National President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima has said the North will not vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in the coming general elections as his administration has not benefitted people of the region. In this interview with WILLY EYA and TUNDE THOMAS, he poke on various issues.
With less than 30 days to the general elections, what do you make of the preparations of the political parties especially the two major ones–All Progressives Congress (APC ) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
You can see that the PDP has demonstrated some level of seriousness and determination unlike the APC which 90 per cent of its hope rests on their plan to rig and manipulate the election. From all indications, body language, action and inactions, there is a clear proof that there is an attempt to rig the process before the main election. So, it is left for Nigerians to decide whether they want to continue their lives like this under the APC administration or they want a real change in their lives. We should all forget about this life of pretence. It is either Nigerians decide they want a proper change on how to move the country forward or continue like this. As you can see, the country is dead completely. We either move forward or remain where we are so that at the end, the country would collapse on our hands. At that stage, we cannot hold anybody responsible but to blame ourselves. With this election, we have another opportunity to do it right.
If the government in power is determined to rig the election, do you think there is much the people can do?
We have done it in the past during the dark days of the military regimes. The only worry I have is that the progressives are no longer united the way they used to be in the past. It is unlike the dark days when we were all out to clamour for democracy. Many of us were part and parcel of that struggle. We had a common rallying point with many of our other senior colleagues in the persons of late Pa Anthony Enahoro, Prof Wole Soyinka, late Beko Ransom Kuti, late Gani Fawehinmi and so on. Some of them are not alive today but as young men that time, we worked with them to have the democracy that all of us are enjoying today. But unfortunately, when the military left power and went back to the barracks, we did not know that people who do not have the interest of the public at heart have taken over the leadership of the country. That is why we are suffering today. In this coming election, we will ensure that we mobilise the people to prevent the manipulation of the electoral process. We will achieve that with the support of the international community and with God on our side. The God we worship does not sleep and he watches over the state of affairs in the country. God will not allow His people to continue to die in the hands of those who do not mean well for the country.
You have continued to harp on the alleged plans to rig the coming poll but President Buhari has said for the umpteenth time that one legacy he would like to bequeath to the country is a free and fair election. Don’t you trust him?
We have not seen him demonstrate that willingness to bequeath that legacy to the country. We saw the case of Ekiti where all manner of promises were made to Nigerians and all sorts of things happened in that election. The election, despite the promise of making it free and fair was rigged massively. In the case of Osun, people came out enmasse and voted who they wanted but it was obvious that the APC was desperate to rig the election and they did just that. They overwhelmed the whole state with over 40,000 police officers but when Zamfara is burning, there are not enough police officers and other security agencies to contain the situation. Borno is burning; Katsina is burning and just the other day, former Chief Justice of the federation was attacked at a gunpoint but unfortunately they could not succeed in adopting him. In many parts of the country today, the menace of crime, insurgency, kidnapping and all sorts of crimes is so high that nobody is sure of sleeping and waking up the next day. With this kind of situation, I am sure Nigerians are sick and tired of promises that will never be fulfilled. From the beginning of this government, there is no time they made a promise and fulfilled it. Let us not as Nigerians continue to remain as cowards who cannot take their destinies in their hands. We should not leave power in the hands of those who do not see leadership as a call to serve but furthering their own interests. These are people who are hell bent on bringing anybody who has a contrary view down. Some of us are just living by the grace of God and we can never tell what could happen tomorrow. You cannot run a democracy where you cannot accommodate the views of the opposition. You cannot run a democracy where people who have contributed nothing to the country will just come from nowhere, take over power and make others look stupid. In the international community, things happen every day that do not portray us in a good light.
Even though some could claim that President Buhari’s popularity has waned among the people but many insist that the North is still solidly behind him. Do you think that Atiku has a chance against Buhari in the North?
