Posted by News Express | 23 October 2022 | 907 times
On Monday, October 17, hell was let loose when political thugs in a coordinated manner launched massive attacks on participants at a political rally organized for the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa at Ranchers Bees stadium having been denied the use of the Murtala Stadium, Kaduna by the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports.
In this interview, President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima called on the Federal Government to act swiftly to prevent reoccurrence of such violent attacks if voters must go out to exercise their civic responsibility in 2023.
He also spoke on the realities in the North within the past seven years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, as well as the qualities the North will consider before settling for a presidential candidate the region will support in 2023. Excerpts:
On Monday, there was a situation many described as a state of confusion in Kaduna due to political programmes by the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), that of the PDP and that of the Labour Party. With that violent attack at the PDP rally, do you foresee a free, fair and credible election in Nigeria next year?
What happened in Kaduna was not a good omen towards the 2023 elections and the government must do something about it now. That happened because of the two giant political programmes – on one hand you have the APC candidate and on the other hand you have the PDP candidate and again the Labour Party and they all have their crowds. Ideally you don’t allow the major political parties to have a programme of this nature on the same day. So, I don’t know the wisdom behind it.
What could have led to that after these political parties and their candidates have signed peace pact for peaceful election campaigns?
The truth of the matter is that in this part of the country, we have found ourselves in a situation where people are looking for means of survival. So, it is easy for any fool to bring in street urchins and give them peanut, drugs and dangerous objects to unleash terror on innocent Nigerians. This must be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians. We must not encourage such an act because if this continues and we don’t stop it now, you can be rest assured that the 2023 election may not be practically free, fair and credible.
Who will stop it?
Government. It is one thing for political parties and their candidate to sign all these peace pacts here and there, it is another thing for somebody to enforce the law. So, the government has to do the needful. With what happened on Monday, one would have heard of the arrest of these elements. The arrest is necessary to ascertain who mobilised them and who funded them to go and do what they did. Government must act decisively. We may run into an election where the environment may not be conducive.
A lot of the survivors of the attack expressed dismay because this unfortunate incident happened right by the police headquarters in Kaduna…?
Not only that, you have DSS, you have armies all over that area. Ordinarily, it was not supposed to happen close to them. But from all indications, they appeared helpless since this happened by Police headquarters next door and there was nothing they could do. So, like I said, the instruments of government must begin to enforce riot acts to stop the madness. If this persists and the government allows it, citizens may not even go out to vote for the right crops of leaders. Unless the government has a hand in it to instill fear in Nigerians so that at the end of the day, people are made to be cowardly and boycott elections to pave way for people to get to power through window or backdoor. But again, I don’t want to believe that is their intention because anybody can be a victim of such an act and I hope they take measures.
Away from that, let discuss briefly on the seven years and a few months of President Muhammadu Buhari. How has the North fared and what lesson can we learn from regional sentiments?
Like I always say, the last seven years were really rough. The North has been at the receiving end of the ill of this administration. In the last seven years we have experienced the worst insecurity not only in any particular region, but across regions in different dimensions. Secondly, when the issue of insecurity becomes so tense, it gives room to hunger and poverty in the land, and of course, you don’t expect the farmers to do anything even when they cannot go to remote farms thereby leaving the North to be the headquarters of poverty and hunger. It was on that basis that some of us came with elders, robbed minds and resolved that if we can agree, we can do better as one than go our separate ways which is what led to the Arewa Joint Committee to listen to all the major presidential candidates from all over the country so we know who among them has good thinking and can serve as a better option than what is obtainable in the past.
But you have been an advocate of young candidature, and it seems there are no young persons among these major contenders, are you likely going to change your mind soon?
Yes, I have always been an advocate of young candidates and remain so. But, in this situation where the political parties have sponsored those we have as candidates and no provision for independent candidates in our electoral laws, we cannot say because we don’t have a young candidate then we fold our alms not to participate. No. It is rather good for us to be watchful and ensure that we take lesser evil. What I meant by that is that we will look for better options from what we have. We cannot say because we did not get what we wanted, we won’t participate. At the same time, we cannot say all of them are saints. There are those with little humane mindset and these are those we will filter and support at the right time.
When you say among those, what did you mean because we are looking for just one person?
I mean among those candidates; we will look for one. You have ‘them’, you have ‘some’ and you have ‘one’. Presently, we have overcome ‘them’, we are now on ‘some’ and from here we will get to ‘one’. We shall get there by the grace of God.
Unlike in 2019, this time around, we have top contenders coming from the three regions – Atiku Abubakar – Northeast, Bola Tinubu – Southwest and Peter Obi -Southeast. Do you see a possibility of ethnic campaigns in weeks to come?
Let us do away with their ethnic identity. I want to believe all of them are not seeing themselves as regional leaders. They see themselves as more of national leaders. So, let us be fair to them. Let us allow them to come up with their programmes. I don’t believe Nigerians will be carried away with a primordial mindset of believing in somebody on the basis of ethnicity or tribal. By now, we should have grown past that level despite the fact that this present administration has made it look like we are more divided than we were in the past. You might be surprised that at the end of the day, the North may not go the way many think and this is why this opportunity for candidates to come and showcase what they have for us in the North is being created.
But do you see a possibility of the North to vote for a candidate from the South when their son is also in the race?
Why not? It has happened in the past and it may happen again. It may and may not. If the one from the North cannot convince us enough, certainly the North will look for a better option. So, the North is watching every character. You are about to see a lot of magic. A lot of things will change.
Specifically, who is your preferred candidate?
I won’t tell you now because we are still conducting and still listening to them. So, it will be too early for me to let out the cat. But soon, we will.
APC has been able to hold on to power since its emergence in 2015, don’t you think the power of incumbency may play out in 2023?
It is not about the party, but the individual. Whether President Muhammadu Buhari likes it or not, he must take responsibility for this government. You may be surprised Tinubu might be different as an individual not as a party. So, it is about responsibility, who is in charge and who shares that responsibility. This time around, I don’t think the party will even count much, but individually. We will assess individuals based on their antecedents, how productive they are and what they are bringing to the table. Good enough, none of them is alien to Nigerians.
Your final words?
We must come together to save this country. We have brought these candidates to Kaduna to share their programmes with us. We are expecting our counterparts to do the same so we can agree on the best way to go so we can save Nigeria. (Sunday Sun)
No comments yet. Be the first to post comment.