Shetima Yerima, president of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, is vocal on issues affecting the North. In this interview with JULIET OYOYO, he spoke on the ongoing controversy over the National Assembly leadership, insecurity among others. Excerpt:
The race for the Senate President position of the Ninth National Assembly is at pitch level. How do you react to the agitation by North West zone, your zone, to produce the Deputy Senate President?
That is totally wrong. They should not be asking for that. For us, it is a calculated attempt by some individuals to divert attention. The North West has nothing to look for, for now. The north west cannot be asking for Deputy Senate President when the President and Commander-In-Chief is from there. The Senate President is targeted to come from the north east. There should be fairness and equity in electing the leadership of the National Assembly. In so doing, there should be consideration for others, especially the South East region, which members have been in the legislature, distinguishing themselves exceptionally and representing them well.
Let there be an arrangement where they should consider the South East. It has to be that way. Any attempt by anybody from the North West to come out, such a person is a saboteur. Such a person is working a script which would further compound our problem of unity to dividing us. No, we will not accept that. I am from the North West. I don’t think it is right. If you have a President from the north west, it is enough.
On the issue of Senate Presidency, there are allegations that respected youths groups like the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum of which you are the National President, have been compromised and induced financially to support a particular candidate. How would you react to this allegation?
There is nothing like being compromised. By all standards, Senator Ali Ndume is the most qualified, if you look at his resume. I mean by all standards. If you talk about strong character, commitment, experience and also, being independent minded and going by his antecedents, we have seen him demonstrating that over time. Senator Ndume is the best for the country to lead the National Assembly. This is not about me. He is the best for the country.
The executive arm wants a situation whereby it will just go by, without anybody checkmating their excesses, automatically. It is not about having one stooge arranged by some interests, that somebody somewhere, against the collective interests of over 200 millions Nigerians. Those who are thinking otherwise are the ones that are compromising. Nigeria comes first.
I do not have anything personally against Senator Ahmed Lawan. But, the right thing must be done. For somebody to make a pronouncement in a national daily and an international medium that ‘Even if he emerges as the Senate President, if a bill can come forward for the amendment of the Constitution for Buhari to continue for a third term’, that he will pass it, is worrisome. I am very worried about that. You can now see that somebody is just becoming a rubber stamp. That means there will be no independence for the Senate. For him to look and believe that after the God we worship, there is no other God than somebody else who will make him what he wants to be, from other parts of the country in the South West. Automatically, you can see that he has shortchanged the North. Whose interest is he protecting? He just wants us to fold our hands allow him to do that. No, we will not. If that is what you call compromise, yes, we agree to compromise for the interest of Nigeria. If that is what is called compromise, it is indeed.
There is the allegation that Senator Ali Ndume is a sponsor of insurgents in Borno State. Do you see this affecting his candidacy?
Allegation is an allegation, everywhere and anybody can be alleged against. The only place you can be taken to is the police who will investigate and then, prosecution follows and then, the courts. He has been in court and the court has cleared him of that allegation. So, as far as Nigerians are concerned, he has not committed any crime, he is not an ex-convict. An allegation can be made at any time. It was just simply that at that time, we all know it is part of their politics and a frame up. He was a threat to the Jonathan administration at that time. How can somebody have links with Boko Haram at that time and they will still be after his life? So, those are the plans of some persons who sat in one place to cook up such stories. As far as we are concerned, he has no links and the courts have cleared him of that. That is no story.
Let us look at the revenue generated from gold mining in North West, Zamfara. While the resources from the Niger Delta have been channeled into the Federation Account and shared as allocation to all the states, nothing is said about the revenue generated from gold mining. What is your take on that?
I thank God that they admitted the fact that it was illegal mining. Illegal mining and you threaten to withdraw their licences? Who does that? How does one marry the two, illegal miners and licenses? Well, I recall the governor saying that those guys are illegal miners and it could be that proper arrangements have not been put in place. That could be one of the agenda of the government to look for other means of improving and generating revenue for the country. If that is what they are planning to do for the country, they should be encouraged to do so, but, not under this setting of these funny characters that we have as ministers.
Certainly, there must be a total reorganisation of the sector and also, the governors must also begin to harness some of these resources. Beyond mining, there are also other mineral resources in other parts of the country. We must be seen to do it right. We should have resources. That is why some of us believe strongly that we cannot continue to run a government where everything lies in Abuja. The powers in Abuja are so much that every state is looking up to Abuja to provide for it. We must reduce the burden of the central government and give some to the regions or even the states, so that all of them will begin to harness their resources. At the end of the day, if it is the issue of tax, let there be agreement between the state and the Federal Government, so that, at the end of the day, it will go into law.
There are certain percentages generated from certain states that will go to the Federal Government for the running of other activities, while the states will also have its own resources to run its projects and programmes. At the end of the day, if people find themselves in the central that has been decentralised, a lot of these states will become more vibrant, more functional and there will be serious competition and then, you will begin to see everything moving in the north.
If we are allowed to continue the way we are, whereby everything goes to the centre and the states will have to go to the centre to provide and source for allocation for them, then you can be rest assured that these governors will continue to be lazy and they will not do anything.
Kaduna State government has imposed a 24-hour curfew in Kajuru local government area following outbreak of violence in Kasuwan Magain. What should be the solution to the outbreak of violence?
You have a governor who is so reckless from his utterances which make people believe that they are not part of the state, that the state is owned by a few individuals and as such, they do not expect to have peace. Policing and security matters are not just strictly government affairs. You need to collaborate with communities. You need to work hand in hand with them on trust for them to help you with classified information and for you as a governor to have peace.
If you continue to make them believe that they are less important, even if they have meaningful information t, a lot of people will not come forward to give you or share any intelligent report with you. That is one of the major problems we have today. I do not see any solution to our problems under this character that undermines people and sees himself as the most intelligent person.