By Daniel Kanu
The National President, Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima, over the years has grown to establish himself as a voice that can no longer be ignored given his bold views on issues no matter whose ox is gored.
In this encounter with Sunday Sun, he frankly barred his mind on critical national issues, including the 2023 presidency and why the North must retain power, removal of Emir Sanusi 11, amnesty for Boko Haram, security challenge and calls for sack of Service Chiefs as well as the real reason the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu must be ignored. Excerpts:
What is your take on the recent drama that took place in Kano, the removal of Emir Sanusi 11?
I am worried about the tradition that has been undermined. And it has become more political. This is a tradition that has been there for thousands of years, but simply because somebody somewhere is not comfortable with somebody so they go to any length to take the person out. I am not bothered about individuals, but about the institution. You cannot bastardise, politicize an institution that has been there and respected for years. So, you should not think that people within the Northern region will be happy. What is happening is not right, we are brothers and we are worried about the ugly development and this must not be encouraged.
It is no longer rumour that Nigeria has overtaken South Africa as the biggest economy in Africa. What does the news mean to you?
We may be quoting figures, but in reality or practically, there is no known positive effect noticed from it. Has the lives of an average Nigerian been impacted positively in any way? As far as I am concerned maybe it is the elite it is meant to benefit because I am yet to notice any impact and I have not met any friend or the youths that I lead saying that things are better now because we are now the number one in Africa. I expect that the figures being bandied around should reflect on the lives of the average Nigerian, but as I speak nothing yet unless it may be favouring those at the helms of affairs. If the public is not seeing any impact it means it has been defeated, and the purpose does not mean anything if it does not improve the quality of the lives of average Nigerians. The Nigerian populace must-see or enjoy the positive impact of the GDP growth if not what they are saying maybe existing in theory, but Nigerians want to experience it practically. People are dying on a daily basis so I expect the growth in the economy as they are telling us to address the issues of hunger, disease, quality education, insecurity, etc. We cannot be parading ourselves as the biggest economy when hunger is ravaging us when people are losing their jobs and industries shutting down. We have hunger here, starvation, hardship and these are even killing people more than the Coronavirus epidemic. The crime rate is getting higher, even the suicide rate is increasing by the day because a lot of Nigerians seem to be frustrated. There is no indication yet that we are the biggest economy until we begin to have a positive feeling. I choose not to be part of those lies. It must be a report that must positively reflect on the people’s lives and for now no positive impact yet and that should not be so. The government must leave the level of theory to that of practical reality where the people themselves will say; of a truth, life is better now because of how positive their lives are touched.
There is this issue of the Federal Government considering granting amnesty to Boko Haram insurgents. What is your take on it?
Is it that they want to do what late President Yar’Adua did to the Niger Delta people?
Maybe something like that?
We cannot continue to encourage people who will take arms, threaten the national unity, threaten the country and kill people on a daily basis and all you could do rather than looking and punishing such atrocities, rather than how to help the direct victims they tortured or destroyed, then you are compensating those who committed the crime. I don’t think we will be making any progress with such projects. We cannot continue to encourage such bandits. And if I may ask, in the case of the Niger Delta has it yielded the desired result? No, it has not, so do you think this one will be positive? People just sit down because they want to make money out of other people and they will begin to create unnecessary avenues, conduit pipes to exploit. This is not right. We cannot build the country this way. In a nutshell what we need do is to ensure that those gallant soldiers that were sacrificed in battle, those martyrs, their families, their welfares must be adequately taken care of. There are also the direct victims, the wives, their children who are also left in the IDP camps must be relocated, government must ensure they provide for them to go back to their various places to begin to live their normal lives. Those that are found wanting must be dealt with; the law must take its full course on them. Those that have suffered must be compensated, so one expects the government to do something urgently. The army must be encouraged, the package they need must be provided as soon as possible so as to raise their morale because as I speak their morale is low. I know some of them and I know the ugly story out there in terms of the mess in their welfare. Give the necessary firearms that will provide the deadly efficiency they need.
How would you react to recent elections and court involvement? Do you see it as a loss of confidence in the electoral body, INEC?
