Leader of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima is worried that despite the fact President Muhammadu Buhari is from the North, his government has not favoured the region.
He told Sunday Sun that unknown to many, the current government is purely a Southwest affair as the region has remained the highest gainer.
The activist in this no-holds-bar interview opened up on why the Southeast may lose the 2023 presidential opportunity, his fears for Nigeria and other critical issues. Excerpt:
You are a known critic of the President Mohammadu Buhari government in his first tenure. Have you changed your stance in your assessment of his leadership of the country in this his second coming?
The truth is that Nigeria is retrogressing each passing day. I cannot point at anything that has been done that you can say is an improvement or done in the best interest of the masses. I cannot remember anything better from them against what we had in the past.
Are you saying you have not witnessed any improvement in the cardinal objective of this government, like in the areas of security, corruption fight, economy and boast in agriculture, among others?
Are you saying that the security challenge has improved? It is getting worse, maybe because you are not a victim yet or your family is yet to have a taste of it. Look forget the propaganda they are feeding Nigerians with, security challenge is getting worse, and that is why I said I cannot remember anything better that has been done. Is the economy better? I am asking you may be it is well with you. The economy is not improving, it is worse than what we had before if you ask me. Have they been able to stop inflation? The government may be saying they are out of economic depression, but Nigerians, the people are suffering and that is the reality if the truth must be told. Nigerians are hungry and angry and if you think I am just talking, you can go to any public place where people are gathered and proclaim that things are better now. You may not be lucky to relay your story alive. We are in for a hard time and it is ever-increasing and getting harsher. The economic policy of this government is not clearly defined. People are hungry all over the land, if I may repeat that again. There is poverty all over the land. Are we talking about corruption fight, which is a major agenda of this government? Are they truly fighting corruption? What you see is a selected fight. There are still a lot of untouchables parading their loot who are receiving protection. What we get is selected probe here and there and nothing much comes out of it unless you are the target. If you are in their good books you are exonerated, but if you are in their bad book no matter what you do you must go in for it. Is that how to fight corruption? No.
How did you see the elections that were recently conducted in Bayelsa and Kogi states?
It has never happened in the history of this country where you have daylight robbery in the name of election, using state instrumentality against innocent Nigerians, against their wish. What we had is a charade because the votes no longer count. Look at how they disenfranchised the voters, using state machinery to coerce them, intimidate them and subject them to all sorts of inhuman treatment in the name of conducting an election. It was a show of shame. My worry is that it is not just about what happened in Kogi and Bayelsa, but I am worried about 2023 if there will be an election with this type of outcome without passing the reformed electoral law. We will have a serious problem if we don’t pass electoral law and we go into another round of election this way.
But do you think that we are mature for e-voting experience?
Of course, we are if we can pass the electoral law because there are procedures that are contained in it recommended by the Uwais Commission. If we can work with that document I am sure we will overcome some of our electoral problems. It is not that there is any part of the world that elections are 100 per cent perfect, but in the case of Nigeria, it is just broad day robbery by the power of incumbency that we are witnessing not election again. Election has become a war in Nigeria. Our institutions are being destroyed on a daily basis.
What is your take on the anti-social media bill on the floor of the National Assembly?
The bill is dead on arrival. Let’s first make a law that anybody found stealing taxpayers’ money should be hanged as it is done in China; then we know that they are serious. It is not when you amass the people’s wealth, loot the treasury, deliberately design poverty programmes for them, ignorantly or deliberately, then you come again to say they should not speak out. I think Nigeria has gone beyond that. And if they push the bill further you will witness what Nigerians are made of because you have already pushed them to the wall. Look let me be sincere with you from all indications what I am seeing now on ground I have a lot of fears and have had sleepless nights over and over because I foresee a big trouble ahead of us and if adequate measures are not taken, probably, we will wake up one day and Nigeria will no longer be there. The indices of disunity have shown clearly, we are more separated, more divided than we were before 2015, there is suspicion everywhere and the government is not helping matters. You cannot continue to intimidate people; we are not in a country where there is no government. Nigeria should not be operating as a banana republic, you cannot continue to coerce people and force them by intimidating and harassing them, using state instrument against them…one day they will revolt although one is not praying for that; you can’t continue doing that. People are so civilized that the best method to adopt is open negotiation, talk with them, let them know that what you are doing is in their best interest and wait for their feedback, put up programmes that they will key into. You cannot run the country as if you are ruling an animal kingdom and you tell them what you want and everything that you want nobody can oppose it, nobody can challenge or talk to you…it is not right.