– Shettima agreed that President Muhammadu Buhari’s independence day speech was silent on the concrete steps to address recession
– He mentioned some ministers in the cabinet of Buhari and narrated how they have been a clog in the wheel of progress
– According to him, many of those currently dancing with the ‘change’ mantra are actually responsible for Nigeria’s current woes
Many Nigerians are not happy with the situation of their country and have constantly put the government on the spotlight over the state of the nation. One of such critics of the government is Alhaji Yerima Shettima, the president of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF). In this interview with Eromosele Ebhomele, he dissects the Muhammadu Buhari government, fires the National Assembly and proffers solution to the current agitations in some parts of the country
While making his 56th independence day broadcast, President Buhari promised that the recession would soon be over. But some believe the speech was vague on the ways to actually solve the challenge, especially as it relates to the cost of governance. What do you think of this?
To me, his comment is natural. Anybody would have said the same thing especially as he has the responsibility on him. Even if the situation is zero, he would still say the same thing. People must have hopes and it is natural. But for me, if a leader is telling you that you should be hopeful, that this thing would be over as soon as possible going by what he was saying, one would have expected that as the father of the nation, he should be able to tell us about concrete plans – like this is what he intends to do in one month, two, three months, quarterly, in five and six months – at least we need to know that he is working with a team that actually knows where it is hurting us and the way out of the problem. We should also be able to look at the body language.
Apart from this, we should see that our presidential fleet find their way into the market. We should be able to see that the fleet is reduced and those things that make them enjoy luxury and those expensive convoy, are tempered down. We should be able to see that the billions spent on what they eat at the presidential villa per annum is reduced. We should begin to see a situation where you not only tell us about reducing your salary by half, but your allowances too. If you have to travel abroad for $1 million, we should be able to reduce it to $300,000. At least this is sacrifice.
The same applies to the governors, the local government chairmen and the senators. They should forfeit the multi-million bullet-cars they amass to themselves. We should begin to see that the over N36 million that goes to each of them in the form of allowances be reduced. You cannot, at the expense of over 170 million Nigerians eat what you want and get allowances without reducing it; you go everywhere in the world without managing, you move around with tax-payers’ money in big vehicles without conscience, you give allowances to your cronies, your family members are living in opulence, buying cars and giving to their friends and you are saying we should make sacrifice? I don’t think it is justifiable.
We must be seen to show examples if we want the best for our country. That example must start from us -our leaders. It is unfortunate that we are into this mess today, it is unfortunate that those who should rekindle our hopes do not even see the hopes; they only keep telling us to be hopeful. I pray that God intervenes because there are clear indications that those ruling this country do not even know where we are headed. The people must now be very committed and prayerful. We need to make sacrifice but the sacrifice should not be streamlined to those who desperately desire good leadership but the leaders. You can’t tell the people to sacrifice while you are living large. It is not right.
The Senate and a section of the country are calling for the sack of the finance minister and that of budget…
Honestly, if you check the way the finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, talks, even though I am not an accountant, I can tell you that she is not fit to manage our financial resources. The best place for her is to be an ambassador, a diplomat maybe in the UK where she can speak oral English. She can be attached to the UN or somewhere to work since she talks without action and talks as if she is giving a lecture without any practical steps. We don’t need people that talk too much. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was not talking too much like this but we were able to see how the international community respects her.
Finance minister Kemi Adeosun is one of those Yerima recommends for sack
The finance minister is not alone; a lot of the cabinet members do not know why they are there. Look at the minister for Youth and Sports, at what point did he arrive at where he now began to wear red beret? Is it part of governance to wear khaki and red beret when your ministry is not functional and you keep talking anyhow? Look at the embarrassments we now face in that ministry; the voice of the Nigerian youths are not heard at all. He just sits in Abuja and handpick some people he is comfortable with and claim he is running a ministry while there is nothing to write home about on sports. Look at the embarrassments from the other sectors of the country. In fact, if you allow me, I will mark this present cabinet 10 percent out of 100. So it means almost all of them should be pushed out so that fresh people with the needed ideas are appointed. You don’t just put people in places of authority just to appease them politically.
Another example is that of the minister of Communication. Before he became minister, remember the way he spoke while being screened. Remember how he made the impression that the country is not worth dying for. Is that the kind of a leader we should have? That would have been enough to disqualify him, but he ended up being a minister. For how long do we continue to bring in people who are not willing to give but constantly take at the expense of the collective interest of the country? They do not see the need to sacrifice but they extend the sacrifice to those who are already helpless. The common people suffer for hunger and economic recession while they are busy enjoying their lives and if they have common headache, they travel abroad and spend so much instead of just buying paracetamol here.
