The leader of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima does not believe that President Muhammadu Buhari has anything else to offer Nigerians. He recommends that henceforth, anybody above 60 years should not be allowed to preside over a complex nation as Nigeria. In this interview with WILLY EYA, he spoke on why President Buhari should not be re-elected in 2019 among other issues.
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, it is like your organization is having a slightly different position with the Arewa Youth Forum on the re-election conversation around President Muhammadu Buhari. Why is it so?
My position is that we really do not need people like Buhari in 2019. It is now clear that the youth would no longer be allowed to be used by any politician any more. Anybody above 60 should go and rest peacefully or go back to the farm or do something differently for himself. That is my position on the issue. Of course, it is obvious that this government cannot do anything from now till the next one year. Already two years down the line, we have not seen anything. I do not see the government doing any magic or performing any miracle in the next one year. It is not possible because the politics of 2019 has already started. Some of us have been patient enough to see if we can see something different from what has been happening. Of all they said about the change mantra, we have seen that there is nothing different and the situation is even worse than what we used to have. So, to that extent, the battle line is drawn. Come 2019, we would no longer waste our time on any old politician. The old politician both in the Senate, presidential seat and all that should go back home and rest. They cannot use their yesterday and use our today. They cannot waste their own generation and continue to waste our own. The party is over and it is about a new dawn. Whether you are from the North, South or wherever, we must work together to get it right this time around. In 2019, I will campaign that any youth is encouraged to get his PVC. That is their power. Through electoral processes, we would ensure that we render those old men jobless. There is no going back about that. So, my own position is that whether they perform or not which is even impossible, they should go. My position is very clear that anybody above 60 years should go and rest. We cannot continue to manage all these old politicians. We cannot continue to be ‘sit down and look’ people. Our ‘mumu is ok for now’. We have younger men who are very competent and would take the country to the next level. Anybody above 60 who is against our generation is committing suicide because our generation has come of age and we must stand the challenges. Power is not given by anybody, it is taken and a time has come for our generation to sit down together. No matter our differences, we have to ensure that we move the country forward so that our country can become what it should be and we can build the nation of our dreams.
Many are surprised that having come from the core North as Buhari, you are criticizing him this way. I know that the president still has a huge following in the North and with the way some of them are fanatic about him, are you not afraid of a possible threat to your life?
I do not think that anybody who means well for Nigeria would feel different because Buhari is for Nigeria and not a Northern president. If this is what we would say to save the country and it means losing our lives, it is worth dying for. We are prepared to lay our lives down for what we believe in, to ensure that we have a country of our own where there would be peace and not threat to the national unity and where there would be development. If it would cost us our lives, we are ready and prepared to go.
But does your group have anybody in mind for the 2019 presidential poll?
It is too early for my group to speak but we would go across the regions and we have been talking. We have also been mobilizing. We have been raising dues by ourselves so that we do not get bought over by any politician. We are raising our money that we vote for youths across board. We would reach out to the Southern parts of the country so that at the end, we would unanimously agree and endorse our choice. It must be somebody who would definitely do well for our country.
Is it true that why your group is very critical of the Buhari administration is because they did not carry you along?
No, from the onset, I have never believed in anything coming out of this government based on the combination of the people I have seen. It was a situation where some people from the PDP were jumping from their party to the APC. Some of them who are corrupt just because they have joined another political party, they were not punished for what they did and they were even being celebrated. From that moment, I knew that we were in for another trouble. From the beginning, I never believed in the administration. When I looked at the calibre of defectors and some of the criminals leaving from one party to another party, I just knew that they had nothing to give the people. It is a case of old wine in a new bottle. And of course naturally, people like us would not expect that this government would consider us. We all know that it was not possible because we speak the truth and we are known for that. We believe in justice and equity. That is what we believe in and that is the only thing that would keep Nigeria together.
You talked about the need for the Nigerian youth to take over in 2019, do you think they have the wherewithal to dislodge the many very rich in the conservative political class in the country?
Do you agree with me that with God all things are possible? That is the answer. I believe in God and I believe that with God all things are possible. Nobody would have imagined that despite all odds, and all the enemies around Buhari, he later in 2015 emerged as the president. Nothing is impossible. If that happened to him, it means that it could happen to anybody. We only need to have faith in the nation and to be very determined. Do not also forget that a lot of us are not just individuals; we have followers behind us. We have been mobilizing people over the years. Some of us that have been in the struggle, we have suffered all sorts of things to keep Nigeria together. In the past, some of us had abandoned our families to be in the trenches for the good of Nigeria. We are not just merely talking because we feel like talking. We have suffered for Nigeria and we cannot just fold our hands and allow Nigeria to be destroyed by some few enemies of the country. On that basis, we would stand firm and galvanise and conscientise our people to make sure that we get it right this time. This time, it is no longer a joke. We cannot in this country continue with business as usual.
But if your wish does not happen, what do you think would be the future of the country?
Then we must be prepared for what is ahead of us. This is the only time we have to ensure that we do it right through democratic processes. We must ensure that we elect credible and capable people. We must ensure that people are voted on merit and not because of their looted funds. We have to encourage more, younger people to participate politically in the affairs of Nigeria. We have to ensure that we take over power through democratic means without violence, fighting or intimidating anybody. We know it is indeed possible and will be possible.
The level of insecurity in the country is becoming worrisome. What is your take on the situation especially with particular reference to the situation in Benue State?
We are worried because our fellow brothers in the country are being killed and I see them as Nigerians. Anywhere we lose a life in our nation is a loss. To me criminals are bandits. They commit evil against humanity and we should look at their activities as crimes against the people. We should all collectively rise to condemn what is going on in Benue State, Plateau, Rivers, Cross River and other parts of the world. I call on the government to look in that direction. Call it whatever, it is condemnable. Their activities are criminal. How can you be terrorizing innocent Nigerians, shooting sporadically and killing them? I am part of those who would always condemn that. But the moment we begin to attach ethnicity or religion to it, we miss the point. The government should come out and deal with anybody found perpetrating such evil acts in Nigeria.