In the first place do we have an Independent body call INEC? How independent is INEC? So you should expect abnormality addressing abnormality. You know the courts do their own thing. I am sorry to say that in most instances justice is now to the highest bidder. Granted we have few good legal luminaries, honest jurists, but there are bad eggs too who have become traders in the hallowed chamber of justice. So, it is normal business now for some judges and one is not expecting anything good. People who go to court now try to find their way because they know that the system now favours the highest bidder. Gone were the days when people will beat their chest and say the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. The INEC on their part compromises the election also to favour the highest bidder too. The security agencies are not left out; they have their own way of doing it. So, when you take your matter to the court you have to prevail because you know what is involved. That is why there is confusion everywhere in the land. To an extent you can’t trust the judiciary, neither can you have confidence in INEC and for the security operatives during the election it is either they side the ruling party in that state or they flow with the highest bidder. It is that bad and we all know this. I think there is the need to look again at our electoral laws and see how we can strengthen it and ensure that INEC is truly independent unlike what obtains today where the piper detects the tune. We also need to strengthen our judiciary, they have also been blackmailed to an extent, but to an extent, they have become different from what we used to know. As I said in the time past it used to be the hope of the common man, but today it is the hope of the highest bidder and that is a sad commentary.
Let’s look at the security challenge and the government’s promise that they are on top of the situation?
Do you sleep with your eyes close now? Okay, you may be sleeping with your eyes closed because you are in Lagos, in the South anyway. But even at that do you sleep comfortably? Those of you in Lagos are living in paradise; I will invite you to come to the North. You just come and stay for one week, I am sure if you don’t have a heart attack you will begin to have one here, you will begin to have high blood pressure because the insecurity in the Northern part of the country is one that you cannot even imagine. One thing is that there is no way we can exonerate ourselves from the fact that it has gone beyond all reasonable thinking. On the daily records, you mark casualties in hundreds dying in the hands of banditry, insurgency, etc. But having said that we will keep the blame on government because the government has not done enough. We are worried that the security agencies inasmuch as we look at them as those who are saddled with that responsibility, it has gone beyond them because a case where a security agency will apply and ask for certain things that will help them boost their morale and confidence in the battle, they apply for something that they need to do the job and at the end of the day when the proposal is taken to their seniors, at the level of executive, it goes through certain ministries and also through the National Assembly and after all that you deny them of what they need to do the job. You ignore the overall interest of the country and you don’t give them what you are supposed to give them. Not that the money was not released, but because certain interests are accommodated and at the end of the day you give those soldiers peanuts that will make them angry and discouraged from giving off their best. Let me give an instance, where you are let’s say supposed to give them N2,000 but you end up giving them N300 or even less and you expect them to perform magic? That is exactly what is going on. Some of us are not aware of the reality of what the soldiers at the battlefield are going through. The armed forces are not trained to raise alarm and begin to talk about their mess, but some of us are privy to know that this is what is going on. Nigerians are not aware of what those in the battle line are passing through. This cannot continue, this is corruption.
Some Nigerians want the Service Chiefs sacked. What do you think?
Even if you sack them, it is not enough to give you the answer or solution that you want. I am one of those advocates that said, sack them, but then I realised that it was not the solution. Even if you sack them you will end up going back to the drawing board because there is still going to be business as usual, it’s a network, a clientele and they are there at different levels, those people are human beings like you and I, they are not angels, they are not spirits from another world, they live with us, so we must identify and flush them out. Whoever you are bringing will give you the same result because you cannot do the same thing the same way and you expect a different result, it’s not done. It is not about putting all the blames on the Service Chiefs, but it is about the realities on the ground where some people are taking advantage of others to enrich themselves to the detriment of Nigerians. Do you give those gallant boys on the battlefield exactly what they asked for? Why will anybody deny them their benefits as well as all that they need to sustain the fire force that will send their attacker scampering for safety? You will tell the world that they asked for so and so, but when you want to give them anything due to them you will no longer come in the open to tell us what you gave to them. That will enable us to know who is cheating or deceiving who. You cannot give them peanuts and expect them to perform. How can they perform when you are discouraging them?
Most voices from the North still insist that power must remain in the North. Are you part of this voice?
Are we practicing democracy? Every interest counts. We don’t have a problem with anybody, persons or groups strategizing for power, but for anybody to assume or thinks that the North will just sit down and decide to hand over power to anybody is not possible. The person must be joking. We need that power more than even the South now. So, for us, we will bring our first eleven that Nigerians will like and put them forward. If the South wants to bring their own let them come forward, but the idea of any arrangement as concerns rotation has been jettisoned since 2011. The North will retain power, yes we will retain power. I don’t want to sound immodest, but that is the truth. Anybody thinking that the North will surrender power in 2023 is a dreamer.
The Southeast is making a strong case…?
(Cuts in) Let the Southeast first silence that their lousy son that runs his mouth so wide as if Nigeria belongs to him.
Which of their sons are you referring to?
