By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Senator Ayo Arise is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress APC in Ekiti State.
In this interview, he shared his thought on the affairs of the nation.
Would you say that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is now better united after the conduct of its various congresses?
Yes, of course. It is a political process that parties must hold congresses to elect new officers. That is what has just happened. It’s democracy in action. And I believe it is the right step in the right direction.
But there are instances of parallel congresses in some states. What is the modality for resolving such issues?
Every party has a constitution. The ruling party, APC, has a constitution and the processes for settling disagreements where they exist. And that is why we have different committees for reconciliation after every election. But to say that there is 100 per cent agreement in a particular party is a utopian dream. It is expected that there will be disagreements and a mechanism for settling such disagreements has already been embedded in the constitution. And I believe that is what prevails.
How do you see the contention about power shift between the North and the South?
The contention arises because of our level of development and the fact that our leaders have not built institutions that could eradicate nepotism and other anti-social behaviours in our society. But I believe it is a gradual thing. As we continue to learn in our developmental process, we will make the necessary adjustment. We may have slow movement, but certainly, we would get to a point whereby it will no longer be a dominant discussion in the polity.
Should one section of the country continue to rule? The answer is no because some people will be permanently shut out of power. So, the agitation for power to move from the North to the South is not asking for too much. If power has been in the North for eight years, I think one should expect it to move to the South for enduring peace in this country. That is the minimum solution we should be looking at. As long as these things are well managed, there will be no problems. So, nobody should say because we have the number, we must always have our way. We are learning. Even as sophisticated as experience in American democracy is, you can still see that they can also fall down periodically. We saw in recent history that it is possible for that democracy to shake. For us as a people, we have to try to have a balance. The way to manage our delicate democracy is by fair play and a sense of belonging. For me, I don’t see the issue of power shift as a problem as long as our leaders can come together and agree that we need to tread very carefully. We need to understand that there is a tripod that the nation stands upon and if one breaks, then, the country will collapse. We do not want that. We want unity in this country, we want one Nigeria. So, we do not need to begin to beat the drum of war before we know what is decent and proper to do. I have heard from all quarters that the ruling APC is likely to zone the presidency to the South. That is the fair thing to do. From what we are hearing also, the other party (PDP) is equally looking at the South. But that is yet to be confirmed. The body language of our people is that fair is fair. Once the president completes his eight-year tenure, power should shift back to the South.
Some people have argued that APC and PDP as the leading parties have outlived their usefulness. Do you agree?
I don’t know where the idea of parties outliving their usefulness is coming from. The truth of the matter is that gladiators have remained constant in the polity. If you talk of a Third Force, you will have people coming together from party A or party B to populate that force. Unfortunately, politics is not as easy as we are looking at it. It is not a question of just bringing tons of money in one day to unsettle the politics on the ground. The only way out of the logjam is to legislate and allow independent candidacy. So, nobody should think that a Third Force will bring any magic; it is going to be the same set of people. It is only a gimmick to get to power. The corruption index in this country gives cause for worry. Because of that, we have not been able to channel our resources to the development of infrastructure. And the more we wait, the more our population continues to grow and overwhelm the little facilities we have. We need to conserve the little resources we have. And if anyone is caught in the act of corruption, do not let us celebrate him. Let us punish the people so that others will not be copying them. We need to make a decision as Nigerians on how to attack this problem frontally. If we think politics is the only way to get rich, we are getting it all wrong in this country and it is going to continue for a very long time. Entrepreneurial and small-scale businesses are the engines that drive the growth of the economy in any society. And I believe the focus of this administration is on how to diversify the economy through improvement in agriculture. If we continue to do the same thing the same way, there will never be any change.
Following the midterm performance review of this administration, some people are of the opinion that there is a need for President Muhammadu Buhari to show some of his non-performing ministers the way out. Do you subscribe to that idea in order to bring fresh innovation into the system?
I don’t think the solution to that problem can be that simplistic. If the person you are bringing has been hungry for a while, his first concern will be how to secure his future. Of course, when a person is inefficient, you must show him the way out. Even there are times when people are competent, but they are corrupt. That might be more dangerous than those that lack efficiency, and you have to show them the way out. If we don’t do that, it is going to be the same old story.
How have the people fared under this government since it came into power?
In the last six years, there has been a new song in this country. Many of the social programmes of this government are things we have to admire because they are touching some people’s lives. And it is only when you have purchasing power that innovation and productivity can have meaning. That is why the social safety net is most welcome. They are giving some people N5,000 monthly and there is money for market women. But it has not truly penetrated the whole population; it is going to take a while. Let us just ensure that we create fairness in our society because little agitation may get out of hand.
What do you have to say about the management of the economy which has resulted in the rising inflation, high cost of living as well as increasing level of poverty in the country?
Let me say my experience with those little interventions. The problem of Nigeria is not totally the problem of the government. For example, the CBN is giving money to those who want to set up agriculture, manufacturing, and all manners of businesses. When they get this money, many of them will go and negotiate for cash. They don’t want suppliers to give them equipment. Is that the problem of government or the problem of the individuals? So, when you look at how difficult it is to rule this country, you will know that it is the problem of the people. The government has its own responsibility, but the problem is not so much that of the government but the people. Why will there be no inflation when Bureau de Change operators and the bankers who are now in charge of foreign exchange are doing round-tripping? Everything is very complex. So, we have to find a solution to these problems. We need to sit down and look at the way we are going to help those who are totally helpless. The way the naira is going against the dollar is a cause for worry for everybody. Let us do farming, let feed ourselves. If food is cheap, we will be able to spend money on other things. The issue that has been going on is farmers/herdsmen clashes. When farms are destroyed, there is no food to feed the people. And the solution cannot be by fire brigade approach. Ordinarily, the blueprint which this government has put in place is something that should work. But Nigeria is a complex society. So, to lead the people is not a tea party.