President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Shettima Yerima, has lambasted Northern leaders for not helping their people to come out from abject poverty ravaging the region.
Yerima said northerners are only good at grabbing power but don’t use it to develop their region.
According to him, while the North is at the top not knowing how to help her people, the southerners enjoy the spoils of office and use it to empower their people, as well as develop their areas.
What can you say about the state of the nation?
It is so sad that Nigeria is undergoing so much crises and challenges, despite our struggles and sacrifices in fighting against dictatorship and enthronement of democracy. We were in the trenches fighting for democracy but unfortunately, opportunists took over the process of governance. Most of them didn’t make any sacrifice, and that is why they don’t feel any pain in the way things are going on in this country.
Those who made the sacrifices were left with nothing, and that is why the over 160 million Nigerians are under captivity.
One would have expected that with the collective efforts of Nigerians to bring about a new ruling party; to ensure that an opposition party took over from a ruling party that was in power for many years, by now Nigerians would have started smiling, experiencing change and breathing fresh air, but it has not been so. The situation seems to be worse than we had imagined.
The Buhari government said it is premised on three things: One to fight corruption, secondly to restructure the economy and thirdly on security. What is your view on this?
There is no fight against corruption; rather what we have is a witch hunt. This is the time people make billions of naira on daily basis from the government and yet pretended to be saints. All of them have skeletons in their cupboards. If you are loyal to the All Progressives Congress (APC), you don’t have problem, but if you don’t share the same sentiments with members of APC, you are in trouble.
There is no fight against corruption, we have even gone back if not worse than where we came out from.
I’m having sleepless night over the way the country is going. The unity of this country is being threatened and corruption is becoming an order of the day. You cannot have people who are lettered and are idle and you expect their minds would be idle – you can see the rate of crime today, kidnaping has gone full circle, armed robbery, violent crimes, insurgency and dubious attitude everywhere both up and down.
Recently, Junaid Mohammed accused President Buhari of running a government based on nepotism, was he being fair to the President?
That is the truth and it is obvious that those he picked or he was advised to pick singlehandedly are not competent. When everybody is shouting about their incompetence, the government appears to be deaf and dumb.
On the issue of nepotism, you can even see that even Ghana is making mockery of us, and cautioning their people not to copy the type of Nigerian leadership; even other African countries are jibing at us in spite of our enormous resources. You see people from one particular place holding this country to ransom; so where is the national interest; does it mean there are no competent people from other parts of the country?
This boils down to the question of unity. For me, we are yet to have a nation, we just have a country. You can see that after 56 years of independence, we are still crawling. We cannot talk of patriotism and nationhood; everybody still talks or thinks of his or her tribe, religion etc.
Mind you, this issue didn’t start with Buhari’s government. It is that he took to a higher level by bringing his relations to come and run the country.
Many people are calling for the restructuring of the country, especially Southerners, while Northerners kick against it. What is your position on this?
I have been an advocate of restructuring. Some of them talking about it are just new, like the former vice president Atiku Abubakar. Some of us have been talking about it since after the NADECO struggle. When we formed PRONACO, we stood for restructuring and fiscal federalism. Some of us have been on it. You cannot run a government that is so strong at the centre, where the whole powers are concentrated in the hands of one person at Abuja. It can’t work that way and we can’t move forward under this arrangement where states are made to be beggars going to Abuja every month for allocations and the local government is nothing to write about. The security is concentrated in the hands of one person. The advanced countries that we claim to be copying from have state police.I don’t know from where we borrowed this style of governance and all that we do. We have to totally decentralize and reduce the power in Abuja and make the states or regions to be very strong. We need to encourage states to harness their resources and pay certain tax to the central government; then the states will develop at their own pace and there would be healthy competition among the states in the various regions, and not for them to rely on one source of income. The governors have been made to be lazy and cannot think of ways of running their states except the funds from Abuja.
What is your view on the killings going on in Southern Kaduna; the people are accusing the government of ethnic cleansing?
I don’t want to share those sentiments because no governor would want to stoke fire in his state by trying to wipe out a group. I don’t think that is an agenda in Kaduna State.
However, there are criminal elements who are perpetrating evil against humanity.
The inability of the government to look at the issue thoroughly and deal with it is the problem, because overtime, since the inception of government, there has been one issue or the other. You have a governor who believes in paper stories and propaganda. This is one side of the problem.
The other side is the inability of the government to look at the issue thoroughly and proffer solution by working out the modality rather than facing the problem. They are going about in the media saying they are working while they are not doing anything.
I don’t agree with the issue of the government having a hand in the killing.
There are criminals as you have in Zamfara State, killing Muslim brothers and now you have some people perpetrating evil under the guise of being Fulani herdsmen killing people. Let us put hands together and see them as criminals unleashing evil against humanity and fight them together and also let the governor wake up and rise to the occasion and search for these people who are behind this evil and bring them to justice. Nobody is above the law; if somebody is sponsoring them, let us know the person.
There is this view that the North has ruled Nigeria for so long and has also held juicy positions for so long, and yet the North is said to be the poorest in all human indices of development. The impression is that the North is very backward compared to the South with many saying that their leaders have not used their position to better the lives of their people. What is your opinion on this?
This is very true. Overtime, history has shown that the northerners are only good in grabbing power and playing politics but at the end, they do not know what they do with the power, and it is the southerners they appointed that are ultimate beneficiaries of the power, as they use it to empower and encourage their people in their regions. Out of 56 years of independence, the North has been in power for about 38 years, while the Yoruba and few others held on to power for that remaining years.
Despite all that you can see the level of poverty in the North, the number of uneducated people, obvious lack of development and the poor infrastructure in the North.
The northerner wants to get power by all means not because he has a programme to benefit his people.
The Northern brothers who have been there didn’t do anything for their people, and that is why the level of poverty is still very high in the North, and the same thing is going on now.
We were thinking that it was an opportunity to empower our people but that is not what we are seeing. All the juicy appointments are given to the South; you see one person from the South West holding three juicy portfolios rolled into one, secondly another person from the South South is given two juicy portfolios rolled into one. I’m talking about former Lagos State governor, Raji Fashola and also former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amechi. Are there no northerners or other Nigerians who could manage those offices?
Almost everything is in the South, while our brother is only at the top. Even at that, they could not allow him to rest, as there is confusion from everywhere to distract him so that he doesn’t know what is happening.
It is only him that is doing the fight against corruption, and corruption is fighting back. With these confusion from everywhere, the tenure may end and there may not be much he achieved.
If he doesn’t make changes and bring people on board to help him, his case may be worse than that of Jonathan. I’m sorry about that.
At the end of the day, we have brothers who want to have power without any blueprint on how to help our people to come out of backwardness. Even as we have a brother who is at the top, our level of poverty in the North has multiplied if not tripled. Criminality in the Northern part of the country has taken a high dimension. Kidnapping which was alien to us has become the order of the day. Armed robbery is another issue, as most people in the North hardly sleep with both eyes closed, but those in the South are sleeping comfortably.
Could it be the issue with Nigerian leadership, remember that when former President Jonathan returned home on May 29, 2015, he said he thought his people would stone him because he didn’t do anything for them, even the road leading to his house wasn’t done
He was able to empower his people who never had anything before. Today, they are well to do. If directly he didn’t do anything to his people, those he empowered can do something for their people. Some of his people who were our contemporaries or our boys are big boys now and doing very well and helping their communities. What happened to our own case?