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

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - 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

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and right, Lib Dem Wera Hob­house

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