By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja
Senator Ayo Arise is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Ekiti State who, in 2007, represented Ekiti North in the Senate. In this interview, Arise describes Ekiti State governor and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum NGF, Dr Kayode Fayemi, as South-West’s best candidate for President. He adds that the hike in APC’s cost of nomination form would deter politicians who used to sponsor multiple aspirants only to get them to step down at the dying minute.
Your party, the APC, recently, came under a wave of backlash for its high cost of nomination and expression of interest forms. What is your take on that?
Well, I believe it was to ensure that only serious aspirants are entertained. From experience, most people who obtained forms in the past particularly those with deep pockets, they ended up buying forms for several people with the hope that they might have to go into some arrangement of consensus and their surrogate candidates will not be the ones voted or one of those machinations on the consensus.
So, that is fairly eliminated because N50 million is not peanuts to pay as a fee for governorship aspiration and ditto N100 million is not a cheap money to go and recruit very unserious aspirants who already are aware that they do not have the wherewithal to run an election.
So, I believe on that note that is the major reason the party decided to use fee as deterrent to those with such tendencies to put the high figures and this can only be met by very serious candidates.
About the Presidency, your party has a lot of aspirants, those that could be referred to as contenders and pretenders. What do you think should be the central message amongst the aspirants because already many of them have started attacking personalities?
You see you have several people running. Everybody is coming out with one credential or the other and for me, I know that my governor is coming, he is going to run may be he has not launched his campaign and so my reasons that makes me feel he is the most qualified centres on one; his age is a big advantage; his experience is a big advantage; his antecedents is also a big advantage and of course, when you talk of academic qualifications you know we have a professor running, the Vice President.
Now, beyond that, Dr Kayode Fayemi got a Ph.D from Kings College, Professor Osinbajo got a Ph.D from the University of London. They both attended University of Lagos, may be Professor Osinbajo for his LL.B, Dr Kayode Fayemi for his Master’s. So you look at the two, if it is academic qualification, the two of them are super brain.
Now, when you talk of experience, Dr Kayode Fayemi has been governor of Ekiti State twice, he had been the Minister of Solid Minerals. We can see the changes that he made when he was in the solid minerals sector. So, in terms of federal position, state position, he has served at the top executive management level but he has never been president.
In the last two, three years, he has been the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum; he has been exposed to all the problems and the challenges each and every governor is facing and he understands the problems of the grassroots through these interactions with his colleagues as well.
And if these people under his leadership have very little – zero crisis, I believe his management and humility in being the first amongst equals prepared him sufficiently for this job (president). So, I can only be talking of him and the fact that we are from the same local government, it will be my joy to see him become the president of this country because I know he is capable and besides, he been abroad as well.
He lived in England for many years before coming here (Nigeria) he has been at the centre of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) struggle as a young man so he understands the politics of this country. His credentials will speak for him but again when we look at our South-west as a bloc, don’t forget that the South-west we have the Ijebu/Egba people, we have the Lagosians, we have Ekiti and we have the Oyos.
So for us if you look at it, those who have always enjoyed this power that are each other’s throats. If they agree fine, but we believe it should be an open field. But for me, I will be more than happy to see the candidate emerge from the Ekiti axis, so that we too we will have that sense of belonging.
Most of the presidents who have come from Yoruba are from Lagos axis. This time, we will be appealing that they should look at their brother and say it is time for you to go and taste this thing.
Some people are now asking me that if my governor does not get it, who will be my next logical person I will consider then I will get back to myself because we are working and I am now hoping that by the special grace of God, Governor Kayode Fayemi will become the president of this country and I know he is more than capable to be the president of Nigeria.
By the understanding in the APC, the presidential candidate is expected to emerge from South since the North has taken the slot of national chairman. There are those canvassing the narrative that the ticket be reserved for south east. Do you support the move to microzone to the South East?
Well, let me put it this way. Ordinarily if the APC has been a strong party in the South East, my response would have been different but the danger here is that the party isn’t prepared to take that gamble because the majority of the South East is mostly PDP, so if the PDP zones presidency to the South East and APC zones it there, then the chances are higher that the PDP will knock us off there because we do not have a base there. So why would we want to take the risk and leave your base where you are almost sure that you will win election and get votes from the catchment.
Ordinarily, if you are to choose based on the logic on the ground, the South East should have a good shot at it. If it has been well planned and managed it should be going to the South East but the fear of the known is also there.
Again, when you look at it critically, among all of us from the South, we should be able to tender our credentials and say what am I bringing to the table, beginning with education, experience, exposure and other indices, you will see that some people have done very well with the meagre resources at their disposal.
You have been in the Senate before, you were Chairman Senate Committee on privatisation. Why do you want to return to the Senate?
You begin to have influence or a standing when you come back as a ranking Senator. As a ranking Senator, you stand a chance of becoming either the leader or the deputy or the president. All the positions in leadership are now open more or less and you can contest for and hold. So, because most of the time some things are zoned to regions just as the presidency is more or less been zoned to the south. Whatever is zoned to the South-west, I will certainly be able to make a bid for it and that will give a better voice to champion the interest of my people.
The first four years of my stay there, I was fortunate enough to influence the location of a federal university in my local government which is in my senatorial district. And that same senatorial district, now has the main campus of the university and it has about three faculties in another local government within my senatorial district.
My focus in going to the Senate is about service. It is about the benefits to my people, less of my personal benefit. And I have told them, the only way I can be strong enough to have any influence is to be, not only a ranking Senator but be in the ruling party and have a good voice to lobby my people for whatever I want to influence to go to my senatorial district. I have looked at that.
President Muhammadu Buhari got away with consensus arrangement for Senator Abdullahi Adamu. Some persons are goading him on for consensus during the presidential primary. Do you think a consensus arrangement, though in APC Constitution, will fly at next weekend’s presidential convention?
Well, if you do consensus for presidential primary and you say consensus by its definition then that means he can get away with it. Consensus means everybody running must sign that he has agreed to it. So, that is the kind of consensus that I understand as consensus.
It is everyone that must sign that I agree by this consensus. If they sign before the election then if they now start making noise after, that will be campaign after election. But if they do not agree and a consensus is imposed that is when I think there will be serious crisis in the party.
But if they go by what the President is saying that all of you should go to the field and run for this ticket, then I believe the man has used elderly wisdom to know the solutions before the crisis will come up. If he says everybody should go, we will see it because it will be televised and there will be voting.
Once they count the votes and somebody wins, I expect every other person to rally around that candidate. If they now try to do consensus and some people are grumbling that they don’t want, and you went ahead with it, then people will not rally round such a candidate and that might become a problem.
By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja