Arewa Youth Consultative Forum president, Yerima Shettima, is a vibrant politician who speaks his mind no matter whose ox is gored.
In this interview with News Editor, Ishaya Ibrahim, he denies the allegation that the ruling northern elite may be fueling Nigeria’s insecurity to further its own agenda.
And told that the campaign posters of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, are flooding the North, he thundered, “We will not queue behind any old generation politician anymore, it won’t work.”
You are aware that the level of insecurity in Nigeria is getting worse by the day. How did we get here?
Lack of political will by our political leaders is the genesis of where we are today. We are at the point of no return because it is either we take our destiny into our hands and ensure that we fight against this monster that has become a threat to humanity or all of us will be consumed.
When you say monster, are you referring to the bandits or politicians?
The bandits are the monsters. The earlier we come out of our shell and collectively fight it, the better for us. Otherwise, all of us will be consumed because as far as I am concerned, they are monsters.
When you say lack of political will, what exactly are you trying to express?
There is no way you can convince me that a state can be overwhelmed or overrun by these characters with the level of the armed forces that we have, unless if there is internal sabotage. And if there is sabotage within the security agencies … if the government gives responsibility to people and they are not producing results, the government must be seen to be dealing with them decisively by replacing them immediately and give the best people to do the job.
When you made the reference that internal sabotage could be responsible, are you not trying to indict the commander-in-chief because he is the one who has appointed all the security heads, and if you can read from the happenings that there could be sabotage, he also should be able to see it that way. What do you think?
Probably he is better secure than some of us who are exposed to some of these things. And those of us who on daily basis, get information from our family members at some point, our friends and relatives who become victims of some of these monsters. Probably some of us are feeling the heat more than him. However, I do not in any way think that he is part of it. I’m saying that those he gave responsibility to handle the situation are not doing what is expected of them. So, what is wrong in changing them and bringing in the best?
How do we get out of where we are now, what are the concrete solutions?
I have answered you. I have told you, political will.
Political will is vague.
If you give somebody a job to do and he is not doing what is expected, as somebody who is to supervise him, you drop him and get somebody else.
But we did that with the military?
We can do those 100 times.
Do you think that the changes should just be with the security architecture alone? What about making changes in the structure of our politics, allowing states to be responsible for their policing
I have always been an advocate of state police or community police or whichever way you call it because we cannot put everything at the centre. We need a situation where the centre will be less attractive, decentralize so that everybody will key into it. And to do that, it means you need community policing. Those are the people closer to the community, and at the same time, they can complement the effort of the security agencies. There is nothing wrong in that. It is done in every other jurisdiction. Ours cannot be different.
I remember the UAE has been releasing names of people who have been aiding and abetting Boko Haram. But we have not seen a reciprocal action from the federal government. Are you not worried?
May be because they are not prepared. I hope they should be prepared and look into the matter because issues that involve terrorism is not a joke and I expect them to act, and they should act now.
As a leader of a northern group, have you put pressure on the government to name the sponsors?
We have said it time without number. It is one thing for you to say it, it is another thing for them to listen and do exactly what is expected of them.
Some other people have suggested that may be because a president from the north is at the helm of affairs that is why we are having what we are having. That in 2023, if the South is given the chance to rule, perhaps things can get better.
When Jonathan was there, we still had the same problem. Issue of insecurity the government inherited it, not because I am a spokesman or hold brief for the government. I am also saying that at this point, there is no need for any accusing finger on anybody. All hands must be on deck. The people who are in government or out of government must all come together to save the country because you can only govern a country when it exists. The unity of this country has been threatened. These crimes everywhere are a threat to our national unity. If we don’t take measures to save the country, nobody will govern anybody.
We have seen several media reports, for instance, the minister of digital economy, Isa Ali Pantami glamourizing the activities of Al-Qaida and the Taliban. Then there is a report that showed Buhari with someone called Yakubu Kafanchan right inside the Aso Rock Villa taking photo. And this Kafanchan man was a suspect in 2005 for trying to set up a terrorist cell in Katsina State. How do you think we can exonerate the government from the allegation that perhaps, they have their own agenda?
I’m not aware of that if there is any. But if there are certain allegations against the government, then the government must buckle up and look through and see what they can do to convince Nigerians that they can still be trusted.
People are thinking that the insecurity is perhaps, a northern agenda.
Who are the victims, is it not the same north?
But collateral damages may be allowed for the bigger goal?
Not to my thinking. And I do not think there is any human being who is normal psychologically that will accept this collateral damage.
But people are worried about the reluctance of President Buhari to designate the bandits as terrorists?
You are repeating the same question you’ve asked me.
But this is what is leading people to the theory that perhaps, the ruling northern class has an agenda with the insecurity?
Well, I don’t know about that. Mine is that the government must find the way to address the issue.
What gives you the hope that things can suddenly normalize?
My hope is that things cannot continue this way. It is either the government acts, or there will be intervention by the almighty. If the government fails to do the right thing, the true commander-in-chief, who is Almighty God, will take charge. I hope they realize this.
Are you worried that the 2023 election may not happen with the rising insecurity in the country?
It will happen. This is not the first time we’ve seen all of this cloud.
I’m not sure we have witnessed anything close to this since after the civil war.
Probably you have not seen it, but I have seen it, during the dark days of the military. I was part of the struggle against those men on Khaki and guns. It appeared as if it won’t work, and we got it right.
But that’s a bit different because soldiers saw pro-democracy activists as the enemy, not those who don’t criticize them. But now we have people who kill and abduct.
Honestly, even as I see things getting darker by the day, I have confidence and still remain optimistic that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Things will turn around for better, God willing.
In the north now, we’ve been seeing posters of Osinbajo and Tinubu for the 2023 elections, what do you make of that.
Anybody printing posters is entitled to that. But we will not queue behind any old generation politician any more, it won’t work. We have vibrant young people who are coming on board. We will look inward and see those who deserve our support and give it to them