A chieftain of the All progressives Congress (APC), Senator Ayo Arise, has said that the South West zone will vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general elections. In this interview with WILLY EYA, he spoke on various issues.
It is two months to another round of general elections and there is a heightened political tension in the country now; what are your thoughts ahead of the 2019 poll?
Looking at what is on ground and the efforts of the incumbent government and the lackluster campaign of the opposition, it looks to me that the election is going be what the Americans call a home run. I have my reasons. Maybe the master strategy and masterstroke that the APC as a party adopted ab initio, their social services to the poor have virtually made members of the opposition to panic with some actually saying it is like bribing the electorate. That is the kind of panic that I have seen that shows that this government is actually working. Every government around the world that has been so popular has always done so. I will take you back to immediately after the Second World War or shortly before that, during the reconstruction when President Roosevelt started what he called the social security benefits; in the process, he introduced the post stamps to those people who could not feed themselves. The idea was for them to go to the post offices and collect stamps and they could feed free in America. Something similar to that is what the APC has done to the poor in our society. Not only do they give the elderly, the very poor, they give them stipends to live on. It might be poor but there is a difference between zero and something.
The APC has done so much for the poor in our society by giving them something to feed themselves and to have hope that tomorrow will be better. They have gone beyond that. The niche is the ‘Trader moni’ programme. It is actually given in the form of a loan but is interest-free to encourage people to develop themselves and as soon as they pay back, the money is increased and the person could have 100 per cent once he pays back the initial money. How do you want to tackle that in any society? Roosevelt was not only popular, he did four terms as president.
As a matter of fact, the man was on a wheelchair. So, the APC has continued to do things for the poor people and that is where the PDP has no response. When the President came out to say that he would not allow what they did to him to happen to another person, it is that he is so confident of what he has done. Anyway you look at it, whatever grammar and noise you make, the social services to the poor have achieved a lot and the politics of the APC is working the talk. But it is very painful for those who are making easy money in Nigeria. In this dispensation, there is no free money anywhere. It is being ploughed back to those who require survival in the society and the money could go round the people. So, I support the APC and their programmes.
Our people are prepared for this election more than three years ago unlike the PDP that are struggling for votes two months to the election. You can see all the programmes of the party. Some are three years old, some two and some even recently, and looking at all of these, I want to say that 2019 is going to be a homerun election for the APC. If you look at the geographical configuration, you find out that even if the South East will vote for the APC because of the PDP vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi for whatever reasons, you find out that that zone has been effectively neutralized by the votes that will come from the South West. Don’t forget that almost all the South West states now have APC governors. Forget about all the noise in some quarters; the moment you allow a stranger to occupy your house and you do not have a house to go back to, you. are finished. The South West will vote for Buhari.
You talked about a lackluster campaign by the opposition but many people feel it is the other way round and that they are not seeing much of the APC campaigns; is it a matter of strategy or what? Again, what would you say to those who hold the view that some of the social investments your party is embarking on now like the ‘Trader Moni’ programme are like vote-buying ahead of the election.
It is just a question of looking for excuse. Those people who are complaining know the programme of the APC ab initio and were here when N500 billion was allocated for that purpose some two or three years ago. Why you see all these is because they have not been able to respond to most of these policies to make any impact in the coming election. The government started with the N-power and would you now say that because of the fear of what the opposition would say, you stop such a programme that is good for the people. Or would you say because the PDP is complaining, you would not give the poor people money that sustains them? Would you say that because the PDP might call it bribery, you would stop giving loans to the traders? There are so many things that are going on that you can see but it is only lazy people who do not want to work for their money that are complaining. I am talking about those who are used to free money and stealing. I have always encouraged everybody to work for his money; this country will move faster than waiting for free money. I was part of the PDP when I was at the National assembly and I had my voice and supported everything that was progressive. So, for me it is not an issue of waking up overnight and now saying this. I started from the Alliance for Democracy; that is my own background. Politics is about caring for the people; it is not about making money.
You sound very optimistic about the APC winning the election but unlike in 2015, the two major candidates are both from the Fulani tribe in the North and of the same Muslim faith, don’t you think that it is going to be a tough battle?
Some people are of the view that former President Jonathan lost because the election was between a Christian and a Muslim and a Northerner versus a Southerner but they have forgotten that in 2011, all those were not considered before Jonathan was elected. Some people compare Buhari to Atiku but let me tell you, if Buhari goes to any state in the North, it is always a lockdown; I have never seen that level of followership before. Even before the social investment programmes that the government has been executing, if you saw the followership, you would marvel. It is not an issue of where a candidate comes from but that of what do we want as Nigerians. If Buhari is able to do what he has done so far, imagine if he stays four more years and he now moves the power generation to 10000 megawatts or more than that. Look at our foreign reserve! Where were we in 2015? Look at the agricultural sector! We are looking for a country that would care for everybody.
In the area of security, remember that in 2015, we were already getting jittery that Boko Haram was coming to the Southern part of the country. Today, Boko Haram is contained in the North and most of the local governments where the sect hoisted its flags before have been fully recovered by the Nigerian Army.
What is your take on the order of the Nigerian Army for the Amnesty International to quit the country following its report that about 3500 Nigerians have been murdered under this administration? I listened to both sides and the Army spokesperson said they recommend their relocation from Nigeria. It is not the military that should tell them to move out of Nigeria. The woman who spoke on Channels for the Amnesty International said they never got any clarification from the military even though they made attempts to do so. She said that when there was a response from the Benue State government, they had already written their report. It is good for people to continue to do their work but when there is exaggeration of statistics based on probably rumour, it is wrong. So, I think the reaction by the military was in anger because they do not have the right to order the Amnesty International to relocate from the country. When you are wrongfully accused, there is a tendency for you to get angry and upset.
What would you say about the president declining to assent to the Electoral bill? Do you agree with those who insist that President Buhari did that because he does not want a free and fair election in 2019?
I have listened to so many people on the Electoral bill. In that bill, a section says 90 days notice is required and in another section on the same thing, 41 days is required; how would you now say you should go and pass an act that has such an obvious conflict. The president has an Attorney General who would look at it and luckily enough, he has a Senior Advocate of Nigeria as his vice. What would you imagine would happen if people go to court if they find the obvious conflict in the act? So, when people trivialize this, I started wondering what is the problem. That is the way we trivialize everything in the country. Most of the people in the National Assembly, on individual basis, we are friends and most of them who have even moved back to the PDP are people that I know but I am saying that if people defected from the party that voted them in, they should forfeit their seats.