Shettima Yerima is the National President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum and presidential candidate of the Young Democratic Party in the 2015 presidential election. In this interview with OLAJIDE OMOJOLOMOJU and ADELEKE ADESANYA, he says the mentality of most governors working with President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress, will hardly allow his administration to succeed. He also bares his mind on other national issues, including the raging crisis in the House of Representatives over the budget padding controversy. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration since assumption of office?
Well, our expectations, our talks have not brought out anything. I refuse to reason along with people who say after 16 years of rot, you don’t expect to see anything on ground now. I remember vividly in 1976, when Murtala Muhammed took over power, you could see that within a period of six months, despite the height of corruption and all the challenges then, he turned things around unexpectedly. Within six months, before he was assassinated, Nigerians felt the impact of what the government did. Though then it was not a democratic government, the time the nation needed them to do it, they did right, because we cannot also say because it was a military government. I have seen other military governments, which ruled for over five six years and performed woefully. They could not do what he was able to do in less than six to seven months. So, I don’t agree with that.
So, what do you think?
In the last 18 months, everybody has been looking up to the President, believing that he can do it. But one thing, which all of us must agree to, is that governance in this country is not just about Buhari alone. It is a team work between the President and other people. If Buhari and the rest of the people in the team are not working with the same mentality, things will definitely not be fine, and that is what we are facing. I am not preempting what will come in the future, but from all indications, people in the government have not done anything to help this regime. Even the fight against corruption, it is only Buhari that we are seeing. You could see the zeal in it but at the end of the day, it is only him that we see; even his party doesn’t help his government, because they don’t look at things from that direction. So many rumours going on, even when they say there is problem, most of them believe there is no problem, even within the party. So you could see where the problem lies. Imagine, with the situation, what can he do? To us as well, we feel we are not going to be praise singers just like others are. It is better for us to constructively look at areas where we can criticise the government to encourage the people piloting its affairs. The time used so far matters a lot in the life of Nigerians, especially when Nigerians are expecting change and there is nothing. Everything has gone higher; inflation is high, the dollar also, you can see devaluation of Naira, you can see the fuel hike, you can see even the tariff issue. When you have a minister who is saying there is no going back before Nigeria will get it right, where will they see the money to pay, and failure to comply automatically means we are going to remain in the dark. Even now as I speak to you, people are paying for darkness.
Do you foresee better days ahead for this administration and country?
In any darkness, there is always going to be light at the end of the tunnel, but when will the light come up? No matter how bad the administration of a country may be, certainly, one day, the story will change. But my worry is that when will that change come? When are we going to begin to feel the impact of this government? Things will be okay certainly one day, but my own imagination is that it may be after my generation, or after the coming generation. But what matters to me is that we should be able to make things right and do our own quota, so that in future, we would be remembered for our impact. If I tell you that from my perspective of things, anything will change for better, it is a pure lie, from the look of things.
For some time now, Nigeria seems to be bedeviled with different security challenges from Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, IPOB warriors and Niger Delta Avengers. What do you think is the way out?
We have a problem at hand where the situation on ground gives room to criminals and others. I have not seen any genuineness about the cause of the Boko Haram in the North. I have not seen any good intention on the part of the Niger Delta militants; I have not seen anything good about these people called IPOB, because this is not the Biafra that I know. The Biafra that I know was led by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike in the last 16 years, and they are not into armed struggle. They are into peace and advocacy. These are the people that I know very well and I know how they go about their agitation. But now we have a group of people who just come out all of a sudden and took up arms against the state. So, I do not see them as genuine but pockets of criminals, who are doing everything possible to ensure they get cheap publicity and at the same time achieve their selfish interest.
“IN THE LAST 18 MONTHS, EVERYBODY HAS BEEN LOOKING UP TO THE PRESIDENT, BELIEVING THAT HE CAN DO IT. BUT ONE THING WHICH ALL OF US MUST AGREE TO IS THAT GOVERNANCE IN THIS COUNTRY IS NOT JUST ABOUT BUHARI ALONE”
You have a situation where a government that was in place has given you certain things and that is where the issue of amnesty came in. Of course, some of us did not share the same idea with him because it is not right. We said come, if you do it, you will continue giving it to everybody, and by the time you realise it, you would have given all the resources of the country to criminals, and they will begin to abuse it. To an average Nigerian, what kind of legacy are you putting in place? Does it mean if you don’t take up arms against the state, you will not be respected? Even if we are to go by that, that means everyone will have to turn to a militant in the country. Everybody will have to turn to an insurgent to get cheap money.