You cannot stay in the Southern part of the country and tell me what is happening in the North. You saw the campaign of the PDP in Katsina State. You saw the crowd there; it has never happened before in the history of campaigns in the country. You are also a witness to what is happening in Kano and you could see the massive turnout there for the PDP in every local government in the state. Are you saying that these people are a rented crowd? That is in North West. There is no doubt that the issue of insecurity that marred the former President Jonathan’s government is worse in this administration that governors on their own open up to say look, we are helpless. The state of the president himself and Borno State are under siege. The governor of Borno State who has been pretending and hiding a lot of things recently opened up and broke down in tears over the level of insecurity in the state. He was at the presidency begging for help. So, what are we talking about? Is it the North Central, North East or the North West? You assume that people have not learnt their lessons. Northerners are not fools. People have come of age. There is a lot of consciousness and education in Nigeria today. So many people are well informed now and that is why you see people moving to the different parties that they believe in. What is happening under this government cannot continue and Nigeria must remain one and united. Under this government, we are more divided than we were in the past. We must ensure that we come together and work for the benefit of all Nigerians. The country is greater than any individual.
What is your position to the lukewarm attitude of some PDP governors to the Atiku candidature?
It is unfortunate that it appears some of them are lukewarm and do not see the Atiku candidature as a fight that must be done collectively. Some of them, their selfish interests have beclouded their sense of judgement but some of us are interested in how to get out of the quagmire that we have found ourselves in. If you are a governor, Senator or occupying any position, you can only be that when there is peace in the country. Some of the politicians do not put into consideration that the country’s unity is being threatened. At this point, we need a leader that would be a rallying point in the country. We should not support somebody who sees only a person from Daura as first class citizen. It is the kind of situation we have in this administration but people have come of age and they are determined to take their destinies in their hands. Do you know that the North suffers more than any region in this country today? Even though we have Buhari who is Hausa/Fulani from our region today, the crime rate there is higher and the level of poverty is the highest; insecurity, unemployment among others are higher in the North. The worst case is even the educational sector in the North compared to other parts of the country. That is why we want to rally round a symbol and somebody we believe have the capacity to move Nigeria forward.
What is your reaction to the declaration by the Secretary- General, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani that kidnappings, killings, and hardship are not enough reasons to vote out President Muhammadu Buhari or deny him a second term in 2019?
It is an unfortunate and reckless statement. I hold Mr. Sani in high regard, and high esteem, but it is very sad and laughable that such a statement can come from him. How can any reasonable and right thinking Nigerian say with the present state of insecurity, killings, banditry, and hardship all over the place that Buhari, and APC deserve a second term?
Buhari has shown that he is grossly incapable of leading Nigeria. His leadership of Nigeria in the last three and half years has been a diasaster. Anybody wishing that Buhari should get a second term wants Nigeria to collapse. Buhari is no longer in control, and I believe he has run out of ideas, and that is why hardship, insecurity, and killings have continued under his watch unabated. Nigeria is in big trouble if Buhari comes back in 2019.
It is a pity that people like Sani and others like him will be saying that there is no cause for alarm, and that Buhari is not faring badly because Sani and others can sleep in their homes with their two eyes closed. If Sani and others supporting Buhari and giving him a pat on the back want to have a feel of how bad the situation is in Nigeria today, they should go to Maiduguri, Madagali, Baga, Adamawa, Zamfara or any other part of the country where Boko Haram insurgents and armed bandits are operating. They should try to sleep there for a day or two. Not only that, they should also travel on the dangerous Birin –Gwari road in Kaduna where armed bandits have taken over, and are kidnapping and killing innocent Nigerians. It is not that I hate Buhari or APC but the bitter truth is that when compared with the former President Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari is a big flop. His administration is a disaster. For anybody that loves democracy , and wants it to thrive in Nigeria, Buhari, and APC should be voted out. They are both a big let down. Buhari came to office on the mantra of change but rather than effecting positive changes, his administration has been deceitful. Nigerians need to change this so called-changer, and his party APC. For Mr. Anthony Sani,I think he should do a deeper reflection on Buhari’s administration. If he should do so, he will realise that Buhari’s government has become a big burden on Nigeria’s democracy. I even doubt whether Sani’s remarks represent the collective views of all ACF members but surely his views is not reflective of the views of the North as a political block. Sani is on his own. For me, Buhari should not stay in power beyond 2019 except he wins in a free and fair election.
