Arise: APC’s All Muslim Ticket Will Bring Progress to Nigeria

A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Ayo Arise, in this interview with Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu, says the all Muslim presidential ticket of the ruling party was neither a slight on the christian community, nor was it about fanaticism.

Do you think the APC miscalculated by going for a Muslim-Muslim ticket when it was obvious that the Christian community will 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 much easier to pick a Muslim northerner. But since things happened the way it has happened, it is much 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, maybe 60, 70 percent are Muslims and we are talking of numbers if you are to win election. After sitting down very well, you will discover that there are very able, intelligent,  technically sound Christians but the question is how many votes would you command to be able to win election, particularly from the North. If the reverse has 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 have been a similar situation in the past and in reality, anybody that wants to rule this country must not make religion your priority. If you make religion your priority then our chances for development are tending more towards zero.

If you look at the entire world, what the leaders are discussing. In this 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, it is not practically feasible for Tinubu to say he is dropping his running mate 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 Christian and Muslim is more prominent in the South West.

What we are looking at is for us to live as brothers and sisters. We should not be looking at ourselves from a 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 a good leader 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, am one of those who will say let us give Tinubu and his vice a chance. If we are not 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 anything it will ever come to the mind of Tinubu and of course, the Vice is quite an educated person that has antecedence 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, I believe there was no  time he could have gone ahead to drive Christians out of Borno State. So, when we look at it, it is an experimental thing. We saw it before, but Abiola never ruled for us to know what he could have done. Even though I have known the Governor of Lagos State for more than 25 years, but 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 wife, so, there is no fanaticism in this thing. We cannot rule this country based on that. 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, I believe the candidate of APC considered all that before coming up with all muslim ticket.

As a party  man who also supports his own, I just want to know the legacies Buhari has created and how you want to build on it. Secondly, this Muslim-Muslim ticket is still a major issue.

Well, on Buhari’s legacy, I read a few things that Tinubu said he would do and one of the very first one, in terms of tackling security, 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 on the legacy of President Buhari, I don’t  expect that he would just become President and start rubber stamping everything that Buhari did. In terms of policies of this administration, you will notice that a few things are focused on social benefits of the people to ease the burden of the downtrodden, now the implementation might be another question. Has those policies achieved what they were set out to achieve and to be sure, let me make it very clear, I do a few things for the government. I think our civil service needs a  complete overhaul. We are the ones responsible for the ailment 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 surrounded 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 to power. 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? What   are your thoughts on the plan by the National Assembly to impeach President Buhari over worsening insecurity in the country?

Let me start from 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 primaries because I believe every politics is local and I have to support somebody from my local government that is 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 and as such, 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, he is 80 years old. I was looking at You Si-kun, the Taiwan 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 and we cannot say that individually or collectively we are smarter than an average American. There is no single statistics to prove that. So, if those people feel that these people with experience and old age are the best to trust the affairs of their country to, who are we to be challenging that. We have had a young man as our president in this country and maybe part of their policies or lack of their policies is why we are where we are today. It is not impossible. There is nothing  as a single factor to define who should be president in terms of how old or how young. But when we talk in terms of health situation, yes it looks like Tinubu has some health challenges, we are not Doctors, just like we are not Doctors when Buhari was sick and he came back looking ten years younger. So, who knows what is going to happen because this is a life ambition for Tinubu to be President. After winning the election, he might look like 20 years younger than he is looking because the heart and the way you feel actually define what happens in terms of your health and in fact, there are some people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, so if God says you are going to live this long to lead your country. Even his opponent Atiku is 77 years old. So, if the man says he is 70 and some people are trying to disprove  that, I don’t know when he was born and a number of us don’t know and if you look at the calculation of when he left the university, those ones seemed to tally with the age that he is talking about. 

What are your fears about the 2023 elections especially considering the general state of insecurity in the country? Some people are calling for a state of emergency.

Well, the truth of the matter, I entertained no fear about the fact that the election will go smoothly but my only fear is that how quickly can the issue of insecurity be resolved starting from now.

So, during Jonathan’s time, when Boko Haram started kidnapping of 200 something girls and the installation of flags by Boko Haram in the North, Nigeria demanded,  can we have an election, some people said it is not possible, they have to do some things  to make sure that the elections were held. So, the President has the powers,  either to recruit people in the Army or the Police and this should not be done based on ethnic recognition alone. If you don’t put quality people at work, you will get poor results.

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