The National President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF, a political pressure group and umbrella body of all youth groups in Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Shettima Yerima, has disclosed that his group has replaced Shege Ka Fasa with a new security outfit called Arewa Security Marshal. Shettima who is also the convener of the Coalition of Northern Groups told Daily Sun at the weekend that the new outfit is presently being registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and that the modalities for its operation would be unveiled after registration.
The president came out strong recently to say the Service chiefs’ best is not good enough and that they should leverage on what they have been able to do so far. But it seems from the statement by one wing of your coalition that you are not convinced that the situation can change even after this challenge by the president to the service chiefs. Why?
Some of us are really, really not happy with the situation in the Northern part of the country. Don’t forget almost 50 percent of our people are farmers. Today, our people can no longer go to their farms because of insecurity. It is either they are being killed, kidnapped or one thing or the other will happen to them. As a result of that, most of them don’t go to their farms anymore. So, some of us felt that in the nearest future, if steps are not taken, we are all going to die of hunger. It is not the North alone because even by extension, the South will be affected. So, what we called for was a peaceful protest and the reason we called for the protest was to put the government on their toes and to create a situation of consciousness so that government will checkmate some of the excesses of these security chiefs. When we did that, one of the leaders of the coalition was arrested. Immediately, we demanded for his release. I was at the scene. When they brought him from Katsina, I was the first person he called. Some of us felt that it was not right to detain him because the protest was peaceful and nobody can stop Nigerians from crying when something is wrong. But the fact of the matter is that something went wrong and we did not just wake up one day and took to the streets. We felt there is the need for somebody to talk so that the government can sit up. Don’t forget that for the first time in the last five years, there is no way you will find this on record where Buhari openly condemned and cautioned the Service chiefs. Whatever we are doing, we are doing in the best interest of the country. We are not in any way working to destabilise the government, causing confusion or compound their problems. We are always on the side of advising them or drawing their attention to something wrong so that this country can move forward. If the country is bad and things get out of hand, it does no good to us. All of us will be direct victims of the bad governance. So, the protest was in good faith and immediately he rose up whether the statement was genuine or not, it was to draw the attention of government to what is going on and as God will have it, the government, NSA and the presidency through Garba Shehu, made statements where the president said he would no longer tolerate anything for an excuse. Our demands were very simple. What we said was that if they cannot do it, if they have run out of ideas, it is not out of place to change the Service chiefs and to come out with younger elements who can do it and that probably they have done their best and their best is not good enough for the country. For us, we have spoken and we believe we should give them the benefit of doubt. This protest happened about two weeks ago but you can see what is happening now. To an extent, some of us are beginning to see body languages, not because it is satisfactory but we can see some actions going on. Let us give them some benefit of doubt for few months to come. If we don’t see any change, then we can also sit down and review the issue and probably come out with another style that we think would be better for the country.
The security outfit you formed last time, Shege Ka Fasa which was what your Coalition saw as an outfit that would tackle banditry and kidnapping did not… (Cuts in)
I am coming. That is where I am going. We the youths in the North came out with something, but unfortunately, you know our people Sometimes, they don’t appreciate some of our ideas. We have seen the youth in the South East doing same and they got the support of their people as regards community policing approved by the government through the Inspector General of Police. We have seen the Amotekun case which was an idea brought by younger elements like us and has been bought over and we can see the result. But in our case, even when we rose up some of our leaders who do not actually understand where we were headed criticized us. We didn’t do it to confront anybody. What we said was that there is need for community policing. There is no way you will continue to work in isolation in a community and you get result without involving the people. I have always been an advocate of community policing just like you have in other parts of the world. It is not a wrong thing. Let us have community policing that would complement the efforts of the federal Police. For intelligence gathering, you need to build synergy, confidence and trust. They need trust and somebody to rely on to protect them; but if you make them to understand that they are just bloody civilians who have no role to play, how can you fight the bandits? You probably have an Emeka from Anambra State and you made him Area Commander in Kaura Namoda or Commissioner of Police in Zamfara State, he will not succeed because he is not vast in that area, not because he is not competent. You pick an officer from Lagos and send him to Daura and you expect him to succeed? It is not possible but when you have synergy between him and the community security outfit or vigilante group, you can be rest assured that you will get classified information because the locals know the terrain and what is going on there than others from outside the community. They know those assisting the bandits and the criminals among them; they also know when somebody is harmful and they will expose them, but they need synergy. This is what we meant, but they criticized us and refused to give an alternative. It’s very sad and unfortunate. Under the leadership of the Northern Governors Forum, the Governor of Plateau State openly, on behalf of Northern Governors, came hard on us and queried us on why we initiated Shege Ka Fasa. Fine, but if they have problems with the name, at least we have the idea and what we expected them to do at that time was to call us and say okay, change the name and let us advise you on how to go about it. But as it was condemned then, up till today, they have not given an alternative. They are very good in condemning but they have no alternative. Are these the people we should rely on to put our lives and destiny in their hands and expect to get results? They will never give you any result. It is very unfortunate. We may all die if we rely on them. The way the Southern governors are thinking fast, cooperating and building synergy with prominent people and organizations, the Northern people here especially the governors, are not in any way like that because most of them don’t mean well. The pride of their people is not before them but rather they are after what will benefit them directly and that is why we are having this problem. There is no way you can do it alone. They need to build synergy; they need information, but the moment you start thinking that you are Alpha and Omega just know that you are making a fool of yourself and you can’t get it right. That is the problem.
Do you think the military alone can win the war against bandits and have you jettisoned the idea of shege Ka Fasa?
This is not conventional war; so merely shooting guns and throwing bombs is not enough to solve the problem. They need to build synergy between them and members of the communities and get result.
The issue of security must be all inclusive. Everybody must be involved and this is the first answer. The answer to your second question is that when we thought about the issue of security challenge in the North and we raised it, we had a lot of blows from all angles; from the governors, traditional rulers and others and some of us even had to go out of our ways to retaliate. We responded with some ugly words that are not in tandem with our culture. Of course, we reacted because we least expect such criticisms coming from some of our prominent leaders that we had respect for. However, at the end of the day, we were asked to go to the Corporate Affairs Commission to register. At the end of the day, they played politics with the issue of registration and refused to register the body. At the end of the day, we hired Lawyers who took the matter to court. We challenged those concerned why we should not be granted permission to look at issues relating to protecting ourselves and to complement the efforts of the Federal Government.
What is the relationship between your organ, the Coalition of Northern Youths Group and Northern Elders Forum and the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF on this issue?
On this issue, the Northern Elders Forum, of course, don’t forget we are very close. In most cases, we have joint meetings where we discuss issues relating to Northern Nigeria and Nigeria at large. We also discuss fundamental issues and in most cases, it is either they advise us or we advise them. Just recently, you remember they advised us to put our protest on hold. The protest was supposed to come out a day before their meeting but after gathering some information, they advised that we shift the day of the protest. The ACF, of course, don’t forget they are neither here nor there because of their new leadership. I don’t think they have had any meeting lately due to the emergence of their new executive. So, we are closer to the Northern Elders Forum under the leadership of Professor Ango Abdullahi whom we see as our role model and have a lot of respect for as a father. Now, we have decided to change the Shege Ka Fasa to another one which we are working on. Many names were suggested but at the end of the day, we arrived at Arewa Security Marshal. We are working on the registration now; so as soon as that is done, we will tell Nigerians our position and how it is going to work to complement the efforts of the Federal Government to ensure that we enjoy synergy. As it is, we have dropped the court case.