From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
It is no longer news that politicians and voices of reason from the Southeastern part of the country have been clamouring for power shift to their region after the expiration of the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
To the President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima, the region was not ready to champion the affairs of the country based on his view as captured in this interview.
He also scored President Muhammadu Buhari low in three critical areas of the national economy just as he called on Security Chiefs to do more to address the state of insecurity in the country. Excerpt:
We have seen alliances across political parties in recent times ahead of the 2023 presidential election. Should all political parties agree to zone their presidential candidate to the Southeast, do you see a possibility of that region coming up with a consensus candidate that will be acceptable to its political heavyweights and the country as a whole?
The Southeast has already shot itself in the foot. With this madness going on in the Southeast, who will entrust them with power? Let us be very practical. Not because I don’t like them, ordinarily, they shouldn’t have allowed this nonsense to get to the level it is today. In all honesty, it will be very difficult. Some of them were courageous and bold enough to come out to say they were not prepared for the presidency now. You know it. We are not joking with the country because this is a serious business.
Are you unaware of the gentleman agreement across political parties to rotate power between the North and South?
Well, I am not a part of that gentleman agreement which means it is not binding on us as a people. If it is not constitutional, it is not binding on us. To me, the issue of a rotational presidency has already been jettisoned since 2011. Ordinarily, Jonathan could not have contested after he completed the last two years of late Yar’Adua. He would have allowed the North to come up with another consensus candidate that would have contested to fill the term for the North going by that gentleman agreement. In all faces of justice and equity, the 16 years of PDP, the North had only two years. Even if we add the eight years of Buhari to that 16 years, the North will still be having 10 while the South will be having 14. So, where is justice if we are talking about equity and fairness? We can see then that the gentleman agreement is not binding and even if we say let’s overlook the legitimacy aspect of it on moral ground, how do we justify 14 to 10 years by the time Buhari completes his eight years tenure? On a normal circumstance and in the spirit of fairness and justice to the North, courtesy demands that we give this slot to the North. But under the democratic arrangement, it is hard to justify this idea of a rotational presidency. Let the best steps forward and let Nigerians decide on who they want so we can look more into competency when we allow it open, the best will be out.
…Irrespective of the region such a fellow comes from?
Not necessarily the region per se. If I have my view because of the platform that I represent, Nigerians also can decide and we will certainly do that, if that is what they want and we will go for it. But as it is today, it is wrong on moral ground for anybody to think of zoning presidency to any region outside the North.
So, what are those qualities Nigerians should look forward to as they decide their next president after the expiration of the tenure of President Buhari in 2023?
Competency in the areas of patriotism. Age will also play a major role. We are looking at 60, 50 down to 40. Left to me, I will look at someone between 40 and 50 years of age and worse case, 60.
Do you or your organisation, AYCF, has anyone in mind?
No. We are still looking inward. We are still consulting. We have been talking with a lot of them, but I wouldn’t want to mention their names until the time is ripe for that. So far so good, we have vibrant ones who are doing wonderfully well even at the level of governors, we can see what they are doing.
Let quickly talk about the issue of security as it affects the country and Kaduna State which is the political hub of the North…
(Cuts in) Yes, the issue of security affects Kaduna just as it affects other parts of the country where things were not done right. Over the years, we talk more, but act less. We have spent so much on the issue of security without equivalent results. It is either the people managing our security affairs are not doing well or some people somewhere are trying to sabotage the efforts of the government even when they are within the circle because today issue of security has become a business by some people at the expense of other people’s lives. They will seat and raise money to improve our security architecture, but someone will just squash the money and get away with it without anybody questioning him which is not good for this administration.
Let’s talk a bit about the tenure of Buhari which is about six and half years now. To you, how has the country faired under his administration?
Factually, we expect more than what we have seen so far from him. Let me narrow this down to three points – fight against corruption, security and good governance. In all fairness, he has done lower than expectations in these three areas. In terms of security, we can all see where we were in 2015 and where we are today in 2021. In 2015, we were faced with issues of terrorism and a few kidnappings. But today, banditry and kidnapping in the Northwest have marred the entire country.
The current leadership of the Nigerian armed forces are doing better than what was obtained in the past. But then, we are taking time to access them because they came to the office not quite long. Let’s give them the grace of the next six months and see whether this madness will be put under control. And if they fail, we will tell Mr President that they failed.
Have you or anyone close to you been kidnapped? Have you ever paid ransom to redeem anyone close to you? What is your position on the payment of ransom to bandits?
I have heard many people kidnapped and the issue of payment of ransom should be discouraged. But sometimes, it is difficult to do. Even when states are saying they are in charge, we don’t see that in practical terms. For instance, someone has his family taken hostage and he can afford to pay ransom for his or her release, certainly, he will prefer to pay because of the perceived trauma his loved ones may go through while in custody. It is a terrible development and since life is worth living, anybody who is in a position to sort his way out would do so rather than wait for promises by security forces that never see the light of the day.
What specific message do you have for your constituents, I mean young people ahead of the 2023 elections?
We should be very focused, determined and take our destiny into our hands to ensure one of our own becomes the president. By that, I mean someone between the age bracket of 40 and 50. We are looking at some governors which we will identify when we get there, but I will not mention any name for now.