By Sunday Ani

President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima in this interview assesses President Bola Tinubu’s administration with regards to insecurity, economy, anti-corruption fight among others.

President Tinubu’s administration will be marking one year in office on May 29; what is your assessment of the administration in the last year?

We have had a rough journey under this administration in the last year. The journey has been rough even though some of us remain hopeful that it is also not right to quickly conclude that there may not be light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t forget that the government inherited many problems from the previous administration of Muhammadu Buhari. So, there is no way we can say that we expect the Tinubu administration to arrest some of these issues that are very fundamental in just one year.

Even in four years, I don’t see it working out but we hope and we look forward to seeing this administration bring in people, who have experience and capacity, people who can effect changes and people who will lead the country and put us in the right direction. At least, after eight years of Tinubu, we should begin to see light. Then in the subsequent governments, we expect that they can also build on his achievements.

Yes, we want the Tinubu administration to take us to the Eldorado and we look forward to that. But anybody who assumes that the road would be easy is just deceiving himself. It has to be rough and certain decisions must be taken that are very painful but the government has no choice but to take them. We are also saying that any policy that the government will introduce no matter how unpopular it is, must have a human face. Human face is key and very important because you can only govern people when they are alive.

So, whatever the government is putting in place must allow the people to breathe no matter how difficult it is on its part. Despite the hard decision, they must take it in such a way that the common people can also live, so that they can be governed because you cannot govern anything that doesn’t exist or dead bodies. So, that is my appeal to the government.

When you say that the President should go for people with experience and capacity; are you advocating that he should rejig his cabinet within one year?

Reshuffling of the cabinet is important, so that we don’t go back to what we came out from in the Buhari administration. Buhari gave people appointments and he never asked them to account for their performance in office. Once you are appointed; that was all and for him, you are doing fine as if he does not listen to the news at all. So, we hope that Tinubu would be smarter. The Tinubu I know; once he gives you responsibility, he monitors you personally and he ensures that you deliver. That was why he made sure that he surrounded himself with the best brains.

We also hope it will not be the case of Buhari who would appoint you for eight years and does not remember that you were even appointed talk more about checkmating your excesses or even monitor if you have performed or you have not performed. Tinubu’s case would be different but I am one of those who believe that the cabinet should be reshuffled though we can identify some of them who have done well. The likes of Bello Matawalle, a former governor of Zamfara State, has done brilliantly well in the area of security.

If you also look at Festus Keyamo, he has done well as Minister of Aviation. Dave Umahi is also doing well as Minister of Works. The Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy, Hannatu Musawa and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, are also doing well. So, a few of them are doing well and they are making us proud and we are proud to associate with them. I will prefer for the Minister of Defence to be moved to another ministry, so that the Minister of Defence for State will take his position because you could see that the men in the service are happy to see him because he is always there for them.

He is performing and his record speaks for him. In the course of his action, you could see that the number one minister in the ministry is nowhere to be found. So, for me, I will advocate that he should be elevated as substantive minister of Defence. If you look at people like that and other young men and women with energy in the cabinet, you can see their passion for the country.

It is not only about cabinet reshuffling; we have to know if some of these ministers are patriotic as well as whether they believe in the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Tinubu. Some of the ministers do not share the same idea as the President and that is why most time when he is being attacked on certain policies, they find it difficult to defend his position. But the likes of Matawalle have always been there for him and I’m concerned because the North is key to the realisation of Tinubu’s second term. So, he must work with people who are brilliant and determined to go all out and make sure they deliver.

How would you rate the President in the area of security, particularly the North?

If you look at Tinubu’s body language; it is a clear indication that he has succeeded in handing over the issue of security to the northern part of the country by appointing Nuhu Ribadu as the National Security Adviser as well as Badaru Abubakar and Matawalle as Minister of Defence and Minister of State for Defence, respectively. He also appointed Yusuf Bichi, who is very committed as the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS).

This is a clear indication that Tinubu truly wants the issue of insecurity to be tackled by any means. So, all they need to do is to work together and work towards that and ensure that they deliver and give us what we want. I have no doubt in my mind that if encouraged and supported by all Nigerians and not only the government, they will certainly tackle the issue.

