The president of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima, has described the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as a disappointment and revealed that the north plans to present a more competent candidate who will contest for president in 2023.
What is your assessment of the recently concluded elections in Nigeria?
We had an election and the expectations were high but it is very unfortunate that it is not what we expected and I am sure that Nigerians were disappointed. We thought that the All Progressives Congress (APC) will conduct a more credible election than what we had in the past, but what we saw was an election where security agencies were used against innocent Nigerians. The election was a battle between the voters and the military that were deployed to aid the ruling party. If you ask me if there was an election, I would say there was an attempt to conduct an election but we cannot certainly call what we just had an election.
But some international and local observers who monitored the elections said it was free and fair…
I am glad that you said some observers and not all. The international observers have their own modus operandi and you do not expect them to start crying for you. If there is an issue and they see it, they would not be in a hurry to make any judgment. Again, when they notice that Nigerians are very docile and no one is raising any fundamental issues, they will remain mute. On the part of the local observers, it is very easy for anyone to compromise them, which has more or less become a tradition in the country. What was the national mood of the country after the presidential election? Was there any celebration? No. Were majority of people happy about the outcome? Certainly the answer is no. So it means that something fundamentally went wrong.
The vote margin between the APC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the North during the presidential election seem to be incomparable with what happened during the governorship polls, which led people to allege that figures were cooked. Do you believe that allegation?
Of course I believe that figures were written and that is why you can see that the voting pattern changed during the governorship elections, which took place two weeks after the presidential election. As we speak, there is confusion in the North especially in states where there was no reason to call for inconclusive elections. In Kano, Adamawa, Benue and Sokoto for instance, there were inconclusive elections which clearly showed that the outcome of the presidential elections was not what people expected. It is very obvious that the electoral commission worked to ensure that the ruling party returned to power. The 2019 elections is the worst election that has been conducted for as long as I can remember. A clear indication of this anomaly is that the states where the PDP won elections in the North were declared inconclusive and where APC won with a small margin and was supposed to be declared inconclusive was not so.
Did you ever foresee any crisis in the North if President Muhammadu Buhari did not win?
Is there peace in the North now? Did you not hear about the uprising going on in Bauchi, Kano where people are protesting because some interests decided to quash the will of the people? It is a clear indication that the result of the election is not the will of the people, but man in his own way, decided that there will not be justice.
People will say that your statement that the election was rigged in favour of Buhari in the North is your personal opinion. Do you have any evidence to back up this claim?
The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar went to court because he also believes that the elections were rigged and he believes that he will get justice. I believe his decision to go to court was the right decision, but it is one thing for him to go to court and it is another thing for justice to be served. What is constant is that he makes a decision with which he will be judged. This is why it is very important that whatever decision that you are going to take, especially when it has to do with national interest, you must ensure that you take the action that will make you be remembered on the positive side of history.
Also, for us we who are Northerners, we had a case where in 2015 we had to chose between a Southern Christian and a Northern Muslim who is Fulani, yet the difference in their votes was about two million. Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s stronghold was the South-South and South East at that time because the North was totally against him. In the South-West, Jonathan got the required 25 per cent in each state. This time, we had to choose between two Northern Fulani Muslims, yet they are telling us that the difference in their votes is four million. How possible is that? Buhari’s stronghold has always been the North-West while the North-East has been a war zone for a long time. But look at the votes that came out of the North-East in this year’s presidential election even when it was obvious there is war going on there. We expected that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will strictly adhere to its own guidelines by ensuring the use of card readers nationwide. Why did the commission ignore the use of card readers in some states and insisted on the use of card readers in other states? These are all clear indications that there were irregularities and that is why I believe that Atiku did the right thing by going to court. I believe that issues will come up as the trial commences for the world to see and at the end of the day, you would not be able to defend the indefensible.
Your statements seem to indicate that Buhari doesn’t have the total support of the North. Is this not the time that the North should put their differences aside and support this administration?
There can be no peace in the absence of justice and we cannot pretend about it. If the government has integrity, they should demonstrate it. You cannot foist your interest on people and expect to enjoy total support. Buhari’s administration has not really benefited the North because we are yet to see meaningful development. What most Northerners know is that they have a brother who is the president but that has not translated to anything meaningful to those down there. Most of those who are supposed to spearhead the execution of landmark projects in this administration are from the South-West. As far as we are concerned, President Buhari’s administration is a government of the South-West because almost all the goodies were given to them.
What goodies are you referring to?
The South-West has the super minister who is in charge of the three most important ministries –housing, works and power and that is why the minister has focused on constructing roads mainly in the South West. Name one major road that Babatunde Fashola has constructed in the North but you can name many that are in the South-West. Tell me one important ministry that is occupied by a northerner.
But almost all the security chiefs are from the North; the Managing Director of NNPC is from the North and the Minister of Petroleum, who is President Buhari, is also from the North. So why is the North still feeling it is being cheated?
The security chiefs were appointed because of the crisis in the North. As far as we in the North are concerned, this government favours only the South-West and that is why some of us are beginning to have a rethink that probably, after this tenure we would demand for a Northern presidency in 2023.
Are you insinuating that the North will take another shot at the presidency after eight years of President Buhari?
You can be rest assured that it will definitely happen. I am a leader and an opinion shaper in the North and when I tell you that we are considering supporting a Northern presidency in 2023, you better believe it because it is not just my personal opinion. The North has not benefitted anything from Buhari’s presidency because many northern states are still impoverished and under developed. The rate of poverty in the North has become worse than it was in 2015. We cannot beat our chest and say that this government has favoured the North. The first four years of Buhari was a waste and we cannot expect any magic to happen in his second tenure; it is not possible. Already some South-Westerners are raising their heads to claim that it is their turn in 2023 but for us in the north, we would plead with the South to bear with us for another 12 years because we need to feel the impact of governance.
But it would be injustice and lack of fairness to other regions if the North plans to take a shot at the presidency again in 2023 after completing eight years term.
Was justice meted to the North with the level of unemployment and physical infrastructure you cannot find there; with the bad roads and almajiris everywhere and with no serious policy by the government to tackle that? Here you are living comfortably in Lagos, enjoying federal allocations and everything and you expect us to fold our hands and look at you?
But many believe that the North are benefitting from the present government, considering that majority of the appointments were given to northerners?
What kind of appointment are we talking about? Tell me one super appointment that is given to the North now
President Buhari is the Minister of Petroleum…
That is mere pronouncement because Ibe Kachukwu is in-charge of that ministry. He is the one almost doing everything.
Two members of Buhari’s cabinet Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Fashola told the Yoruba to support the president’s re-election so that power can go to the South-West and the APC didn’t dispute it. Why then do you say the North is contemplating another shot in 2023?
Was there any agreement? Is the party a constitution or is party arrangement more superior to the constitution of the country? There is no going back. In 2023, we will ensure that we present a credible Northern son to contest and we will also expect the Southern people to have the understanding on why they should support us.
Is it the number of votes that the North has that is giving it the confidence that it can win the presidential elections in 2023?
The recent election has actually shown it and it has clearly proved it that in terms of numbers and voting population, the North has the highest. In fairness to Nigeria, we are not saying that because of our number, we are going to use it to intimidate them. What we are saying is that they should understand that this administration didn’t perform well in the last four years and we are saying they should please allow us to ensure that we put certain things right in our region, so that at the end of the day, everybody will live comfortably and we would move the country forward.