Senator Ayo Arise, a businessman, is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, from Ekiti State, 

•‘Despite Muslim-Muslim ticket, let us give Asiwaju, Shettima a chance’

Do you think the APC miscalculated by going for a Muslim-Muslim ticket when it was obvious that the Christian community would rise against it?

The Muslim-Muslim ticket is a decision that cannot be said to be perfect as there were situations for the Muslim-Christian ticket which ordinarily could have been ideal if not for the fact that the candidate happens to be from the South-West. If the candidate had been a Christian, it would have been easier to pick a Muslim northerner.

But since things happened the way it has happened, it is easier for a northern candidate who is a Muslim to pick a Christian southerner. That would have been the most reasonable thing to do but now that we have the reverse as the case, the condition on the ground is very clear that the northern population, may be 60, 70 percent are Muslims and we are talking of numbers if you are to win elections.

After sitting down very well, you would discover that there are very able, intelligent, technically sound Christians but the question is, how many votes do you have to be able to win election particularly from the North? If the reverse had been the case to the South-West, it would have been a suicidal error for any northern candidate to pick a Muslim from the South. So, when you look at the situations that are emerging, he had very limited choices and, when you consider the fact that yes, there has been a similar situation in the past and, in reality, anybody that wants to rule this country must not make religion his priority. If you make religion your priority, then our chances for development is tending more towards zero.

If you look at the entire world, what are the leaders discussing? If the Pope goes somewhere, the discussion is different from what other Heads of State of developed nations will discuss. In the world we have today, people are discussing things about creating life in the space, they have even gone beyond electricity; that one is taken for granted. But in this country, we still don’t have electricity to work; people don’t have electricity in their homes. Are we looking for solutions like that or we are looking for solutions to resolve our religious differences?

What concerns a leader should be providing minimum acceptable standards for the citizens, security, availability of amenities and facilities for livelihood, employment. These are things I believe should be the focus of leadership. And I think Nigerians should be more worried about these at this point in time. How do we resolve our security challenges, unemployment, cure the situation of our nepotism, tribalism?

These are the issues that are paramount and Nigerians should be more concerned about. I think what we need to focus now is that it is not practically feasible for Tinubu to say he is dropping his Vice because he is a Muslim, so, not only would he lose face, people will start wondering, is this the type of leader we want to have? Looking at the character himself, we all know that his wife is a Pastor of Redeemed Church and they have been living together for God knows how long, so, I do not think that the basis of discussion in their home is religion.

For many of us, the situation of inter-marriage between Christians and Muslims is more prominent in the South-West. What we are looking at is for us to live as brother and sisters. We should not be looking at ourselves from religious aspect and this is an opportunity for us to begin to move forward but if you look at the apprehension of people in this country, it is being festered by a few. Those are the things that have brought so much suspicion into the society and people are looking at religion as a basis and we don’t need that to solve the problem. We only need good leaders to ensure that he lives by example.

I think for me personally, it could have been not looking or not expecting the reaction in a way, but I personally I am one of those who will say let us give Tinubu and his Vice a chance. If we are now being directed towards becoming a Muslim nation, I believe there are people in Nigeria who will stand against that move and I don’t think it will ever come to the mind of Tinubu and, of course, the Vice is quite an educated person that has antecedents that can also be pointed to.

The gentleman came to the Senate after I left, I don’t know him that much but from all that I heard about him, I think when he was Governor, there was no time he could have gone ahead to drive Christians out of Borno State. So, when we look at, it is an experimental thing. We saw it before, but Abiola never ruled for us to know what he could have done. But we have an opportunity to see how things will work out in the current time. Even though I have known the Governor of Lagos State, Sanwo-Olu, for more than 25 years, I have never bothered to find out whether he is a Christian or a Muslim because those things don’t bother me.

In fact, it is not long ago that I knew that Fashola is a Muslim and when you look at many of these people, they have Christian wives; so, there is no fanaticism in this thing. We cannot rule this country based on that. I believe we will do what is right. I think it is a major issue that we continue to appeal to the Christian community that this is not a slight. So, I think reasonably, in terms of calculation and strategy, the candidate of APC considered all that before coming up with Muslim-Muslim ticket.

Many people feel President Buhari has not been able to fulfill most of his campaign promises and they wonder on what premise Tinubu would anchor his own campaign. What do you have to say?

