Senator Arise: Zoning cannot work in Ekiti guber race
Senator Ayo Arise, a frontline senator who had represented the Ekiti North Senatorial District at the Red Chambers, speaks with Nigerian Concord recently. During the exclusive media session, the senator who is being projected for governorship in the state in 2018 as a result of his political heavy weight and goodwill speaks on the situation of the state, his ambition as well as why the governorship seat should not be zoned to any region. Excerpts:
As a senator for four years at the national assembly could you tell us the changes you were able to effect in your Senatorial district and the country as a whole?
As regards my Senatorial district, let me first of all make one correction, the federal lawmakers in the senate are there for making laws for the good of this country and not for a senatorial district. You cannot make a law that is directed at a particular district or local government, but as a federal lawmaker, I was privileged to contribute to a very robust debate at the Senate. I initiated the Electronics Fraud Bill and it went as far as the third reading and it was passed into law by the 7th Assembly. In terms of the ability to influence something to my senatorial district, we had this consistency project allowance which all the time I was there, all the money allocated for my project, about 80 percent were directed to the river basin and the form to reactivate the Ero Dam, Itapaji Dam, the dry in Ayede and host of other that is water related; And every year we worked on replacing the pipes that had became unserviceable, many of those pipes were erected in the 60s and so for our people to continue to have water, we had to discuss the river basin and areas of improvement for pipe borne water for our people in Ekiti. If not for the change of government, Ekiti was one of those that benefited significantly in the agricultural funds, and there was to be a storage silo in Osi which the former minister at that time was kind enough to help me put in their plan. Of course after Yar’Adua died it just dried up, nothing happened again. We have silos, one of the largest one in Nigeria. It is in Ado and because I was in the Water Resources Committee of the Senate then, I was able to actually initiate the movement for the creation of another water basin that would cater for Ondo, Ekiti and Osun and of course the headquarters was to be in Ado-Ekiti and that actually passed the third reading and it was sent to the president for assent. That happened to be one of the few things that I did. In terms of the central bank building in Ado, I ensured that I was constantly on the neck of the CBN governor and to put Ekiti in the front page of those who would benefit from the infrastructure. I believe that contract was awarded, they should finish the building any time soon. But we started it that time because our agitation was very influential at that time. And of course, we started pushing alongside my colleagues in the Judiciary Committee to ensure that the Court of Appeal came to Ekiti during the 6th Senate. Having said that, the politicians too benefited, I ensured that all the ward leaders and secretaries of the local governments fit one thing or the other that added value to their lives. To the women leaders, I made provision for grinders and others stuffs to assist them in small scale businesses, those that have little capital and of course in the senatorial district I had some training centres and other projects. But sustainability of this projects is the issue, that is why i felt that that constituency project really has no business in the running of government because the moment the senator that initiates such departs from office, the next person wants to come and do his own different things. There is no continuity and such projects die naturally. If those funds had been channelled through the local governments, if they have the understanding that they get them for the benefit of the people, I mean let everyone that gets elected to become chairman of a local government understand that there is a recurrent expenditure that is tied to the maintenance of these projects and when people have boreholes and the borehole become blocked and the machine become unserviceable, there is nobody that will take the ownership. And for me personally, I think we should revisit the need for a constituency project. As long as senators can influence this in their respective senatorial districts or states or what that will benefit the lives of Nigeria at the federal level, I believe it also becomes the focus of everyone.
In 2006, you wanted to be governor of Ekiti state. Can you tell us what you could have done differently?
I have put myself down of capable of doing what I want to do. Don’t forget those that came did their best. Don’t forget Oni came and we once worked together. After Oni, Fayemi, here is Fayose so we have three governors in the space of eleven years. When you look at Lagos, they have had only three governors since 1999. Look at the number of governors we have had in Ekiti. It shows that there is a problem, very fundamental that we need to address. The idea of high turnover does not attract development as expected, particularly in the legislature, but looking at it in the other way, it is expected to keep people on their toes, that is to do their best for the people, so that there might be opportunity for continuity. Anyone that seeks two terms in Ekitialways looks for trouble. I think any person that works with conscience will start thinking that if you want to be governor of Ekiti, whatever you can achieve for four years you should achieve it, make a mark and understand that you might not be voted back as governor. That has been the scenario playing out in Ekiti politics till today. So for me, the things I will do differently, for me certainly, there are areas that Ekiti could have excelled particularly education. Our people are known to be blessed with very serious IQ, and so if you channel them and have guidance and counselors in school to direct the kids, to mould them, to begins to channel them towards scientific knowledge, discovery, how we can use them to be very well, improve how we can be creative. We should ask ourselves why the developing countries are doing well. It is because they have significant strength in human capital and human resources. So if we develop our people, with the endowed serious IQ, it will advance our state. If you begins to develop our educational system, advising our children to study relevant courses that are in demand everywhere, we can begin to exploit the returns from those people back to Ekiti. It will improve certainly a lot I’m Ekiti. They can come back to invent many things for the manufacturing companies or going into service business not too common, if it can be done else where, it can be done in Ekiti. If we look at Anambra, look at Nnewi, look at the things they are doing in that axis, for us nothing stops us from attaining that level because we have learnt a lot, we have little of mineral resources and water way and others but I’m not saying that we don’t have very reach soil. Our people who are into sustenance farming we can see a lot of productivity, but when we have a government that is creating opportunity for them, so all farmers in the state can feed the whole country. When you look at the state of Georgia and another neighbouring state in America they are known for production chicken. These are places where you find most of the chicken you find almost everywhere in the US. Anerica becomes a significant portion from the two places. If you look at what American government is doing to help them, that is provide irrigation to farmers and by giving lands to them by encouraging them to concentrate and to ensure that people pull a lot . Then the ability to influence one or two things from many successful friends, I’m sure a number of governors try to focus, but we know that in businesses like that anyone that wishes to set up business will look at the profits. If they do their feasibility studies and they are not able to see the market in the money in the project, it is likely they move to where they can get the market. So we can create product from here that can sell outside and we are hoping that with the new rail line the federal government is planning to put, it will affect us positively in Ekiti by the special grace of God. We can encourage our people to start producing for places like Abuja, Lagos and other urban centres that have concentration of people and with that the commerce in the state will begin to grow. And of course people have been cooperating fine. Look at the kind of money government is sending around, how many Ekiti people have benefited? I don’t see any reason why a farmer should not be able to have a good farm because the government does not give out loans, I mean soft loans, and if there is, mechanizing agriculture is like mechanizing the job. I believe that when I get there and by the special grace of God I know I’m going to be the next governor of Ekiti state, I will have the opportunity to demonstrate all these things. Again, we cannot say I don’t understand that there is a lot of challenges one has to encounter. We will look at how do we place workers salary when we don’t get enough, but by the time we concentrate and make people very productive and the state is vibrant, people will be willing to play a big role towards the development of our society, and so in generating money we will be able to generate money not by being hostile to the business environment. This is the kind of experience we are facing in Ekiti right now but I can ensure you that I will make it business friendly for poeple to prosper. This are some of what I will do
One wonders why you haven’t made your ambition public with the kind of laudable ideas you have for Ekiti state.