In seven months from now, the president would have been two years in office. What is your assessment of his government?
Honestly, I think we are still far from reality. The expectations of Nigerians and their hopes have been dashed. Some can’t even talk again but some of us are still strong enough to talk because we trained to be rugged and used to the trenches. No matter how bad it is or how you threaten us, we will talk. We ensure we still speak the minds of Nigerians who can’t speak on their own now. Some of those who have refused to speak out at this time are doing so because they have skeletons in their cupboard.
Bukola Saraki, the Senate president and chairman of the National Assembly
All patriotic Nigerians must come out to condemn the current dastardly acts by our political leaders. Some of us think Buhari is a man who tries to be as sincere as possible and ready to work, but the characters around him will not allow him to do…and he, alone, cannot be seen to champion the entire fight. If you have a team which is not working with you, no matter how powerful you are, you will not achieve anything. That is the problem we have today.
We have a problem. These characters are not clean and their body language does not show they mean well for the country. They are just clowns making mockery of themselves. For instance, you will hear the president say one thing today, the next day, you will hear the information minister say another thing altogether. You would now find it difficult to differentiate the spokesman of a political party and the information minister of a whole nation who is no longer an opposition leader.
Let’s know what you think about the APC change mantra looking at the crises, including corruption allegations, that have so far rocked the National Assembly?
It will be very difficult for the president to make any headway with this current National Assembly. You have institutions that are supposed to work together as a team, but within themselves, there are major problems. The institutions are now seen to be made up of people who just found themselves in the corridors of power without even believing in the true ideologies of the man in charge.
Some of them just fell into the change mantra; they were the same people who collapsed the country for about 16 years. Just at the injury time, they realised that the tone was changing and the change mantra was coming and they jumped ship and switched over to this other political party giving the impression that their sins have been washed off. Nigerians did not even bother to ask at what point they repented or changed their attitude towards governance. Today, the same people turn out to be in APC and they are considered genuine, clean, angels, untouchables. And today we are running into more troubles. They are using their advantages against our collective interests.
For how long would we continue to move around with these shameless characters, people with fallen attitudes? I am afraid because with these crops of politicians, Nigeria may not be better. I am afraid if we are going to get it right.
If you are to advise the president on how to go with the remaining two and half years, what would that be?
Because they have wasted his time and he has about two and half years left, what he should do is to begin to strengthen our institutions. Let him strengthen our anti-corruption crusade so that anti-corruption would not only be for the opposition, but for those within the ruling party. The welfare of Nigerians should be uppermost, there should be no politicking. Let the National Assembly actually work for the good of the people. If the National Assembly is strengthened, it would be difficult for those area boys, touts and clowns to find their way there as representatives to make mockery on the people and bring shame to the country. All they do there is to allocate resources to themselves and this is not their responsibility.
Talking about the Senate, we have past governors who are now senators getting allowances from the legislature and receiving allowances from their various states…
We have a terrible system in place in the country. Today, the former governors are up to 70 percent in the Senate. That is where they retire to and that is why it is difficult for any country to survive. Most of them are corrupt. So they position themselves and decide who gets what. Why should a person leave government house as a governor and go to the Senate where he now earns allowances while collecting pension from the state? Is that right? It will be difficult now to make an amendment because they have taken over the Senate.
President Muhammadu Buhari must immediately rejig his cabinet
I don’t know how we will do it, but probably, we need to get out of this quagmire. And to do this, we must look into the issue of restructuring as this would address so many issues.
So you still support restructuring?
I support everything about restructuring. I didn’t not just start supporting it like others. I have been in this struggle for over 17 years and our demand is very clear that we need total restructuring in the country. Today, I am happy that people who did not share the same idea with us are beginning to fall in line.
We cannot continue like this or we will continue to have a lot to loose. We must discuss how we live as a people, how we elect our leaders, manage our police and issues of state police and others must be discussed. We cannot continue to allow the central government to carry all our burden, it is not possible anymore, it is not done anywhere in the world. By the time we go into restructuring, most of these lazy governors and political leaders would be exposed. You would see how lazy these characters are. In fact, some of them cannot manage their families, but today, they are put in a position to manage over five to 10 million people in some situations.
How would you advise the president to go about the various agitators in the country?
I do not think it is right for anybody to hold the country to ransom, but if people are making agitation, the government should listen and give them the opportunity to make demands. Where the government cannot meet the demands, it should be bold enough to say that. Agitation is a way of life but it is not right to take up arms against the state. Restructuring is the answer because with it, the regional governments are empowered. By then, the issue of militancy in the Niger Delta would not affect my people in the north just as the issue of Boko Haram will not affect the people of the south.