Alhaji Yerima Shettima is the National President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF). He speaks in this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, on the Muhammadu Buhari administration and the 2019 presidential election, among other issues
Some Nigerians believe that there is no different between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) and as such, there should be a new order in the 2019 general elections. Do you share this belief?
I am of the view that we need a new order come 2019. New people and the youth should be encouraged to come on board. Some of us believe that the expired politicians and failed generation should be shown the way out, so that new people can come on board. Never again, are we going to fold our hands and allow the same old people recycling themselves in public offices to take over power again.
They pretend to be fighting one another, but when it comes to the issue of sharing of the ‘national cake,’ they meet at the top and share resources of the common people, who are the majority.
The few live comfortably and allow the masses to suffer and be in disarray. So, to an extent, I am thinking that rather than looking at the issue of ethnicity or religion as our agenda and problem, we should put the two behind and begin to build capacity and synergy to bring about the Nigeria of our dream.
How do you think the new order will emerge considering that some crop of politicians have continuously recycled themselves in office since independence?
We have come of age and some of us are experienced as a result of several struggles against the military rule. I have being in the trenches and I have a long history of struggle from the military days to the pro-democracy struggle, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) struggle, the Olusegun Obasanjo era, Pro-National Conference (PRONACO) struggle and where we are today.
There are many people like me all over the country. So, the issue of somebody remaining in power and some old politicians recycling themselves in office and holding the country to ransom is not going to be in 2019.
I can assure you that 2019 is going to be a different game and they are going to lose out in the elections. To realise this, we have formed a new movement; moving quietly, mobilising and organising ourselves not minding where we come from or our religious differences.
We are mobilising our own resources and we might not need anybody to fund us in 2019. Some of us have ambitions to contest and we will fund those who want to contest.
As leaders of organisations, who are in touch with the people, we will go down and meet the people and don’t forget that the chunk votes of this country come from the common people, women and downtrodden masses. They are the ones who vote, the elites don’t.
You cannot have your cake yesterday and still expect that you will have it today. Naturally, if they refuse to go, nature will never allow them to excel and this is the challenge some of them are having now.
So, we will never allow vacuum to be there anymore and that is why we are preparing for 2019. There will be a new order and we are going to see a presidential candidate who is in his late 40s or early 50s. Never again will anybody above 60 get our blessing for presidency.
You are talking of a new order but some people believe President Muhammadu Buhari should re-contest in 2019?
I don’t think so. Whoever imagines that President Buhari with his health condition and age will contest in 2019 and still expect him to move this country forward, must be living on figment of imagination.
But some people have started canvassing that he should re-contest in 2019?
I have not heard from him, but people around him are saying indirectly that he should re-contest because they are naturally benefiting from the system. The level of corruption is very high in the society now. The irony is that only few people are looting from the treasury and hiding the money, while the common people are suffering.
But some schools of thought believe that it would be difficult to stop Buhari, especially in the North, where he has massive support?
The North alone cannot produce the president. Nigerians think and believed before the 2015 election that with Buhari everything would be normal. All of us believe in him because he is a man with integrity and who has no tolerance for corruption but governing Nigeria goes beyond integrity.
He should have had a better team to work with, but look at the character of the people he appointed as ministers? Some of them do not share the same ideology with him.
In fact about 90 per cent of them do not believe in him. So, for somebody to just sit down and imagine that it has to be over and o v e r again, then that person must be living in another world entirely.
Do you see the North, especially the youth supporting President Buhari if he re-contests in 2019?
He has no problem but certainly we cannot afford to continue to wait without seeing proper action. Somebody must be in charge. As I speak with you today, who is in charge? By expression, yes, we have a president but practically and in terms of action, we can find anything happening. So, we will go for a new order.
Who is going to be the face of that new order?
It will be too early for me to unveil him, but we are working around the clock. We are making consultations and at the end of the day we will categorically give a pan-Nigeria president.
Somebody who will look at the country as his constituency not minding where people come from and what they think. Whether you are rich or poor; law must take its course and you will be dealt with precisely if you are found wanting. Those are the qualities the leader we are looking up to must have.
Do you believe that the North should still produce the president in 2019?
I still stand by that and the rest of the country has to consider that. I am not somebody who is myopic or believes that we must have the president from the North, but going by the circumstances and the situation we found ourselves and what happened from 2007 to 2015, you will see that Umaru Yar’Adua ruled for only two years and we couldn’t get what we want because Goodluck Jonathan was there for six years.
Ordinarily, if Jonathan had agreed to step down in 2011 and allowed the North to contest, probably we wouldn’t have found ourselves in the problem we are into now that we are so hungry for power to ensure that certain things happen in the North.
Despite the fact that we have a president of Northern extraction, there is a lot of poverty in different parts of the region today. We thought that we would have a government that would look into all these things and radically approach them by coming up with policies that should encourage the Northern governors to an extent to begin to effect policies that will get down to the people, so that people will feel the breath of fresh air.
But, you could see that despite producing the president, this is the worst period we have found ourselves; where the living condition of the people is worse than it was in the previous governments.
Today many people in the North, especially in the far North are living in a sorrowful situation. In 2015, we were hoping that we would have a Northern president but look at the situation we found ourselves today. We could see the level of disunity in relationship between the presidency and the National Assembly.
You can see that the country is not really intact and this is making the masses to be suffering. The present administration has spent almost two years without anything on ground and the third year is for politicking and consultations, while the fourth year is for election. So, you could see that the four years of the North is being wasted and you want us to fold our hands again with the last hope we have.
Certainly we will not. So, we are not going to take chances and come 2019, the North will produce somebody, who would be accepted by not only the North but Nigerians as a whole.
But the North has been in power for many years and the picture that you painted still persists…
That is the mistake we are trying to correct. Buhari would have been the best choice to have done that, but unfortunately, nature would not allow him to do that. But certainly, be assured that we are thinking.
The little time we have now, we will reach out to our brothers across board to please give us this opportunity. They have to look at our sorrowful condition. What Sanusi Lamido said is not an issue to be debated.
If there is problem in Nigeria and the country collapses, honestly we are going to suffer more because one of the terrible things is that our elites and leaders in the North don’t want the younger ones to grow and be relevant.
Are you saying Northern elites and leaders have failed the younger generation?
They have failed, so never again will anyone of us fold his or her arms and hand over our destiny to people, who will not want us to move forward. If they refuse to voluntarily resign, we will force them to retire in 2019 through the ballot.