Well, let me said I have told the politicians and they are working very hard. If you carry out your survey in Ekiti today people will tell you that I’m a little bit luckier than most of the aspirants because I already have a structure. Everyone in Ekiti knows me and my goodwill very well. I have also taken time to meet with all the leaders of the party.The other plan is to carry out a ground survey which is like a marketing survey. I know that it is now that I can begin to talk about it. I still have to go and talk to the leaders of the party so that they will not assume I want to do it on my own.
What is your opinion on the call for the next governor to come from the Southern part of the state?
There are two reasons why I’m not in support at all. First, how do we cave a section of Ekiti and say they are going to produce the governor. Are we looking for the person that will serve for the fun of it or we are looking for someone who is going to serve the people. This is one thing I keep asking. Ekiti is the only state In the federation that has no issue of ethnicity. We are the same people, we have almost the same principle towards life. All our languages are the same. When I subscribed to that idea in the last election that brought Fayose, I called all the aspirants to a meeting in my house and I said look, if you people are serious of producing a candidate, you are right but nobody will say other people should not run and the man from the central at that time appear very stronger. I said if all of you can come together and bring one candidate, we will support that candidate as the only serious candidate. Then it didn’t work because before you knew it, all of them had gone to but there nomination forms. Presently, I am against zoning because who knows whether the person from the Central will be the best that will serve the people of the state than the person from the South. If we now say we are zoning the South and they give us a candidate and everybody now goes to vote for the person and the person now ends up disappointing us, who are we going to complain to? So for us, I think everybody should subject his or herself to the scrutiny of the people of Ekiti and let the people choose whom will serve them and let the best candidate emerged. To me, whenever i see the people of Ekiti, I don’t ask whether he or she is from South or the North, I’m only particular if the person is from Ekiti, and to me, that is the way I think it ought to be. Very soon we will start agitating for one particular village to produce a governor if we don’t stop it now, and i don’t see anything progressive in that.
How will you rate Ekiti state under Governor Ayodele Fayose?
Well, let me say this, everybody knows i was with Governor Ayo Fayose shortly when he won his election. When he was running he told me he was a changed person, and I discovered that there had been some improvement in his personality compared to the first time he came there. I called him few days ago to take him up on some issues, he responded to me. I said the little good name you have, you now want to throw it away before you leave the office. I said this because I’m one of the few people that can talk to him straight, and by and large, we are a little bit more friendly now than when we were in the same party. We talk, we discuss, I have no issue with him. It’s the people that are agitating not me, and that is why I’m a little bit reserved in the way I criticize him. The reason is that I’m one of the them that believe Ayo Fayose should not be the governor of Ekiti ,but we can all wish but the ultimate wish belongs to God and so since he won and Ekiti people voted for him. If I abuse him from now till tomorrow, that will not change that fact that the people of Ekiti voted for him. I think before he leaves office he should make sure he does whatever he knows is within his power to bring the good time back because it will be bad if he does not bring it back. Personally, i don’t see why the prosperity of Ekiti should be dangling under him.
Do you think you can’t win the APC ticket considering the big names that are coming out under the party. We have former governors Oni and Fayemi in the contest?
We know that the three us ran for the governorship at the same time, and that was in 2006. I’m the only one that has not be there so it gives me an opportunity to approach them. And I have been appealing to them to support me because the had been governor before. So left to me, I’m at advantage, and they know I have the capacity to become the governor. When we look at it critically, if I had been governor before and I say I’m running now, I think there will be a lot of people that will say not Arise not him. It we further look at it critically, I think the two of them will give me the opportunity. I will continue to talk to them. I know they know I can do it, I don’t need to tell them I can do it. It will no longer be an issue of whether they want a person that is competent, I’m sure they know that what ever the problem is, I’m likely to improve on it. So I’m not so worried about the two of them, I’m bold enough, if two of them are running and they all go for the primaries and I’m there, I have a very good faith that by the special grace of God I will win.