(Interview) Putting Saraki in jail wld send serious signal to people that things wld now take a different turn – Senator Ayo Arise …NASS voice votes of ‘nays’ and ‘ayes’ is a mockery, rigging of democracy

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Former Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatization, Senator AYO ARISE represented the Ekiti North Senatorial District in the Upper Chamber between year 2007-2011. In this interview with our Ekiti State Correspondent OLADELE ADEDAYO, he bares his minds on topical national issues; the budget brouhaha, Saraki’s trial, Buhari’s foreign trips, Ekiti politics among others.
Having been a member of the National Assembly, ]what is your view on the raging controversy between the Presidency and the Senate on the 2016 Budget proposal?
In terms of the budget crisis, it’s not really a crisis. It is just that there are new ways of doing things, and the present executive is starting on a note; doing things differently which means paying attention to the details of the budget to ensure that they have a budget they can easily implement. But that does not take away the right of the Assembly to look around the budget and try to move things around in a non-destructive manner. The estimate is normally presented by the President and the National Assembly looks into the details of the budget. Normally, there would be some interests, but typically, such interest should have been addressed while preparing the budget.
In the past, there are some things that are really the domains of the National Assembly named constituency projects. Those constituency projects, the National Assembly feels that they should go back to their constituencies and ensure that they have something to show that while I was in the National Assembly, these are things I have to show.
‪In other climes, all these are packaged as part of executive responsibility. And if may be there is a need to establish an airport in a constituency, the national executive member would influence the project. But while these are not going around, the idea has been to create small projects like borehole, water and ICT centres.
But in practicing the Presidential system, we need to sit down and revisit many of these things, how is it done in other climes?
‪The major controversy surrounding all this is the Lagos-Calabar and Lagos-Kano rail line. While the National Assembly feels they need to move some money and pay some companies’ debts, so that maybe they can complete some projects, the executives have their own projects and it might not be their priority for now to say this is where I want to put down the money. But then they are saying that this is the major area that would quickly and easily affect the average Nigerians that are crying that things are difficult. And you must find a way of putting money into this economy to ensure that jobs are created, and there are infrastructure developments all over.
That is about the only way to accommodate the teeming population of unemployed people and of course the other ways of looking at agriculture and diversifying the economy.
‪And all of these would require the support of the National Assembly, and the executives need to go and sell these ideas to them in very clear terms.
‪That is the direction that this country wants to go, in the next three, four years, we want to be able to ensure that there is heavy infrastructure development in the common man’s interest and not in individual’s interest.
‪So, the National Assembly and the executive must find a way of working together to ensure that the interest of the common man is taken care of.  And so, some people would not claim some rights that would invariably hurt the people.
Would you have attributed the Budget crisis to the system of government being practiced in the country?
Well you see, there is no perfect system of government, but the presidential system of government ensures that every four years you have a chance to make a change. For example, we are in the spirit of new Nigeria, every vote in the National Assembly should be seen as being counted, the current system of ayes and nays is a rigging system that is very peculiar to this country. I don’t think we can go very far with that system given our attitudes as Nigerians without ensuring that every vote counts and you are accountable for every vote you cast. And the machines are there, on any big issue, even the budget. Let them start punching the button openly so that their people can begin to count it either for or against them and know how to decide better in the next election. But the moment people go there and begin to say ayes and nays, it is a mockery of democracy.
‪I was there, I didn’t particularly fancy it but it was not correct politically to oppose it or challenge the man with the gavel on it.
‪But when you look at it critically, you see that what is best for this country is that everybody that goes to represent our people is able to point to how he is voting for in the House. You see, we are there to make laws and in making the laws, the powers of the National Assembly is enormous but also the responsibility of the executive in a Presidential system is equally enormous. So, they must find a way of working together. And that is why in most cases, the head of the Assembly belongs to an opposition party like we usually have in the U.S. But the President also has some powers which he exercises because he knows he may not be able to get some of his policies through in the House.
