easy. He said: “One thing I have learnt over the past few months the safest place I thought would be – the place of learning with open-mindedness, critique – is not the place at all.

“A lot of academics are left learning, remainers. Why? I’m not too sure. I have had great conversati­ons but also lost a few friends along the way. But I think there is also a hardcore of academics who are actually leavers but they daren’t say they are leavers. There is actually a stigma that you are almost the devil reincarnat­ed.”

Jimi faced this while campaignin­g in London earlier this year where he missed out on winning an MEP seat in the capital.

The father of four said: “In London I had some very intense conversati­ons. The most vicious situations I have had are from white people, but women in particular. One was in Bromley. As she went past I read her disgust. I don’t know if it was me or my Brexit Party stance.

“I was then talking to a Frenchman and I was listening to what he was saying, then from nowhere this woman came and I had an infrared dot on my head. She just went for me like a junkyard dog, and it was vicious.

“I could not get into discussion with her. She started saying ‘you are a disgrace, you are a sellout’.”

Jimi says he wants Brexit because he does not want the UK to be part of a federal Europe.

“I want to be fully independen­t. I want more internatio­nal trade and greater control of our fishing waters,” he said.

“I don’t believe in having open borders; this doesn’t mean I want closed borders, I just think we need greater control on who is coming in.”

As for Bath, Jimi says he wants a proper police station for the city. He wants more affordable housing and greater support for local businesses.

To win the seat, he will have to beat Lib Dem Wera Hobhouse who won the election with a 12 per cent majority in 2017. Also standing is Annabel Tall for the Conservati­ves and Dominic Tristram for the Green Party.

Jimi is one of hundreds of Brexit Party parliament­ary candidates who have been announced over the past few months. Last week he met his fellow South West party candidates and listened speech from leader Nigel Farage.

“He is an inspiring man who wants the best for this country,” Jimi said.

She just went for me like a junkyard dog, and it

was vicious JIMI OGUNNUSI

 ?? David Betts Photograph­y ?? Jimi Ogunnusi, MEP candidate for the Brexit Party
David Betts Photograph­y Jimi Ogunnusi, MEP candidate for the Brexit Party
 ??  ?? Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and right, Lib Dem Wera Hobhouse
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and right, Lib Dem Wera Hobhouse
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK