Senator Ayo Arise was in the 6th Senate from Ekiti State. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the chieftain of the APC says the people of Ekiti have been so pauperised by the outgoing governor of the state that they will take anything to sell their votes.
Nigerians were disappointed with the conduct of the recent Ekiti governorship election. What is your take?
My position on the way elections are done in Nigeria is something that, we need to look at how to change and enlighten the people on their rights. A number of the voters believe that the only time they have to benefit from the politicians is during election. So, they sell their votes for money. More so the outgoing government in Ekiti State has impoverished the citizens to the extent that, there are no jobs for the youths and people are really suffering in the state. Even the incoming governor in his first outing put in place some social structures, which 10,000 youths benefited from it before it was stopped after he left power. So, the people have been so pauperised that they will take anything to sell their conscience. I have confidence that the governor-elect will do a whole lot for the youths in terms of employment, skills acquisition and other things that will make them productive. I sincerely hope that the policies of the APC government under President Buhari would be able to correct many of these abnormalities and begin to give hope to those who are hopeless in the society. Our youths are so poor that, they don’t know where their next meal will come from. Those people who perpetuate these ills in the system are making so much noise because they want the rot to continue. So, as far as I am concerned, the best solution is to appeal to all men of conscience to make themselves available by participating in politics and become leaders, so that we can chase out charlatans like Ayo Fayose. Some people who do not know the character of Ayo Fayose will continue to believe that he is on ground in Ekiti and that he was supposed to win the election. Quite a number of my friends from the East, who trust Ayo Fayose, said he was going to win the election but what they don’t know is that, Fayose is like a used car salesman in the US, who will tell you all manner of things about a car, so you can pay for it. They won’t tell you the problem of the car. Fayose believed he had sufficiently hypnotised these poor people in Ekiti and so, they will do anything he asked them to do. But we took it upon ourselves to drive him out permanently and we will ensure that people like him never get to power again.
It is generally believed that the APC government used federal might to win the election…
That is not true. I believe those policemen were under strict instruction to be fair to everybody. At a time during the election, I was calling the governor-elect that, these policemen are working for PDP because you will call them to report a person to them or show them some abnormalities, yet they will either not come or when they eventually come, and they won’t arrest anybody. I was worried and thought they were working for Fayose, because I don’t trust him. It’s possible immediately the security men came in, he gave them something so that they can work for him. We became alert when he started photocopying voter’s card. He asked the youths to bring their papers and voters cards which were photocopied and they were given N2,000 each. Two days to the election, we heard he has paid voters N3,000. So what do you do? You respond in kind, which was what we did. How can we tell the people that Fayose paid N3,000 to N4,000 and we didn’t do anything about it? But for me, it is bad. We need to stop this vote-for-cash thing or else even bad people will use their money to buy votes or no poor man will ever win election. It’s only a shameless person like Ayo Fayose that will shout that somebody spent money and win election when he did the same thing. These are the kind of things leaders do that make people call politicians liars. We need to change.
Some see what played out in Ekiti as a sign of what will happen in 2019. Does this bother you?
We have had one or two elections under this President. We have had Anambra election, which APGA won. INEC is striving towards perfection. There are still many challenges but with time and before the 2019 general elections, they will do something about it. The electoral process has improved significantly compared to what we had in 2003 to 2007. With the card reader, voting has become a lot more credible in the society. We need to encourage them to improve and do better. For 2019, I can assure you that this President will not allow anybody to rig for him. But if people who stole funds bring out money that was meant for the good of the people, we will be forced to ensure that we also spend money so that they won’t rig us out. If they don’t want that type of election, let them come to the table and sign an agreement, stating that, they will not induce voters with money. Then we will all go to the election without spending money. But you cannot spend money and tell me to fold my hands and allow you to win me.
Generally, is the Change Mantra working?