Who would say that a rail project from Calabar to Lagos and also Kano is not a priority. It is a priority because I assume that the Calabar would pass through Port Harcourt and it would start moving goods around the country. We need that rail network and it requires money. It requires commitment and it is not a thing anybody can play politics with. So I believe that with time, they would find a solution to it.
How do you perceive the President’s alleged glob-trotting that has generated mixed reactions by Nigerians?
From my point of view, I think it is Fayose that is taking such perception, may be some people are following suit. But when you look at a functioning government, it is the Head of State that can go and negotiate for foreign money, this economy is in comatose, this economy has been abused, it is degraded, and people have stolen beyond expression. The oil money is no longer there. We used to sell our crude oil for over 100 dollars. Now, anytime it gets to 40 we are celebrating, now it has dropped below 30 for crying out loud!
So, how on earth would somebody sit down at home and begin to manage money that is not there. How would he not go out to go and solicit for money and for stolen funds? So, for me, I don’t see anything bad in that. If he were a 40-year old man and they say he is carrying women to such places to go and enjoy himself we would understand if some people are criticizing that. But this man is doing the business of the state.  And everywhere he goes, there is something positive following, and don’t forget that you cannot force yourself on those countries and say I want to visit you, they must have extended invitation to you before you decide to go. It is because they like what he is doing that there is a door opening to these countries. So, we should be happy that everybody wants to see the President of Nigeria now. We have been talking of Obama’ visit for some years now. I believe he is coming here now somehow.
‪When Baba Obasanjo was President, he was travelling so much that we were able to get some forgiveness of debts to the turn of about twenty something billion Dollars. And thereafter the economy started doing well.
‪Even now, how many people go to see Mr. President in Aso Villa, go there now and drive around and compare it with the past. The man has an organization on ground and everybody doesn’t see him. If you have a business, go to the Ministers. So, you really don’t have any business to see the President because the Ministers are empowered enough to take decisions that are legal. Even when you have a problem you don’t go to report to the President, you go and report to the EFCC and the ICPC. So, those institutions are beginning to function.
Do you see supplementary budget being used to arrest the situation from getting worse?
‪About the supplementary budget, the National Assembly has made their own recommendation and I’m sure they would resolve it. We had a similar situation during the Goodluck Jonathan era, there was an error in the submitted bill and that was how it was resolved. They now made a supplementary because the one the executive submitted, the National Assembly refused to implement it because if though the President had signed it, if it something that he has said he would not do, the fact that he is signing that budget and that he is preparing a supplementary does not mean the ones there would be implemented.
‪By and large the issue of the supplementary budget is a way out of the problem to get the executive to have their way and save the situation. And the President has that prerogative to say okay you want me to give this man the money to complete this project, may be the project is not my priority now, maybe I will complete it by next year. There are many ways they can go about it.
Considering the trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), would you advise him to throw in the towel?
Well, if the resignation would prevent him from going to jail, I think it will be a good idea; because it is a negotiation thing. You don’t just resign for nothing. If you say let me resign, don’t pull the full weight of the Law, yes it is possible! Because this President is not going to talk to lawyers, judge or anybody, he is just going to sit down there and say if you have committed a crime, go and face the music.
‪So, it is not as if for now, Buhari has been able to end corruption, and it is not as if removing or putting Saraki in jail would end corruption but it would send a very serious signal to people that things would now take a different turn. And I believe the argument for Saraki is that why should they try me alone? That is one-sided or scape-goatism.
Unfortunately, the first rule is don’t get caught in every society that applies the Law. If this had happened in the past, this would have been resolved, but Nigerians are saying we want an end to this impunity. And it is unfortunate that when Saraki made his alleged crime on the Code of Conduct regulations, it must have been the norm then among his peer groups.
How would you describe the action of five Kogi State Assembly lawmakers that sacked their colleagues recently?
Well, it is still part of our learning process and the problem we face in this country. Some of us would always cite when something is not proper. We were all here when Fayose used seven lawmakers to chase out the rest of them and made sure they never entered the Assembly until their term expires. This is a country of anything goes. And the moment people do all these and they get away with it and we keep on looking, God would not come down from heaven to say He want to change us. It is our responsibility as a people to say we want to live within the limits of the Law. Such practice is a damage to our democracy and should not be allowed.
