Why Nigeria must be restructured- Shettima
“Buhari has failed us we would look for alternative in 2019, Shettima
Northern leaders have failed their people
“We support anti corruption fight but it should not be a vendetta.
Yerima Shettima is the National youth president of apex Northern socio-cultural group: Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), and Chairman of Coalition of all Ethnic Nationality leaders in Nigeria. In this interview with Iniobong Iwok, he spoke about why the North is in its present state, restructuring of the country, the Buhari administration among others. Excerpts:
The North has had more access to power at the central, but yet least undeveloped and bedevilled with social issues; where do you put the blame on?
The problems of the North, I would put the blame on the leaders, the leaders failed us, despite the opportunities that the north has had to be in power especially during the military era, and so many other long terms in power. You would think the North would have developed to some level; if someone is coming to the North, you would say perhaps, it could be compared to places like Dubai.
And the issue of illiteracy, I thank God the present youths have taken it upon themselves, they are being practical and asking questions; some of us have gone to school and combined with Quoranic education and today we can look at the face of anybody and ask questions.
Some 15, 20 years in the past, nobody do this. Despite the poverty, you are expected as follower not to question your leaders; they are expected to pray for them, to be humble. So with all these, I believe my generation would do better than the previous generation.
But leaders of several groups in the north have been accused of taking advantages of the interest of the people for selfish purposes?
That is what has happen in the past. I have just said it. Some people would say there is no need for us to have had Boko Haram in the first place if not simply because some people who were leaders at the apex, regional, states or LG failed. They have so much wealth they build houses, they build mansions and at the end, they can not stay in the mansion.
They ran away because you can not build a mansion when your neigbour can not eat one square meal; that your neigbour would turn out to be security threat. That is what gave birth to the security challenge and that is what is happening now in the north as a result of lack of opportunity for our people to be educated; lack of access is what is giving birth to crime, robbery and all they are doing. But some of us who have that priviledge would continue to talk.
How do you describe the situation in the North-East now that Boko Haram has been curtailed?
The level of destruction is unimaginable, the society is disintegrated. I don’t know if you have experienced the aftermath of war zone, the psychology of the people are affected and is not normal, it would take about 10 years to bring the people, the areas affected to normal.
You recently spoke against the implementation of the 2014 Confab report, what are your concerns?
When Jonathan came up with the idea of the 2014 national conference, some of us felt that there was another motive behind the conference and we told the government: why don’t you do it right. Instead of hand -picking the delegates, let the people chose their representatives let the people chose their best. Let it be on ethnic nationalities, lets sit down and discuss so that it would be based on the need of the people. We told them: why don’t you allow their constituency to select the delegates so that they would be coming with message from their people so that things would flow, and it would be without input from the government. But government remained adamant and called some people to Abuja as delegates. Most of the people calling for the implementation of that 2014 confab report, are those who participate at the conference, people who collected huge allowances, we see them as pro- Jonathan, they do not want to accept that they have failed.
You don’t believe in the report of that Confab, even when some of the leaders of ACF attended?
Yes we do not believe in the report. We were not thinking of sitting in Abuja to hold a conference on overall interests of Nigerians. That is the position of Arewa Consultative Forum. Even some elders of the union that went, some of us criticised them. We told them to sit down with us to discuss issues and get a clear agenda. And you can see there was no clear agenda of what the north wanted at the conference. Due consultations were not made. At the end of the day, they were made to defend the status quo.
Do you believe in restructuring of the country?
Of course. I have been involved in the advocacy for about two decades now. I have always called for and believe in restructuring of the country. It is better we go back to regionalism where the region would grow at its own pace; then there would be challenges of development among the regions. If Lagos for example is doing better than my region, I would be challenged to do something better. It is the best system for Nigeria. I should be looking at the region to come up with something good like the Awolowo, Sardauna, Ahmadu Bello, Azikiwe did. And they were remembered because of that system which allowed them to go back to their region and developed it. Because it was a regional system of government and it give them power to develop their region and gave them attention and you can see the pace of development then.