Are you in support of the position of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) on the alleged plan by the United States (U.S.) and France to build military base in Nigeria?

The issue has been brought to the fore and I am glad that Nigerians came out and condemned it and our position remains that we will not accept it. We are a sovereign nation and we do not need America and France because their antecedents in other countries do not speak well of them. During President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, the issue came up but the then Chief of Army Staff, General Victor Malu, came out and opposed it and gave a very good reason, and that reason has not changed.

We are a sovereign country and we don’t need them to come and destabilise us because there is no country where insurgency, terrorism or kidnapping has been totally eliminated. Often, they raise an alarm and don’t find a solution. Rather than protecting the country, they end up protecting themselves and also exploiting that country. So, I stand with those who have opposed it and we will not accept that. We vehemently oppose that because we can manage our crisis internally and we will find solutions to our problems because we know what our problems are.

What is your take on the clamour for state police; do you think that Nigeria is ripe for state police?

We are ripe for state police and it is long overdue for establishment of state police or community policing. In every developed nation, you don’t concentrate only on federal police. In the United States, there are over seven outfits that I can remember that complement the efforts of the Federal Government. So, the case of Nigeria should not be different, especially as it is today.

Don’t forget that we are various communities coming together as a nation, so definitely you need people in certain places to complement the efforts of the security forces, so that they can get results and take us to where we are expected to be. You do not expect a man from Jigawa State to understand the terrain and the language in Ogbomosho or expect people within the community to constantly pass information to him because it is not going to work.

You do not take a typical Hausa man to Imo State and you expect him to perform. It will not work because most of these jobs are done within the community and the crimes are being committed within the community. So, for me, if we have community policing or state policing, they will work to complement the efforts of the federal police and pass necessary information that will help to fish out criminals because every criminal has a community.

Don’t forget that already we have shortage of manpower. Israel with about 80 million people has over four million police but in the case of Nigeria, if you put the army, police and other security agencies together, they are not up to 1.5 million. How can they protect the lives of over 230 million Nigerians? It is impossible. Don’t also forget that because someone is occupying a political office, he will have over 50 security personnel around him. What is left for common people like us who are out there?

He feels his life is more important and valuable than any other person forgetting that all lives matter. So, we must address this mentality and check some of these excesses by some of these VIPs and also bring the manpower to the fore by adding up more people. If the Federal Government cannot take them, then the states should recruit some people to reduce this level of unemployment.       

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How do we address the concerns that the governors will use state police against their opponents?

Are the governors not using the federal police against their opponents? What difference does it make? There will always be bad eggs in the midst of good ones because that is the nature of this life. So, the fact that some of them will use them for their political interest does not stop us from protecting the lives of our people.

So, let them work and let the Federal Government put some machinery in place to checkmate their excesses. Because a state established its own police doesn’t mean that the Federal Government will fold its hands and allow any impunity. It should be the responsibility of the Federal Government to supervise activities of the state police.

How do you evaluate the fight against corruption under the Tinubu administration considering the way and manner some people have described activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)?

The EFCC under the Tinubu administration has made a mockery of the government. EFCC is more engaged in media war than practical action. They don’t make their findings and they are behaving as if they are witch-hunt dogs. A case study is the case of the immediate past governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello. You could see how desperately and shamelessly the EFCC is behaving as if we are not in a democracy.

You did not invite somebody but all of a sudden you are already trying the person in the media and you are making mockery of yourself by going to his house as if you want to arrest one hardened criminal. Some of us are disappointed with this leadership of the EFCC. The previous ones have not done well but this one is even worse under the watch of the present chairman.

Whose interest is he pursuing by going for Yahaya Bello? What has he done? Is this how to pay him despite his contribution to the coming of this government because you want to impress some cronies within the Villa? All of a sudden you become so desperate and even make it look as if he is no longer a suspect and that you have convicted him. How can you try him on your court? How can you be a prosecutor and the court at the same time?