Well, on Buhari’s legacies, I read a few things that Tinubu said he would do and the first one, in terms of tackling insecurity, is the fact that he would automatically start the process of having state police. I don’t think that if he says that he will continue with the legacies of President Buhari, he would just become President and start rubber-stamping everything that Buhari did.

In terms of policies of this administration, you would notice that a few things focus on social benefits of the people to ease the burden of the downtrodden, now the implementation might be another question. Have those policies achieved what they were set out to achieve? To be sure, let me make it very clear, I do a few things for the government. I think our civil service needs complete overhaul. We are the ones responsible for the ailments of the country. Even though a leader can come in and begin to change things, the rot is so deep that when you even try, it becomes a problem and when Buhari started, we started hearing the slogan “corruption is fighting back”.

People didn’t know what this meant and when you look at where we are today, those people that surround him, what is their thinking? Are they thinking about how to bleed this country to death or they are thinking about how to bring infrastructure to benefit all? If a leader does not go beyond his advisers, the chances are that he might not know half of what is going on in the society. So, it is still part of our responsibility to begin to talk truth to power that this is what is going on, these are the problems we are facing. So, I think, he will come in and do his best.

Issues are being raised about Tinubu’s health challenge. Do you think he is medically fit to be President?

On the age of Tinubu and his health, you see, I have always known Asiwaju from afar and I have always admired many of his styles even though I did not support him during the primary because I believe every politics is local and I had to support somebody from my local government that was running. I have no regret apart from the fact that he lost.

When you look at Buhari, everybody thought he was going to die anyway. It is a typical example of our level of understanding to know that it is only God who controls who will die or live if a person is not feeling well or looking frail. What I am looking at is that, today, the most powerful President in the world, that is Biden, is 80 years old. I was looking at Yo Si-kun, the Taiwanese Speaker, you see the way he was walking, he is between 75 and 80 years old.

In America, the President, Vice President and the Speaker, these are the three most powerful people. It is different from Nigeria where you have the President, Vice President, the Senate President and the Speaker. The Speaker is number three in America. The two of them are very, very old. There is nothing as a single factor to define who should be President in terms of how old or how young.

What are your thoughts on the plan by your colleagues in the National Assembly to impeach President Buhari over worsening insecurity in the country?

Well, you know it is not every party member that can come up and say it is right because a lot of them are looking for one position or the other and you know that is the major problem people cannot talk and, as it is, there so many people undermining this President, because he has advisers around him and many of these things are shielded away from him.

So, for a group of people to say they want to impeach him based on what is going on in Nigeria today, I believe such a threat, even though I know it cannot be achieved, such a threat isn’t out of place, because when you see people being kidnapped here and there, these people have gotten to Kubwa (Abuja) and they are now knocking on the doors of people to kidnap. Do you think the President is aware of this? No, he is not because if he was aware, he would have done something about it. He did not become President to expose us to danger, he became President because he felt and meant well for the country.

So, those people did not allow him to get information. The party will not support such move. This is a question of numbers in the Senate. I believe it is a mere threat. It is not a threat that can actually happen because the majority of people in the Senate are APC members and this is their President. Whatever you think the President has done, it is the solution that we are looking at, not impeachment. If you look at the voting pattern, you need two-thirds majority to carry out impeachment. So, the truth is that it cannot happen and why did they wait if it is truly based on altruism or in the national interest?

The President is leaving in May next year and we are in August, before they carry out any impeachment process, don’t forget they will involve the House of Representatives, and if you look at the people behind this impeachment threat, do you now want to make sure that you damage your party so much that you cannot win the next election? There are so many reasons and dynamics that will guide us. Based on my experience in the Senate, I know it will not happen and those who are aggrieved now, they only need to do the Nigerian factor and that is why we are in trouble in this country.

To impeach the President is not easy, even a state governor, how many have they impeached before? So, I look at it, that is in a very practical form whether it is a correct move or not is another issue but it is something I know cannot happen. 

They can’t impeach the President; they don’t even have the numbers. The estimation that some people have lost their tickets will not work because that is not the end of their lives, they will still come back. So, it is not something that can easily be done but for them, we have been on this security problem for so long, there is nothing anybody can do in six months.

They should put options on the table, these are the things we expect Mr. President to do within this period.

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