We have different level of education in Nigeria, some are high and others are low. From what we know, our economy is growing since this government took over. Everybody can see the giant stridesthis government has made in agricultural sector. We need to ask how much we are saving from importation of rice alone. Nigeria will soon start exporting rice. Even some states now employ youths to farm. The Federal Government has pumped money into the sector and many Nigerians are going into farming with results. Don’t forget that our population is becoming something else because we don’t have a control. The government is doing so many things in term of creating the right policies that will soon start yielding results. Don’t forget that the infrastructures that were available from independence period have been bastardised over the years under different governments. This is a government of correction. People are poor because those who managed the economy in the past mismanaged it. If the people who were there in the past had put basic things in place, we won’t be discussing things like water and roads. We were at the same level with Asian Tigers 50 years ago. But go there today and see what these countries have become. Now we have somebody that wants to change things yet everybody is angry and impatient. We need to give him time to improve these things and make things work. Eight years of Buhari will not change things overnight but he will put the right foundation in place. He cannot stamp out corruption in one year or eight years but he can make massive improvement that anyone coming behind him will strive to do better.
There are allegations of selective anti-corruption fight by the opposition…
Since I have been in Nigeria, I have never seen a former governor go to prison until this government came in. This alone is a deterrent to many Nigerians. The new Executive Order that the President just signed into law will allow government to seize any property that is suspected to be acquired fraudulently. So, I don’t know what people want him to do. There is no society that does not have corrupt persons, but we want to minimise it and make it become a trend that you can’t steal public funds like before and think you will get away with it. We must report such persons to the security agencies. That Executive Order will make corruption to be reduced to the barest minimum.
Don’t you think that the internal security challenge is beyond this government?
It is a major crisis, we need to do everything within our power to ensure that it come to an end. I believe the way these attacks have been coming, if we are at war, you will see the enemy line and people will shoot for supremacy, but we don’t know these people yet they are everywhere. Everybody is concerned. I believe the President is worried. Initially when they started, we thought it was something that could be contained. Those who kidnapped me were herdsmen. But I never thought that I was kidnapped because I was a Yoruba man. I’m sure they didn’t know who they kidnapped either. We are worried because we don’t know the motive of these herdsmen. They are not the traditional herdsmen we know but I believe the government is worried and finding ways to bring it to an end.
The President has refused to sack his security chiefs despite the current insecurity challenge…
Yes if insecurity persist and those with the mandate to stop it could not do it, it is only right to let them go. Those asking for their sack are trying to put the security chiefs under pressure. Even in the private sector, once you can’t deliver, you are asked to leave. The Federal Government has achieved a lot in the fight against Boko Haram, but they haven’t done enough on the herdsmen issue. They need to curtail these problems so that Nigerians will not become afraid of living in their communities. When you ask a chief executive like the President to relieve some people of their responsibilities, he sees and knows more because he has in-depth reports than those outside. I run a business and if I have not provided the adequate tools for them to work but instead decide to let them go because of poor performance, even if I brought a new person, and yet have not provide the tools they need, it will not change the situation.
Coming back to you, most people expected that you will contest in the recent governorship race in Ekiti. What happened?
When we went into the first primary election before it was postponed, I was actively in the race but after the disruption of that exercise, it was clear the direction the primary election was going. So, I took a decision as a businessman to ensure that I do not lose my money. I did not go into the second election. I just presented myself there but didn’t give anybody any inducement. I will not complain that somebody used money to win election because if I have it, I will use it too to win the election. If you look at the Donald Trump election, a lot of money was spent on it. The man was flying in his private jet. So, I saw the direction the primary election was going and who the powers-that-be favoured, I decided to stop. There was no way I could have defeat him with the support he was getting. All the indices were there that this person will win the election because he had more resources, he was one of the ministers that has a lot of visibility, a person that will get support from his friends and colleagues. I tactically withdrew. I did not give my money to anybody.
APC suffered a gale of defections few days ago. Why is the party in this situation?
Governor Ortom’s case did not surprised me much because he didn’t handled some situation well in terms of crises management. I knew that sooner or later, his god-father will feel embarrassed with what was happening in the state. Don’t forget that he was just given the ticket in APC on a platter of gold. He was never a real member. He has always been a PDP man, but Akume just gave him the ticket just to defeat PDP.
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