In this interview with Adedayo Akinwale, an All Progressives Congress senatorial aspirant for Ekiti North, Senator Ayo Arise, said Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi is the best presidential candidate from the South-west in 2023. Excerpts:
The APC has unveiled the time table for presidential convention and other primaries; N100 million for presidential nomination fee, N50m for Governorship; N20 million for Senate; N10 million for House of Representatives and Nigerians are saying the fees for the form for Presidency appalling; that politics is being heavily monetized. What is your take on that?
I believe that is 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 why the party decided to use the fee as a deterrent to those with such tendencies to put the high figures and this can only be met by very serious candidates.
But some observers have said that the party has automatically given undue advantage to money-bags politicians and shut out those that have the qualities to rule this country but they do not have the money. What do you have to say?
Leadership is not zoned to people who have ideas but do not have the money. Because there is nobody who wants to be a president, even those coming out now that have not paid their dues in one aspect or the other. If you have ideas you should probably not be poor. A person like Bill Gates is not running for the president of any nation but you look at it that at the age of 21 he had become a billionaire. So if you have good ideas and you are brilliant, it is likely that that brilliance would have shown in your prosperity because you can’t just be a brilliant man and be a poor man. There is nobody who wants to become president that does not have an idea. Whether the idea is to better the interest of the society as we view it or not is a different issue and different debate all together. I mean look at all of them running, if it is the person who has ideas comes in, he would come with a lot of money because his ideas have been able to translate into prosperity. It is not for everybody and that is the way I look at it. And there is no society that will say they are zoning the presidency to those who have ideas but have no money. If you have ideas always start from the local government to the State House of Assembly to the House of Representatives and Senate, maybe from the Senate to governor or vice versa and to the presidency. So, those opportunities are there, you can start at your own level. It is not actually a discriminatory thing.
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 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 Masters. 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. I know he is capable and besides, he has 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. Again, when we look at our South-west as a block, 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 that 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.
By the understanding in the APC, the presidential candidate is expected to emerge from the South since the North has taken the slot of national chairman. Do you support the move to micro-zone to the South-east?
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 the 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.
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.
The second reason is that I am still not too old to go and be in the Senate because I believe I now have more experience and I have been following up on things going on in the Senate. I have my own opinions and about how things can be done properly for the good of our country and I intend to pursue that through legislative means.
The presidential bid of Jonathan is in the public space. If you were to advise the former president, what will you be telling him?
The problems that existed during Jonathan’s time are still with us in Nigeria. We are still facing it as a political party. He knew what he went through and I believe that decision would be for him to take based on his experience on that seat. If he thinks that he has the magic solutions there is no president coming in that will still not face many of these. But we are expecting that as we grow politically, and as we grow in terms of our exposure to development outside the country, there are issues that may require new hands to resolve. But for me, as a person I don’t know how he is going to get that votes. Unless we now believe that it is the president that will select his successor. If that is the case then it is risky. But I believe the way things are on ground, those who are ready for this post, they are already canvassing, spending money, and they are talking to delegates and and everyone has his strategy different from the other. It is that same poll that he is expected to come in. As far as I am concerned, if the party says that is what they want, and that is who they want, for me there are several ways that a person can be packaged. It is left for his handlers asking him to do that to know what he has in stock and how he intends to win the primary.
President Muhammadu Buhari got away with a 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 it fly at 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 they now try to do consensus and some people are grumbling that they don’t want, and you go ahead with it, then people will not rally round such a candidate and that might become a problem. The little that I understand about our president is that he understands how serious it is.
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