Awolowo for example tried, and it would not have been possible if not for the regional system of government and today the free Education he introduced has taken the south-west forward educationally than any other region. If you go to Ekiti state today almost every family has a professor.
In the North, for Ahmadu Bello there is ABU, we have nobody that have beaten that record of what he was able to achieve with the north in terms of development. What we have now are politicians with deceit, they come with Agbada and say I want to emulate Sardauna because he did well.
You are also advocating for a new Constitution?
Yes, when we get a new constitution, we can begin to look at the issue of restructuring as an option. Because the constitution comes with restructuring which would be a constitution that Nigerians have to agreed to. We are not asking for the amendment of the constitution, we are asking for a new constitution.
I have no problem with the national assembly, what we want is: a new constitution, making a new constitution is different from amendment, sometimes, the law makers do that out of mischief. They would say they have seen 1,000 clauses in the constitution to be amended that is not what we are asking for. We are asking for the legitimacy of the constitution. A constitution everybody would be involved in its drafting and it would have legitimacy, and we would have a referendum that would start from zonal, local, state and national where those that would go to the national would be picked, and those people would work on the new constitution. Nigeria is not a nation yet, the suspicion among the ethnic nationalities is giving the country more problems.
Is restructuring the only way forward?
I believe if we restructure the country everything would be ok. But today if we have regionalism, the issue of Avengers would not come up. Because we run a funny system of government where everybody, including the governors are lazy, everybody want to go to Abuja and collect their share of the national cake.
How do you assess the Buhari administration?
Expectations were high among Nigerians but, Buhari alone can not move the country forward. Yes he promised change, expectation was high, unfortunately, he can not move the country alone. Some of the ministers are inexperienced or incompetent; they do not know what governance is all about. Some of them are behaving like comedians. I’m not satisfied with this government and Nigerians are bitter about it, you can not remove all benefits and expect us to be happy. You asked people to tighten up while you are eating fat. Things are hard, you can not be flying around the world and the common man is suffering, if there is sacrifice, it should start from the leaders.
You gave Buhari your total support are you disappointed?
A lot of people that supported him are disappointed. Even the campaign slogan, the change mantra is abandoned. Most of the things the government said they would do they are not doing but behaving with impunity.
Would Arewa Support him or the APC if he decides to seek re-election in 2019?
Buhari is a Nigerian president, and not a northern president. If we run a regional system and he is a premier I would not attack him but advise him. On support him, we would look for alternative in 2019, we have been disappointed so far in his government. With the way things are going, they would say there is hope that we should be patient. But the way the things are, I would look for alternative.
Do you think the president has been fair to other regions in his appointment?
The president has not been fair to other regions. At the earlier time of his government, when he just started the appointment, but since the budget was passed you can see that things have balance up. We must commend him, even the ambassadorial appointment, how many people came from the north? Even the board appointment, you would see that after the budget, the southwest compared to the north have more than 40 percent; it favours the southwest than the north east where I came from, which has less that 13 percent. Earlier it was so, not now; and I raised alarm then.
Are you satisfied with the performance of INEC?
INEC has been full of confusion. Look at the Kogi election, I have become more confuse. I wonder where they get some language like: inconclusive. Inconclusive everywhere, and that is when they want to manoeuvre things. As we keep going round we would keep talking about INEC supposed to be an independent body. It is obvious INEC is being influence by the central. We have a system where the central government has so much power and the executive override some of their decisions.
Are you satisfied with the fight against corruption, especially the trial of Dasuki?
The office of the National Security Adviser is not an office of the PDP. Some of us have reservations on the style of the current anti-graft war, and we said it earlier. The president has no business in some of the things he his doing. What he has to do is to allow the institutions to do their work. What is happening in the case of Dasuki is that the president has already convicted him before the trial by saying in the media chat that: how can he release a man who stole over N400billion. When the person has not been convicted in court, even when the court had given order for his release while standing trial. It is unfair and the leader who says no he must defy the court order to me is not fair, because: what is happening now could happen to anybody.
He should fight corruption but respect the rule of law, he must not make the anti corruption fight personal, so that when he is not around, the institutions would continue to fight. We support his anti corruption fight but it should not be personal or be a vendetta.