Alhaji Yerima Usman Shettima is the Arewa Youth Consultative Forun President. In this interview with Francis Moses, he speaks on President Buhari’s reported lopsided appointments and the trial of the Senate President Saraki by the CCT and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
Some youths from the North East zone have queried your leadership as National President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum AYCF. How would you react to this group?
Well, ordinarily, if not because you put it before me, I really don’t intend to say anything about groups that are faceless, but rather, I will put blames on the medium that in the first instance, carried the story. These days, we have a situation where people just walk to any journalist and say anything in the name of freedom of speech. As far as I am concerned, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum and Yerima Shettima has been household name for over a decade now. Since the dark days of military rule till date, we in the Forum know what we have contributed and with what cost for the quest of democracy in our beloved country. After going through this dark past to come and hear a group of people without track record, a faceless group make such statements in any medium is unfortunate. They allege that I attacked President Muhammadu Buhari over some things recently. I didn’t attack Buhari but rather I urged him to tread softly. But whenever necessary, if he is to introduce a policy that is not popular, against the wishes of Nigeria, I will attack him. So, I have no apology on that, but where he makes any error that is fundamental, I will attack the government, I have no apology for that. I have done so since the days of the military administration, since the days of late General Sani Abacha, I have been doing the same thing. I don’t care who is involved and who is not involve, what matters to me is the unity of this country that is critical and important to me. It is not about an individual and it is not about being or not being exceptional and anybody who knows me knows me to be a nationalist to the core.
The groups grouse derived from your statement that President Muhammadu Buhari last appointments were lopsided. Did you actually make this statement?
Yes I did. I did and I am happy the government even admitted that the appointment was lopsided and I did what I did not with bad intend but rather with a good intent and my reason to do that was it was obvious and even the government admitted really that something went wrong. But however they promised Nigerians that they are going to make amend and they will insure that what was done would be rectified it in subsequent appointments. So I have not seen where I am wrong, my duty is to protect the interest of my people and at the same time even the government, where I sense danger I should be able to alert the government because I am a strong Nigeria who believe in the unity of this country. Buhari is a President, he will come and go so if nobody advices Buhari some day he might end up putting the country into a big mess an at the end of the day we would be left with the effects. However someday some group will come up or individual will begin to attack that when Buhari was there we did nothing. I should be able to advice him not attack his person but rather his policies so that we can remain together, because Nigeria is a place where leaders come and go, some day it might not be Buhari again it could be somebody, for instance Emeka, Bayo, Tunde or somebody from the any other part of the country because we are all equal in this project call Nigeria.
Do you still think as the government explained that the appointments were based on merit and competence?
When you talk about merit and competency for those appointments, I want to also defer a little because merit and competency does not belong in the Northern part of the country alone It is all over the country where you have the bad and the good in all sector of this our country and that is how I looked at it. But if personally he feels that the most competent people are only from the North that is his opinion.
How would you rate President Buhari’s anti- corruption war so far?
So far it is too early to say anything now, but to me I think he has to buckle up and do it right if he must do it right because I am afraid, mistakes have already been made. The fact of the matter is the combination of characters around him and the group of people and individuals who are actually worked for his success are mostly old crocks from the present opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party PDP, who were at some time they were governors, they have been identified with looting so much money from their state treasury and today they use the same to turn out as born again and begin to use that same found money as if their sins have been washed off, they use the same looted treasury fund to ensure Buhari’s victory. Unfortunately, Buhari alone cannot fight the battle against corruption. He needs a team but unfortunately 80 per cent of his team are corrupt. The system is corrupt those individual themselves are corrupt, I wish and I hope for the best and I think when our attention is needed to ensure that we would protect his interest because of his good intention for the country, we will do our best but certainly the journey will be very rough. They are just watching with keen interest because they are not yet convinced whether he is going to work with them or not work. But Buhari I know very well is a man who stands for something and will do it very well. Certainly many will be disappointed and then they will begin to react because they will not be patient and they will not watch him go away freely, they will want to attack him and that is when all of us will come on board and give him all the necessary protection he need as a President of a country.
President Buhari failed to live up to his promise to unveil his ministers by September only for him to announce himself Minister of Petroleum, what is you view on that?
Well! If he becomes in charge of Ministers of Petroleum, to me there is nothing wrong with that. A After all former President Olusegun Obasanjo ran the ministry for 8 years and nobody raised any eyebrow, so if Buhari is doing the same it does not change anything, but then the consequences of managing that place where all attentions are focused, the consequences are so unimaginably if at the end of the day there is a failure. He should therefore be prepare to take the responsibility if something is found wanting. Should anything happen God forbid he would be held responsible for that because to me that place is sensitive and very dangerous too.
How would you describe Senate President Bukola Saraki’s trial by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT)?
Well as far as I am concerned, there is one thing we call probe and another thing that is witch-hunt. To me that of the Senate President is nothing than a witch-hunt, witch hunt in the sense that at some time a group of people formed a party and he was a member of that party. The issue of supremacy of the party used by some party leaders of his party since he became Senate President does not count vis-a-vis the decision taken by the senate which is normal everywhere especially in any democratic part of the world. To me the case of Saraki is nothing but purely witch-hung and if they want to tell us that is not witch hunt, that it is a probe, then let us start the probe from 1999 and let see and go through the record and see if it would correspond with presents status maintained by some of our leaders since they left office. Certainly 99.9% of them will definitely have skeleton in their cupboard. Why is the Saraki case exceptional after thirteen years? You drag his wife before EFCC, you couldn’t succeed now you are pulling Saraki himself ,you want to insure that humiliate him so that at the end of the day find a way with your agenda which is all about 2019 elections.
Do you think it’s political?
Is purely political that is why I called it witch-hunt. We will not allow anyone to undermine our democracy; we are watching to see how far the judiciary will go about it. If there is failure to respect the rule of law, we will definitely come out to insist that the right thing should be done and we are many who have this same opinion who are watching with keen interest, who are not politicians but watching as a stakeholders, as people who engage with people within the society. If all of us come together and say no this cannot be, should the law be violated. How many people would resist those enemies of democracy?. I call then enemies of democracy because what they are doing is nothing but distraction.
The APC appears to be a house of confusion since winning the Presidential elections, you know and interact with some of the party leader’s, what do you think of them?
You know we have to appreciate the fact that it is a new party, which have never been in power. For the first time we have an incumbent President losing out to an opposition so you should expect that a lot of things will be out of place and with the ill preparation, with inexperience by some of them faced with a bigger project Nigeria they never expected you should expect that they are going to be running helter- skelter and they don’t even know what to do with the power. So now it is natural that their inexperience will be very visible in their decisions and whatever they do but certainly I know with time they will adjust. You could recall that the same scenario happen when the military handed over to Obasanjo in 1999 a situation where the Speaker who at some point was found wanting and there was a fight and all sorts of blows at the National Assembly, so is natural what we are seeing because it is a new party. Where it to be PDP that are quite experience and matured with understanding of the game it would have been different.