What is your view on the alleged disobedience of court orders by the Federal Government as regards activism and recovery of looted funds from the politicians in the country coupled with disillusionment of people on fuel scarcity?
‪On the issue of Dasuki and Kanu, you see, the Yorubas have a say that ‘Eni ti won fipe adegun, ohun naa nofi pe adeogun, the mouth that you use to say things are straight is the same you use to say they are not straight.
You see, it speaks volumes, we are saying we cannot end corruption. Believe me people were hailing Buhari the moment he started arresting people alleged to be corrupt. If those people had gone abroad, by now, we would have forgotten about their issue and Nigerians would say big men don’t go to jail in Nigeria.
‪I don’t know what Kanu was charged for, but I suspect it is treasonable felony. So, that offence is not a bailable one just like murder. But in Nigeria, anything is possible, you would go and talk to the judge and the lawyers would say this and that. And we have seen some judgments coming out of the court that are completely unprofessional.
Surpposing somebody gets up in Yoruba land today and start arming the people to rise against the government for secession and you start seeing real surge where people are really charging like it happened in some parts of the East, Owerri, Onistha where the Biafra thing was gaining currency. You would ask yourself, are we safe?
‪If we are going to secede, we have to sit down and negotiate it and see what really is the need for it. Russia which once broke up are now trying to come together because they have seen that there is strength in number. And that strength is what brings commerce.
‪If you look at it now, the highest number of traders in this town, Oye-Ekiti would be Ibos, if they now secede, where would they be doing those things? If you look at Abuja, I can tell you without contradiction that majority of the houses there, the landlords are all from the East. In Lagos, they are about 40 per cent or so. So, you see, secession is no longer fanciful. And if nothing was done against it, other groups may also come up. So for me, if the offence is not bailable, any judge that is giving the judgment against, it is doing so at the risk of having the rule being flouted.
‪The lawyers are there to make money but you know in a country like America, a judge could be charge for giving a judgment that is unprofessional. That obstructs justice. So let’s live like a society that respects the Law.
You would discover that after Jonathan was voted in for his four year term, it was as if Nigeria was going to cave in when the labour took him on over the fuel subsidy palaver. And this subsidy we are paying for is either we like it or not. We are just giving some people money. We are buying fuel for N200 in Ekiti per litre. If there is no subsidy, let everyone go to the market and bring fuel and sell, competition would drag the price down. As a matter of fact, subsidy was so abused that those people participating in subsidy are the ones actually sabotaging the economy.

It is true that the economy is bad now. Things are not doing well. But those of us following what is going on, not necessarily make excuses for the government, we can see the effort to respond to the pains of the people.
What is your advice for those warring against Fayose’s administration?
For me, I think people should just prepare for the next election. The characters that are playing the political arena here are such that… who would take the submission of Aluko to any court of Law and win.
Why do you think the APC leading lights in Ekiti are not being on ground planning for 2018 Gov. polls?

‪I want to remind you that the incumbent governor of Ekiti was not in Ekiti when he started planning his comeback. And he eventually won by a landslide. It was about a year to the election that he came back fully into the state. So, I don’t see any reason why anybody should be on ground now when election is 2018, about two full years now. The governor and I do speak. And I don’t believe there would be any government in Ekiti that I won’t be able to talk to. When Fayemi was in power we talk even though I was in PDP then.
We are not removing Fayose because he is going, but we don’t want him to install the person coming, so that APC would win the forthcoming election. We are working underground and we are making moves for unity.
How united is APC in Ekiti?
You know that politics in any place is all about self interests and self preservation. I believe, in the past there has been pockets of self interest in APC. Perhaps they are seeing some of us as new comers who are coming to take power. But I don’t think they are saying that much of me given the fact that I ran for Governor under AD. I think I still have some supporters there. And there are some core APC people. You know we have three ex-governors in the APC, Kayode Fayemi, Niyi Adebayo, and Segun Oni.

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