I mean Nnamdi Kanu. They must silence him first, put his utterances under control and build the right bridges. You don’t get the presidency of Nigeria by threatening anybody or group. He is making noise everywhere threatening the unity of this country. We have come a long way that threat doesn’t work, it has become old fashioned. It was done in the past and people succeeded with it, but not anymore. He (Nnamdi Kanu) and his group are busy abusing the sensibilities of the country, insulting people. I call their group Biafraud. There may be genuine people agitating for a sovereign state of Biafra, but they are not irresponsible as he is behaving. We have known MASSOB that has been there for quite some time. At some point, we discussed the issue of national interest together with other ethnic groups and we said not because we believe in what they are thinking, but for peace to reign let us in the interim discuss the issue and marshal out a way forward, so that we can stay peacefully before maybe if at the end of the day the government will decide that the National Assembly should find a way to amend the constitution and create a room for a referendum, maybe with time, that will come in future, but as it is today, nobody wants to hear that. Let us discuss the issue pending when that time comes. But on this one that you have the so-called Biafraud championed by Kanu, a lousy man that talks anyhow. Sometimes I just can’t believe that people even listen to that character and I get worried when I see journalists even making a story out of what he is saying, like one that wakes up from the hangover of a drug, talking without caution.
But America is giving him attention?
I don’t know about America giving him attention because it is not official. There are crooks within the Americans who will always want to give anybody a listening ear. Those people are not in a position of power anywhere, most of them are jobless people and when you sit down with them you say you are talking with the American government. Let the American government come in the open and tell us that they are still talking with IPOB. Tell me one person, at least, a Mayor in America who has sat and discussed with Nnamdi Kanu? No one. You just see those jobless people who are wearing black suit, they will just sit down and snap pictures, then he will do his normal lie and send the pictures to appear as if something serious is happening. He only discusses with fraudsters, 419ers like him and he says he is talking to America, which America? Which councilor in America has discussed with him, not even a mayor. Let us stop fooling ourselves. Let America make it official that they are listening to him and that they are talking. Do you think Americans are foolish? They are wiser than you and I if you don’t know.
There is this argument that although the North has been holding power for quite some time longer than other groups, they have been instrumental in impoverishing the region. Are you not worried about this irony?
I don’t know what you mean that the North has been holding power more than other groups. Are you talking from when?
If you calculate from Independence to date, it is obvious the North has handled the clutches of political power as the president more…?
(Cuts in) I am worried about the situation the North finds itself today, but I am more concerned from 1999 to date. Those ones by fiat, I don’t consider it as part of the arrangement and that is why when people say the North has held power for long more than others, I say let us talk from 1999 to date, the democracy period. This is the only time that we have a democracy that lasted, so let us look from 1999 when we had President Obasanjo for eight years, we had President Jonathan for six years, President Yar’Adua for just one year and few months and with the coming of Buhari even after eight years of Buhari regime, the years used by the South is longer in number. Even the Buhari government we have seen it all, it favours only the South, specifically the Southwest, this government is for them. The mercy of the country is in their hands, they will go at the back and strategize, and they will put our brother in the front and arrange everything to their favour. They think we are fools?
But even one of the governors from the North, Nasir el-Rufai was reported as saying that he wants the power to shift to the Southeast?
I can’t remember if he specifically made mention of any side of the South, but I remember him talking about it moving to the South. Of course, you know that the man has lost the sympathy of the center, he has lost the goodwill so, naturally, you will expect him to be looking for where to fall in as plan B. so it’s natural, man must survive. That is the game, but it is not in the collective interest of the North. The collective interest of the North is that the average northerner believes that we will ensure, we will mobilise towards 2023. We must negotiate, we must lobby to retain power, we can’t afford to lose power, the only thing we have at hand. With all the insecurity that we have in the North, poverty, unemployment, lack of direction and vision by this present administration you still want the North to lose power? It is not possible.
But many people still believe that most of the sensitive positions are being occupied by the North, for instance, almost all the Service Chiefs are from the North?
In which way does the Service Chief office influence the economy? Of what good is all the Service Chiefs that the North has? Does it in anyway impact on us economically? Some people will say the North has the Minister of Finance. Does the Minister of Finance have the power to just take money? The finance minister is only there when a proposal comes for ministries, all you do is to approve and they approve the money to favour some people, but does it favour us? Has it favoured the North? Can you compare the minister of finance to the governor of CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) in terms of what they can influence? You have the Minister of Works and Housing, all in the favour of the South, you have a Minister of Transport, petroleum, tell me which another ministry of such capacity the North is manning? The South is milking the entire nation, we are watching. You have taken all juicy positions to be handled by the South and you still want to take away the presidency from the North, that will be unfair.