We are watching with keen interest and we will not fold our hands and allow any government institution to run the country as if we are in a banana republic. We are a sovereign nation and as such we are being guided by the Constitution of the country. So, we will criticize any policy by any government institution that is against the will of the people and the Constitution of Nigeria. This is unacceptable and we cannot allow EFCC to introduce that impunity in our system.

How best do you think the federal and state governments can resolve the issue of the new minimum wage, the labour unions are demanding?

The government must be seen to be serious because you cannot talk about a 25 per cent increment given the situation we found ourselves in. Why should government be talking about 25 per cent increment, when prices of food items and fuel have gone up? If you introduce policies that impact negatively on the lives of the people, you should equally expect labour to demand for wage increase by 100 or 200 per cent.

So, the government must wake up because we are tired. If you are increasing salaries of workers, you must increase it by something reasonable. The labour is demanding over N600,00 but let them come down, so that we can make progress.

How do we address the issue of fuel scarcity despite the removal of subsidy?

The issue is that most times we create problems and we don’t have answers to them. If the government of the day is saying that it has removed fuel subsidy, what are the provisions to reduce the effect of the removal? Are they not working with consultants who should advise them that if you take this thing away from somebody, you should be able to come up with something for him that will cushion the effect of that policy you introduced?

Oftentimes, the Nigerian government knows how to create problems but they don’t have answers to those problems. I’m afraid with the way Nigerians are complaining, with the way things are, with the way the frustration is getting on people by the day and with the way hardship is increasing, I hope and I pray Nigerians don’t revolt. If the people revolt, the case of #EndSARS protest would be a child’s play compared to what is likely going to happen.

I hope they realize that and find measures to make people feel comfortable to some extent before the people revolt. You cannot continue to unleash nefarious intent on people and you expect them to remain as if they are cowards. Some day they will revolt, God forbid and I don’t want to see that day but the day Nigerians will revolt against these oppressors, it will amount to something else.

There is a growing concern that Nigeria is lacking a viable opposition because the main opposition parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) are all in crisis. Are we heading to a one-party state?

The genesis of this problem is that most of these parties are not built on ideologies. They are built around individuals and I will give an example of the Labour Party. If you remove Peter Obi, there will be no Labour Party again. The Obidients are even more committed than members of the party because the whole idea is built around an individual and it is dangerous for democracy.

Institutions must be built above human beings and if you do that, then there will be proper rules of engagement and things will work accordingly. If you look at the so-called opposition parties, you will see that if somebody cannot sustain his tummy when hunger strikes, the next thing he does is to jump into the ruling party to survive. That is what we are seeing among Labour Party and PDP members and the day the All Progressives Congress (APC) collapses, you can be rest assured that you will see them jumping to another party that has controlling power.

This is the kind of people we have as leaders, and that is why you hardly see them having the culture of resistance when things are going wrong. You cannot give what you don’t have. We will continue to talk about it and one day, people will come up with ideologies that will make political parties stand firm whether they are in power or not. When you have a system that does not encourage opposition and opposition is not consistent, what you see every day is impunity because the only reason you have opposition is to checkmate the excesses of the ruling party.

But the case of Nigeria is different because once the hunger is much, you will see them shamelessly holding meetings at night with the party where things are working and the next morning you will see them announcing that they are defecting and some people will still believe them.

Do you think that Rivers State needs another presidential intervention to address the political crisis in the state?

Rivers is a state of its own. The governor is the one in charge of the state and as such all powers are in his hands. He must take responsibility for whatever is happening in Rivers State. No power outside the state can work against him and he should address the matter within the state. The governor has to be very decisive because he cannot allow people to behave as if there is no law and order in the state.

Anybody outside Rivers State that is not a governor is secondary. I understand the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike,  is involved but I have not seen him getting involved seriously. Even if he is involved, the governor is in charge of the state today. Yesterday was for Wike and today is for Governor Simi Fubara and he must learn to exercise his power as a governor so that he can take responsibility for the state.

Nobody has the governor’s power today apart from him and it is not the business of the Federal Government to come in to initiate any peace process that is above the Constitution because the Constitution should be supreme over any other individual or power. The governor is in charge of Rivers State and any other political leader is under the governor.


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