Senator Ayodele Arise, a former Senator from Ekiti State, is the chairman, Board of SHETSCO. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the ex-lawmaker states that the current primary election crises are not sufficient to ruin the chances of the APC in the forthcoming elections.
Some governors are calling on the APC chairman to resign his position. What is you take on this?
My take on this is that every time there is primaries, there would always be crises and it’s not peculiar to APC. In term of governors requesting that the chairman should resign or go, the question we should be asking is, how many governors are saying that? If they are just three or four, I think it is still within the limit of persuasion and appeasement. I believe everybody understand the importance of the forth coming elections. It’s either they are part of government or out of government. So I don’t think that the crises will be sufficient to ruin the chances of the party in the election. A lot of work need to be done to ensure that, there is concerted effort to work for the success of APC. The dimensions after PDP settle their presidential candidate certain change some of the narratives. So there is need for us as party to look at the strength, and weaknesses we have. Where we notice weaknesses like the outcome of the primaries, we should quickly settle the aggrieved party. In politics, everybody is important. I have confidence that if the right things are done quickly, we will not suffer in the elections.
What advice can you give the party on the way forward?
Personally from my experience with primaries, we have gotten everything wrong in terms of how to move forward with our democracy…
Are you referring to the APC or all the political parties?
If you remember before PDP was voted out of power, they engaged in all manners of imposition. Democracy means little to all those ruling. It was more of raw power…
Is that not the same thing that is playing out in the APC today?
Invariably from what I experienced, it is one of the areas that we need to revisit seriously and ensure that it is part of government’s ongoing fight against corruption. We need to look at the process of the primaries. I think the party tried to address thse problems by coming up with the idea of direct primaries against the indirect primaries which became obvious that once it’s the governor that controls the delegates, and he directs how they vote. So the issue is not about who the public wants but who the governors want and that is one of the bane of the crises we are experiencing. There is a very clear difference between what the public is saying and what an individual is saying. If the party now says they want the people to elect their representatives without interference, it is their right. Now, how do we get it right? Is it by hijacking the ballot papers or by hijacking the people that come to conduct the elections or hijacking those who will write a report? So we have a very big problem in our hands. Anytime we take a step forward, there are people that will drag us backward.
Who are these people?
Well, it’s just the innate character that we have developed over the years in terms of politicking in this country. For example if I’m a governor today, I might have some people I prefer for some positions but to what extent will I go to get what I want? Many times when you have outgoing governors, people are already tired and want fresh people. But everyone that sit on the position wants to bring in a stooge and impose on the people. We have all been victims. People like me will continue to speak out so that people will be free to serve people who vote for them. Another problem is who has the most money to give out to buy votes or buy the position except those who have been in power for four years. They have the most power to influence votes. APC members are part of the society, they are not imported from anywhere. I was in PDP for seven years and I decided to join the APC because I felt the governor then was too overbearing. But when you place all these on a scale, you ask, is there any of them that is not overbearing? So it’s a question of how far you want to go, it’s either to bootlick them or do whatever you want to do to please them, but this cannot be the way politics should be played. It’s the society that will decide that these things must change. As we speak today, I don’t know of any state governor that does not want people to vote for his own because he is already siting on so much power. I believe that the quarrel is based on the fact that some people prefer their candidates to those that emerged. So I think the problem is like we say in Yoruba language that the ditch you want to use to bury your opponent in politics should not be deep because at the end of the day, you might need to pull him out to help you. Yes there has been some significant improvement vis-à-vis INEC. They have put in a lot of innovations to fix some problems.
But do they have the capacity to conduct credible elections?
It is left for the people. INEC has put the structures down. We are in this country when Buhari defeated Jonathan to become president. Why is anybody afraid? It is this same INEC that conducted the elections. It is just that people are afraid APC have some very good programmes that are touching the populace not those of us speaking grammar. That is what is scaring the opposition. If it were left to the elite, it would be a difficult election. We have two people which are president Buhari and his vice president. Their outlook to governance is very far from what we had seen in the past. But now we have a good head, its left for the body to follow him in his characteristics of integrity and humility. So, it is not about the APC but the leader in the APC which is the president.
Atiku is seen as a formidable candidate. Should the APC be afraid?
Obviously, nobody should take anyone for granted. Everybody is important in politics. There are three major tribes in Nigeria and Buhari has an advantage in the North. His vice is from the South-west and Atiku is from the North and he has gone to the East to pick his vice. Our people are still not properly exposed. There are permutations now that the large percentage of Igbos will vote for Atiku, it is possible too that a large percentage of Yorubas will vote for Buhari. It’s now how we are able to get our people to the polling units. This massive drive for economic prosperity like trader-moni, N-power, and other measures put in place will determine the outcome of the elections. Inadvertently, the APC has started preparing for these elections since 2015 from their manifestos. There will be challenges in different ethnic areas but Buhari will win at the end of the day.
Talking about the Senate, some are worried that if a law is not enacted or something done, the Senate is going to be dominated by former governors. What is your take on this?
Our constitution did not envisage this type of crises and they did not copy the constitution correctly. They copied in part and left out some of parts out. In the United States, it is only two Senators per state and most times it is a state-wide elections. So, that is why the Senators are also as powerful as the governors in the US. You know the Senators more than the governors. The difference with here is that, the governor have so much money and immunity. You can see the outrageous amount they call security votes, unless you are in the leadership of the Senate or except if you are one of those aggressive Senators in the Senate, who will ask money from MDAs, or make some illicit money, then you might never be able to face the governor. So it is extremely dangerous for anybody to challenge them. There is no law anybody will pass to stop the governors from coming to the Senate. Don’t forget many of the Senators have their tickets because their governors want them to come to the Senate.
So, if the person who put you there also wants to go there, and there is a law that wants to stop him from coming there, the governor will call you to oppose that Bill else you won’t go back the next time. So, governors have so much power. I won’t be surprised if it won’t be their next level of office. It may get to the stage where if you want to get to the Senate, you must first be a governor. What this midterm elections mean for America is that, Trump is sitting on a hot seat and the National Assembly might change and he will be looking at impeachment. The need to perform become more necessary. But you can see that Trump is becoming popular because of the migrants’ issue where he described them as invaders and the people there don’t want to hear that someone is coming to invade their nation. My concern is that, is anybody worried about what history will write about them? So, no law will support banning governors from coming to the Senate.
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