By Ishola Balogun
Alhaji Shettima Yerima, an activist and president of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, in this interview says that peace may continue to be elusive if some ethnic groups are treated as second class citizens in the Nigeria project, adding that justice and fairness can only ensure the much desired peace in the country. Excerpts.
The inflammatory statements here and there especially coming from politicians and ex-militants on the general elections are source of worry. You agree?
I am worried because this is not what we expected from this country at this time. I am very worried also because we don’t need these inflammatory statements coming here and there at this particular time. It baffles me when I see our democracy turning into something else. People don’t talk as patriotic Nigerians. Politicians don’t talk about what will benefit the people any more and those who are beneffiting from the government shy away from the truth. Most of them believe that they can do anything and go away with it.
Many Politicians seem to have forgotten that election will come and go but the country will remain.
We have done it in the past and we are going to do it again. Those who are making inflamatory statements are those who have not contributed any thing to the growth of the country, they were not on the trenches when there were problems but they have the opportunity to be there not because they are better than us. Let all politicians be mindful of what they say because if anything goes wrong, they will all be affected. If they think they will run away, they may not be able to escape and if they do, their families will be affected.
With some of these war threat, people are apprehensive of possible post election violence, what are you doing to stop it?
The post election violence in 2011 is still fresh in my memory. So many people were killed and many families were wiped out in Kano. I saw how people were lynched. It was good that it didn’t escalate to the south. We liaised with various ethnic nationalities and it was controlled. We have worked alongside some international organisations and built a good relationship. But we have been able to manage the situation and those leaders from various organisations that are based in the South have actually seen our efforts and have trusted us.
As one of the Northern leaders, I give updates to people and educate them on what to do. Where danger looms, I call the attention of the government and security agencies to avert it and to protect people.
Right now, are you doing the same inorder to forestall a repeat of the post-election violence in 2011?
We are doing it. As I speak with you, we are in touch with various ethnic national leaders. I have spoken, with Fredrick Fasheun, Gani Adams, Asari Dokubo and the rest of them. We are discussing extensively and we might hold a press briefing very soon on the need for violence-free elections before and after election in all parts of the country.
These people are of the view that they are being treated as second class citizens. Yes! I agree with some of their views because we are all the same in this project Nigeria.
There is hope if we have equity and fairness. The politicians have to watch their utterances. These days, the campaigns are not based on issues but attack on personalities. It has even extended to generations of a families. I don’t think it is right, people must be called to order. The politicians are too rascal in their approaches.
To me, both the ex-militants and TY Danjuma are wrong. The call for war is wrong and also depriving somebody of his freedom of speech is also wrong. If Jonathan loses through normal process, they have no reason to raise any eyebrow; again, there are other channels without war. You can go to court and challenge the verdict. Nigeria must be seen to be bigger than any individual. Again, the call by Danjuma that they should be arrested is uncalled for because similar statements have been made by other people in the past. What happened? Was there any arrest? No. So, anybody talking now is enjoying his liberty under a democratic government.
But from the discussion I had with so many of them, nobody wants war.
What efforts are the Northern leaders putting in place to ensure that there is no repeat of 2011 post election violence?
You can see that I spend most of the time, in the north. I move from one state to another trying to consult with various youth organisations. We are trying to educate them on the consequences of violence. It usually starts when somebody initiates a bad idea and put it on people. These people believe whatever they are told and they start killing people. We try as much as we can to diffuse that mindset, sensitize them and make them realise the effect of their action. Be that as it may, I don’t think that is enough, government must also rise to the challenge that adequate security is provided during and after the elections.
The Boko Haram insurgents seem to have defied all government’s strategy to wipe them out, what do you think government should have done?
In fairness, I don’t expect President Jonathan to go to Maiduguri and fight. There are people saddled with that responsibility. It shows these people have demonstrated total incompetence. The government then must rise to the occasion to saction them, sack them and bring fresh people who will deal very well with the situation. So, when people tell me Jonathan is behind Boko Haram, I get confused the more. Most of the people involved in security of the country are from the Northern area, so, are they in any way sabotaging the efforts of the government or serving the interest of a particular people?
We should ask Minister for Defence, the National Security Adviser, NSA, the Inspector General of Police, Attorney-General of the federation, all of them are from the north. Instead of pointing accusing fingers, these people should tell us about it and we will know where the problem is coming from rather than blaming Jonathan alone.
But these people get order and directives from the President…
Yes! I am sure there is an order and if there is none, I challenge them to come forward and say it. So, if there is an order and they refuse to carry out the order, or they don’t carry it out well he should sack them. Fire all of them and bring in fresh blood that will tackle this problem and save our nation. What is affecting Maiduguri and other places, is indirectly affecting other parts of the country.