This issue of amnesty was introduced by the then government of the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and it’s causing issues and giving them opportunity to extort the government. Imagine somebody who is not working will just get up and get alert of N65,000 every month in the name of being a former militants. Is that a good thing for the nation? And when we saw the draft and the programme, we knew that something bad was about to happen. The kind of amnesty we told Yar’Adua was not what was implemented later. The idea that we planned with the then president was later changed to a business idea by some people. You cannot give amnesty to people who have not already been convicted. The advice we gave the president then was not what was later implemented and this is the major reason we have the problems we are having in the Niger Delta region today.
And suddenly, we have fully armed criminals, who come on board struggling to collect money. Likewise, look at the issue of Boko Haram. Some people are saying that government should give them amnesty. If we are not cautious, you will realise that almost all the regions would demand amnesty for criminal elements, and these are people who are holding the state to ransom, threatening our national unity. So, by the time you begin to check the national assets, you will realise there is nothing left to fall back on as a country.
On the issue of kidnappers and others, at a time that there are jobless youths, such things are bound to occur. Even the corporate organisations, they are reducing labour because of the challenges the economy is facing. The government, too, is not left out. You can see that they are doing all sort of things to make sure they reduce cost; that is why they are flushing out ghost workers and others. With all these people, you ask them to come out and face the society. Where do you expect them to survive? Definitely, we will face more trouble, and that is what we are facing. I just hope the government has the zeal to look at the situation and device a way out of the current hardship on time.
If you are to advise President Buhari on the way out of the situation on ground, what will you charge him on?
Of course, I will ask him to quickly restructure Nigeria in the sense that there are certain fundamental issues that have gone of place. One, we must begin to look at how to reengineer a new constitution for this country, because, certainly all Nigerians know that there are lapses in our constitution and we all know how we want our system of government to be. For me, we should look at how we go back to the regional system of government; we don’t have to borrow ideas from America. Let us do our own thing in our own way. The way things are over there is not the same here in Nigeria. So, we don’t need to copy them. Let us do things how it will favour us, in our own way. It was done in the past and we saw what happened. For you to remember Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Aminu Kano and others today, it was because they had an atmosphere for them to excel. But why don’t we have people who can do better than these people even as at now that we have resources more than they did in their own days? These people were able to manage their little resources and they did well within their regional settings. So, to me, I am looking in that direction. By the time we do that and start doing our things in our own way, we will get things right in this country.
“I WILL ASK HIM TO QUICKLY RESTRUCTURE NIGERIA IN THE SENSE THAT THERE ARE CERTAIN FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES THAT HAVE GONE OUT OF PLACE. WE MUST BEGIN TO LOOK AT HOW TO REENGINEER A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR THIS COUNTRY”
The House of Representatives is currently boiling over the allegations raised by Hon. Jibrin against House leaders. What is your take on this?
I was not surprised at all. In fact, there is more to the issue. I only feel bad that Jibrin only came up when he was actually out of the game. So, out of frustration now, he is doing everything to pull everybody so that they will all go down together. He doesn’t even care if the entire institution collapses at this point in time. That is just what makes me feel somehow over the case. It is certainly clear that they are in the House strictly for business, where they make so much money. Because if you know how an ordinary House of Representatives member lives extravagantly, their lifestyle and the kind of money they are making, you will know that these people are just there to make money for themselves. There is nothing else they do there. They are just there to waste Nigeria’s money. Let me tell you, these people have realised that there is no other business in this country that pays more than going to the National Assembly, and that is why you see everybody struggling to get to the National Assembly. It won’t surprise you that some of them don’t even know the importance of the positions they hold. They just go there purposely to share the people’s money, and that is why it is difficult for them to come out with anything concrete in favour of the masses that elected them. So, it is unfortunate that we have these calibre of people at the helm of affairs in this country. This present government is not better that the former government that left; they don’t have anything good for the masses.