How God Saved Me From Dasukigate – Senator Ayo Arise

Senator Ayo Arise served in the 6th Senate. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, he spoke on his defection from PDP to APC and the anti-corruption war. He also said President Buhari will not like to risk involving himself in the Saraki saga.

Why did you leave the PDP?

I left immediately after the elections because there was no point staying where you are not comfortable and of course my friend and former governor of the state, moved to the APC a year before I did. As a matter of fact, I felt there was no other reason to keep me in the party. I was there to show appreciation to former President Goodluck Jonathan for locating a university in my place. Beyond that, there was really nothing to talk about since 2011 in terms of whether I agree with some of the things going on in the party or whether they actually consider I had such an influence.

Nigerians are becoming weary of the APC administration because they believe their sufferings have increased. How do you feel about this?

May be most people did not realize the level of rot that Nigeria was in. there have been several situation around the world where you can see economic meltdown and things are not working, there is recession in the air and then some leadership will have to come to help those countries. The situation we were in was very dire and we didn’t know who was coming. The unfortunate issue was the price of oil and our leaders were not paying attention to what was happening. Other countries had started looking for alternatives even beyond the shale oil that has gone down done a little bit. America, the largest buyer in the world started focusing on electric vehicles and all this have been in the pipeline. So we have better realized that our mono-dependent economy is no longer going to serve us. There are other polices of looking at other sectors like if we go massively into mechanized farming. Even to get tractors, assuming we have the money, it will take about six months. So we have to start planning now and, if we are lucky, we will get some crops that will take one year. With new seedlings, some might take three to six months. When you look at crops that fetch money like cocoa, the number of years before they start yielding crops that we can export will reach three years. So the focus is on agriculture. If you look at solid mineral, the number of people that will benefit might not be much. But it is an area that we can focus on. The government is saying we should look at how we can become an exporting nation instead of importer so we can fetch money in terms of foreign exchange. Our foreign reserve has dropped and this requires lots of management. There was a time in this country when banks were not honoring letters of credit because we could no longer pay. So to ensure that we do not get back into such era, we need to do what government is doing now. Unfortunately the theft in the country has become unprecedented, not even the soldiers did what we have realized so far in this kind of reckless theft.

But as a former member of the PDP, are you surprised that such theft took place in the party?

I was really surprised at the level. As a matter of fact, I even spent my money doing the social media campaign and I spoke with some of them on how much I have spent. I wanted them to help us so that some of this thing will go out. As soon as I called them, I never got any response, everybody kept saying there was no money. I was shocked when I realized so many people were busy sharing the largesse. I thank God thank that I wasn’t given anything. Maybe that is how I never knew they were sharing such money. But every government during election must muster money for it to succeed. You can raise money through contractors, businessmen and the rest. Not that you will carry government money and share it for elections. I am still puzzled by the magnitude of what we are reading. We are probing just one sector, once we move to other sectors and civil servants, you will begin to see what is going on. These people are not difficult to catch. They own 70 percent of the houses in Abuja. So if something is not done to put an end to this and put a structure that will ensure that such theft are no longer possible like the TSA which is a welcomed development; but we have to develop a culture of not depending on government money. Because even under President Buhari’s watch now, theft is still going on. The first quality of a leader is leading by example. So I have no fears in my mind that President Buhari will try his best because I don’t think he is in power to acquire money, after all the man is about 73years old now. It is not that there are no greedy people in government but he has developed a strong character and that was the greatest selling point. If he fails on that account, then there is nothing that he is offering Nigeria. So he must succeed in curtailing corruption, he cannot end it but he must ensure that it is reduce to the barest minimum. There must be laid down punishment for such people because if we do not do that, we will be in court for up to 10 years. There has been no deterrent for years and everybody takes advantage.

From what you have just said now, are you surprised with what is happening to the senate president?

The senate president allegedly committed breaches when it was the order of the day in Nigeria. Why he is talking about persecution is because, maybe he knows persons that were doing the same thing together but they have not taken them to court. It is not a question of whether or not these things happened, because there is no way you will go and meet somebody and accused him of something you didn’t see or hear him do. Panama leaks that came out recently made his case worse. That is an addition that he doesn’t really need. A lot of people will expect the President Buhari to call the Senate President to say that, the court should stop this. That would have happened in the past under another leadership but I don’t think the president will like to risk something like this.

Should the senate president step down?

In a different clime, ordinary he should have resigned by now. He is popular with the senators and if he is discharged and acquitted, then he can still get his position back. You will recollect that from 1999-2003 of the senate, we had about four senate presidents. So it is not a new thing. It is all about voting but fighting from the position he is now. I think his fear is that the moment he resigns, the people following him to court will reduce so he might think that, it will be suicidal for him to resign. So he will still be doing something to get an acquittal. But there are some times that you must be truthful to yourself. “Did I do these things and got unfortunate to be caught?’ the president is in a difficult position because he campaigned based on integrity and this case has become a test case for Nigeria. I like Saraki and I like the way he is handling the senate but if indeed he committed these alleged crimes, then it is a serious thing. I lived all my adult life in America and we all remember President Nixon who was impeached because of a case not bigger than this one. So many leaders in America were removed because of extra marital affairs and those were minor things. But for someone to hold such a big position, you must live above suspicion. To me, with the revelations coming out, he should be overwhelmed.

Some have attributed what the senate president is going through because of 2019 presidential elections. Do you share such views?

People need to be factual. If you are caught, then that means you are caught as long as you actually committed the things they accuse you of. That somebody brought it out and you are being tried, it is nobody faults. You have to take responsibility for your mistakes. I don’t think there is anybody that said, ‘go and do this thing’. Go and do false declaration’. You must own up once you are caught. If they start looking closely at everybody, very few will be able to escape this thing. But if you are unfortunately caught, you should not blame somebody. This country is going through a phase, we cannot continue the way we are going. The greatest access to wealth in Nigeria today is through politics not business. People coming out of school now want to be councilors, local government chairmen. They don’t think of what to do to contribute to the economy and they are the engine room of the economy. It is not the politicians. The politicians only make laws so that the big companies don’t oppress the small ones and ensure that rules are followed. But in Nigeria, it is a different thing altogether. Sometimes I don’t blame the politician because there are no jobs and so the dependent forces some people to help themselves when the opportunity arises. The CBN has said that, there are millions of dollars in private accountant that if it is used, things will change.

Nigerians are worried that this government has not come out with any agenda or economic policy that Nigerians can identify with. What is your take on this?

I can say that there are a few movement towards economic revitalization. They recently had an economic meeting at the presidential villa in which governors were in attendance. They have to start from somewhere. The truth is that, the number of unemployed people are way too much. If you don’t ginger the economy for things to start working, because the government cannot hire everybody, then we are in trouble. If you go to some ministries, you will see people sleeping. The few ones that have jobs to do, they will demand for something before they do the job. That cannot continue and if it does, most of our children that we have sent abroad to read will come back and be absorbed in this corruption. Few people are wealthy and so many are poor. So let’s see how this year’s budget is implemented and which areas it focuses on before we make a comment.

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