Leader of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima is worried that despite the fact President Muhammadu Buhari is from the North, his government has not favoured the region.
He told Sunday Sun that unknown to many, the current government is purely a Southwest affair as the region has remained the highest gainer.
The activist in this no-holds-bar interview opened up on why the Southeast may lose the 2023 presidential opportunity, his fears for Nigeria and other critical issues. Excerpt:
You are a known critic of the President Mohammadu Buhari government in his first tenure. Have you changed your stance in your assessment of his leadership of the country in this his second coming?
The truth is that Nigeria is retrogressing each passing day. I cannot point at anything that has been done that you can say is an improvement or done in the best interest of the masses. I cannot remember anything better from them against what we had in the past.
Are you saying you have not witnessed any improvement in the cardinal objective of this government, like in the areas of security, corruption fight, economy and boast in agriculture, among others?
Are you saying that the security challenge has improved? It is getting worse, maybe because you are not a victim yet or your family is yet to have a taste of it. Look forget the propaganda they are feeding Nigerians with, security challenge is getting worse, and that is why I said I cannot remember anything better that has been done. Is the economy better? I am asking you may be it is well with you. The economy is not improving, it is worse than what we had before if you ask me. Have they been able to stop inflation? The government may be saying they are out of economic depression, but Nigerians, the people are suffering and that is the reality if the truth must be told. Nigerians are hungry and angry and if you think I am just talking, you can go to any public place where people are gathered and proclaim that things are better now. You may not be lucky to relay your story alive. We are in for a hard time and it is ever-increasing and getting harsher. The economic policy of this government is not clearly defined. People are hungry all over the land, if I may repeat that again. There is poverty all over the land. Are we talking about corruption fight, which is a major agenda of this government? Are they truly fighting corruption? What you see is a selected fight. There are still a lot of untouchables parading their loot who are receiving protection. What we get is selected probe here and there and nothing much comes out of it unless you are the target. If you are in their good books you are exonerated, but if you are in their bad book no matter what you do you must go in for it. Is that how to fight corruption? No.
How did you see the elections that were recently conducted in Bayelsa and Kogi states?
It has never happened in the history of this country where you have daylight robbery in the name of election, using state instrumentality against innocent Nigerians, against their wish. What we had is a charade because the votes no longer count. Look at how they disenfranchised the voters, using state machinery to coerce them, intimidate them and subject them to all sorts of inhuman treatment in the name of conducting an election. It was a show of shame. My worry is that it is not just about what happened in Kogi and Bayelsa, but I am worried about 2023 if there will be an election with this type of outcome without passing the reformed electoral law. We will have a serious problem if we don’t pass electoral law and we go into another round of election this way.
But do you think that we are mature for e-voting experience?
Of course, we are if we can pass the electoral law because there are procedures that are contained in it recommended by the Uwais Commission. If we can work with that document I am sure we will overcome some of our electoral problems. It is not that there is any part of the world that elections are 100 per cent perfect, but in the case of Nigeria, it is just broad day robbery by the power of incumbency that we are witnessing not election again. Election has become a war in Nigeria. Our institutions are being destroyed on a daily basis.
What is your take on the anti-social media bill on the floor of the National Assembly?
The bill is dead on arrival. Let’s first make a law that anybody found stealing taxpayers’ money should be hanged as it is done in China; then we know that they are serious. It is not when you amass the people’s wealth, loot the treasury, deliberately design poverty programmes for them, ignorantly or deliberately, then you come again to say they should not speak out. I think Nigeria has gone beyond that. And if they push the bill further you will witness what Nigerians are made of because you have already pushed them to the wall. Look let me be sincere with you from all indications what I am seeing now on ground I have a lot of fears and have had sleepless nights over and over because I foresee a big trouble ahead of us and if adequate measures are not taken, probably, we will wake up one day and Nigeria will no longer be there. The indices of disunity have shown clearly, we are more separated, more divided than we were before 2015, there is suspicion everywhere and the government is not helping matters. You cannot continue to intimidate people; we are not in a country where there is no government. Nigeria should not be operating as a banana republic, you cannot continue to coerce people and force them by intimidating and harassing them, using state instrument against them…one day they will revolt although one is not praying for that; you can’t continue doing that. People are so civilized that the best method to adopt is open negotiation, talk with them, let them know that what you are doing is in their best interest and wait for their feedback, put up programmes that they will key into. You cannot run the country as if you are ruling an animal kingdom and you tell them what you want and everything that you want nobody can oppose it, nobody can challenge or talk to you…it is not right.