The ACF scribe further stated that the recent rating of Nigeria as the third world most terrorized nation should not worry Nigerians but that what Nigerians should worry about is the level of efforts being made by the Federal government to tame terrorism; what’s your take on that?
So Nigerians should not yet worry. So Nigerians should not worry until insurgents run over the country. So, Nigerians should not worry until kidnappers, bandits and armed-robbers overrun the country. Is that what Sani is advocating?Then talking about response or efforts being made to confront these challenges, has Buhari’s government taken any action to confront these challenges? The answer is capital NO, and this is why the security situation is getting worse across the country. The simple truth is that Buhari has been overwhelmed by these challenges. He has run out of ideas. He should go. For us the youths in the North we are mobilsing against Buhari’s second coming. What we are doing again is that we are reaching out to other youths across the country, because the feelers we are getting is that there is a ground swelling of youths across the country who are opposed to a second term for Buhari, and what we are doing now is that we are forming a Coalition of Youth Ethnic nationalities across Nigeria, and through this forum, we will mobilise against Buhari’s second coming. How can anybody justify second term for Buhari when Nigerians are being killed like fowls? Human lives are supposed to be sacred but today under Buhari’s watch, human lives are no longer sacred. Innocent souls are being wasted daily.
The issue of who to support between President Buhari, and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has polarized the North, with the ACF backing Buhari, and NEF led by Prof. Ango Abdullahi supporting Atiku, how do you see this development?
It is the Federal Government that is responsible for this polarization. The Federal Government is sponsoring different groups to create the idea of division. They are the ones sponsoring dissident groups. I won’t be surprised that after this interview is published that somebody or group will not come out to say that I’m not speaking on their behalf or representing their interests.
Prof. Ango Abdullahi is a man of honour. I respect him a lot. However, it is unfortunate that the Federal Government is now against him because he is saying the truth to the Federal Government. Before Buhari was elected into office in 2015, Abdullahi was one those that campaigned for him, especially during the Jonathan’s era. But when Abdullahi discovered that Buhari was not living up to expectation, he then decided to be saying the truth. But in saying the truth, Ango Abdullahi became Buhari’s enemy. Buhari’s supporters started attacking him, forgetting that this is a man who was once Buhari’s chief campaigner. But I urge Abdullahi to remain steadfast by continuing to say the truth no matter whose ox is gored. He should not succumb to any blackmail by Buhari’s government. Ango Abdullahi is a man of integrity, and he and NEF have the right to support any candidate of their choice.
What Ango Abdullahi is going through now is similar to what is happening to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
What is happening to Obasanjo?
Obasanjo was one of the ardent supporters of Buhari when Buhari was campaigning to be elected as President of Nigeria. Obasanjo urged Nigerians to support Buhari because by that time, many eminent people including ordinary Nigerians were complaining against former President Goodluck Jonathan who was being accused of being incompetent to tackle corruption, and insecurity bedeviling his government then. Many Nigerians including Obasanjo, and Ango Abdullahi thought Buhari would be a better alternative. There was so much expectation from Buhari. Everybody thought he would perform but surprisingly, reverse has been the case. Buhari has proved to be a big disappointment. He has not lived up to expectation, and that is why people like Obasanjo, Ango Abdullahi who were his initial supporters decided to start speaking out the truth.
Even before Obasanjo started speaking out against Buhari, he met with him in private on several occasions to let him know that he is not performing. He even gave Buhari advice on how to move the nation forward by doing the needful but Obasanjo’s advice was ignored by Buhari and his advisers. Instead of being grateful to Obasanjo for being a genuine patriot by advising him, Buhari and his supporters started attacking the man. I’m saying all these as an insider who was privy to what really transpired between Obasanjo, and Buhari.I had several meetings with Obasanjo where he revealed some of these things to me and my group.
On some of the occasions when we met, Obasanjo analysed to us how Buhari has failed, and he was very convincing in his argument. It is very sad that Buhari’s supporters and his aides have been abusing Obasanjo rather than appreciating him for giving Buhari the right advice. Obasanjo is a patriot who believes in one Nigeria. By advising Buhari on how to succeed that mean he doesn’t want Buhari to fail but his good intention is not being appreciated.