There is this issue of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu; the mother is dead and there is this issue of his coming for the burial and perhaps getting arrested…
(Cuts in) Why won’t he be arrested? That loose mouth son of the Southeast, running his mouth anyhow and abusing everybody. He talks from all sides of his mouth and I ask: Is that the best way to fight? Is that what agitation means? Is that the best approach? You continue to mess up your people and you say you are agitating. With all this his utterances how can the North, Southwest, South-south, etc trust Ndigbo with power in 2023? When you have a loose son that you cannot control and he is talking anyhow, like a mad dog, so he is not above the law. The question to ask is: what is the position of the law on the issue? The death of his mother is not an excuse for the law to take its course. You cannot continue to expose the country to danger, you ridicule the government and everybody, there are certain things that are not necessary and you engage in them all in the name of Biafra agitation. Inasmuch as we have our reservations and we know that things are not the way we think it should be, but not to have regard for anybody in the country is unacceptable. You cannot talk as if you just woke up from a cocaine hangover, you think you love your people, you are rather creating more disunity among Nigerians with such utterances and those that may want to be sympathetic with your cause may back out because of your style.
Are you saying the utterances of Nnamdi Kanu may cost Ndigbo presidency in 2023? Most Nigerians believe as a matter of equity the Southeast deserves the presidency or you think otherwise?
Did we have rotational principle after 2011 elections? The answer is no. If that gentleman’s agreement is respected President Goodluck Jonathan would not have contested the 2011 presidency. From 1999 to 2007, it was the uninterrupted administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo which favoured the South. After Obasanjo, President Yar’Adua stepped in even though the election was somehow, we have our reservations for that, but history will always remember the situation. Yar’Adua admitted that there were flaws in the election that brought him into power. He began the process to amend the constitution for proper electioneering machinery to be put in place for a credible future election. Sadly, Yar’Adua did only one year strongly and in the second year his health was bad and Jonathan virtually ran the tenure as acting president. I was a pioneer member of Save Nigeria Group. You can see that one can say that the North had one year under Yar’Adua. Later Buhari came on board and even if Buhari finishes his second term and you add the one year of Yar’Adua you will see that the North will have nine years, the South had 15 years uninterrupted. Now, in 2023 with all this state of insecurity in the land, with all the underdevelopment in some regions of the country, with the Southwest virtually taken everything, their level of political sophistication and exposure. Even now that Buhari is there as president the North has nothing to show for it.
How do you mean that the Southwest has taken over everything?
Yes, the Southwest has taken over everything; almost everything is in their favour. Look at the rail line, for instance, they ended up bringing the rail of the ‘70s between Abuja and Kaduna and the one between Lagos and Ibadan is among the latest in the 2000 millennium. Look at the road network they are constructing in the Southwest. Look at the road network, for instance, from Mile 2 to Seme, look at the one they are doing from the International Airport through Oshodi. Where will you find such development in the entire North? Look at what the Northern youths are experiencing in Lagos. They release this their crazy attack dogs they call tax force they go from house to house of the Okada riders to seize their motorcycles. Of course, you know that over 90 per cent ofOkada riders are from the North. These are people that came for their livelihood and they are law-abiding citizens, but they will not allow them to have their peace rather they unleash the mad agency that runs after them. Even around 1-3 a.m you see them going to the places those boys parked their Okada to seize them. This is wickedness. I know that there are some areas that are restricted for the Okada riders, but now they go to pick them where they park their Okada. It is an illegal operation targeted at the Northern youth. So, witnessing what is happening can the Southwest be trusted with power too? Is that how we will build the nation where we have different laws for different people? Why should the North be treated in that way under the watch of President Buhari? If the Southeast is serious, we will know that they are serious not when they are allowing their son (Nnamdi Kanu) to run riot with his mouth, abusing everybody, not respecting anybody. If the Southeast is serious we will know, they will caution him. That boy’s action is compounding their problem, you cannot be threatening you want to break up the country while you expect us to give you power again, it’s not possible. The Southeast must be serious and consult, lobby not by threatening others with Biafra.
But Nnamdi Kanu may not be speaking for the entire Southeast because some of the elders, including some of the governors do not seem to agree with his approach even though they believe he is fighting a just cause of injustice to the region?
The truth is that the Southeast is not yet prepared for the 2023 presidency when they do, we will know. They should control him because he is spoiling things for the Southeast. He is their son and they must find a way to let him see reasons and the danger of the part he is toeing. He has no business insulting everybody. What business does he have to accuse and insult the Northerners and other groups? If he does not have regard for his Igbo kinsmen that is their problem, but he should not extend it to the entire country.