One of the leaders of Arewa youth groups that recently issued a quit notice to Igbo indigenes in the North, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Shettima Yerima, in this interview with ADELEKE ADESANYA, says the only solution to ongoing agitations in the country is restructuring. The northern youths’ leader also strikes by saying that the North is already equipped with enough resources to survive in the event that the country is splintered. Excerpts:
Nigerians have been thrown into commotion following the quit notice issued by your group and other northern groups to the Igbo in the region recently. The issue led to several reactions by notable Nigerians among whom were northern leaders who appeared to have disowned the northern youths. What will you say is the situation of things now?
Well, this is natural in anything you do in life. Some are bound to agree with what you did or said and some are bound to disagree or assume they do not believe it. Have you seen a situation in which someone gives the words of God and some people do not believe in it, even in God himself? We are just human beings and it is just natural that all that happened should unfold like that. But that doesn’t change our stand.
One of the northern leaders that supported your stand, Professor Ango Abdullahi, was asked to be arrested by some people. How will you react to this?
Is the arrest the solution to this problem? Is it not to look at the indices and the source of the problem? How many persons are they going to arrest? The arrest is not the answer to the problem. People have to be courageous to be prophetic. Nigeria must be saved; we are committed to the Nigerian project and we are proud of the country we own. Those who do not believe in the success of Nigeria should be allowed to go. We didn’t say we are forcing them out of the country. If you said you were not ready to stay, then you are free to go. We would draw the attention of the international community to write to them (Biafra agitators), and to advise the President on their issue. We are already planning to write them. Nobody is forcing anybody to stay. If you said you didn’t want the country and you wanted to go, then you should be allowed to go. Governed by the international law, these people (Igbo) should be allowed to go so that the CONTINUED ON PAGE 20 North can survive without oil – Yerima country can be stable. You cannot do what you are doing and be causing havoc, threatening the whole country, going against the law and nobody is ready to talk.
Imagine, one person cannot just be there, defying the law, going against the law of the land, and rather than his kinsmen to regulate him, they are not. You see him with either some people in the executive arm, the senate, and also some characters are celebrating him. How can such be encouraged in our society? Must he be celebrated? He disobeyed the law of the land and he is celebrated. Does it speak of any good direction for our nation? Is this how we build our nationhood? Supposing this is accepted, we would continue to remain like this and have our society greatly threatened. Nobody calls for war, but people out of mischief risk it.
WE WOULD DRAW THE ATTENTION OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO WRITE TO THEM (BIAFRA AGITATORS), AND TO ADVISE THE PRESIDENT ON THEIR ISSUE. WE ARE ALREADY PLANNING TO WRITE THEM. NOBODY IS FORCING ANYBODY TO STAY. IF YOU SAID YOU DIDN’T WANT THE COUNTRY AND YOU WANTED TO GO, THEN YOU SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO GO
What do you think will address this issue?
We need referendum. I can assure you that if referendum is brought in place, this issue of Biafra and others will become a thing of the past. Using referendum, we would realise that those who want to remain in the country are more than those who belong to that group called IPOB. We cannot say because some people categorise and as such, make it a blank cheque. I assume it’s just their agenda of evil. Even on that day (October 1 quit notice date) you’ll realise that those residing in the North are not going to force them to leave by force. Nobody is saying that. We are not violent but mature.
But the leaders of IPOB have said they have accepted that their people should come home.
It is their choice; we are not forcing anybody to leave but we should ensure we canvass the referendum so that the issue of Biafra would be a thing of the past. It won’t come again. We would insist on organising a referendum for them. Anyone that wants to stay would stay and automatically this issue of Biafra would become past tense, because we want to live in Nigeria. Those who want to remain would be safe, so that no one would threaten them because they refuse to identify with IPOB.
A group from Niger Delta sought the arrest of Arewa youth leaders; what’s your position on this?
There is no problem. If we are invited, we will come over. We are not hiding.
The Igbo as well said the country should be restructured and if Buhari failed to restructure, they would go and nothing would stop them. Do the northern youths support the restructuring of the country?
Well, I can’t speak for others; but for my group, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, we are going for the advocacy so that this madness of Biafra can end, so that we can begin to harness the resources of this country properly. Without the oil controversies and other distractions, our people will become more strong and committed. At the end, we will begin to harness our resources, bring out new resources. Everyone will be looking at how they will make their own addition and things will be fine. We can now have agreement between the Federal Government and the states. No state government will be wait ing for the Federal Government and as states too, we would work so that no Government within the regions would take our money too. We would be able to know where our money goes to and we would have account for it. If we start developing in our regions, Nigeria would be better than it is now.
Some persons have said the northerners are against the restructuring of the country because they would be at loss.
Anyone that says that is a lazy man. We are great men, we have a lot of good things and we can do better. We had been better before the advent of oil. Where was the oil at the beginning? No oil and we were doing better. The northern establishment was not as a result of oil. If we were benefitting from the oil, we wouldn’t have had lots of people begging and starving. Today, things are not circulating well. Look at what we are facing; to us, the oil is nothing to write home about. Let us go back to the basics; we have a very good soil. We are known to be farmers; we would harness our products and do them well. We would bring them out and sell to other nations both locally and internationally. Then we begin to look at how we need to share, and others things. We would have cause to smile, not the one that our y o u t h s w o u l d graduate and h a v e noth – ing to do. This must not continue, we should not continue to do the same thing; we must change attitude.
THE OIL IS NOTHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT. LET US GO BACK TO THE BASICS; (NORTHERNERS) WE HAVE A VERY GOOD SOIL. WE ARE KNOWN TO BE FARMERS; WE WOULD HARNESS OUR PRODUCTS AND DO THEM WELL. WE WOULD BRING THEM OUT AND SELL TO OTHER NATIONS BOTH LOCALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY
Are the youths in your group pleased with the northern leaders?
The issue here is poor systematic problem. Some of our leaders are doing well while some are not. Let us be gin to see how we can restructure so that some of these things would be a thing of the past. We would be able to know how much we made and how much we are getting. We manage ourselves, create opportunities for the young ones to b e g i n to get j o b s , graduate from school without any tension or anything. Concerning the Igbo issue, there is a rumour that the issue is political, especially that it has to do with the 2019 election.
I’m not aware of that, but people have their views. There is nothing people will not say something about.
I am not in for that. Everyone knows that I am not in for violence and my mindset is indeed free. I have a good rapport with the North and the South. Peace and understanding matter a lot to me. I’m not into violence and I will never be into one.
June 12 was recently celebrated in respect of the late MKO Abiola. What is your perception about the struggle?
I am one of those that celebrated June 12 and I am committed to it. I can recall that in the presidential election, for the first time, Nigerians showed the true spirit of unity. Nigerians came out to vote for Abiola, not minding whether he was a Christian or a Muslim. He was a Muslim at that time and even his vice presidential candidate. Both of them contested and Nigerians didn’t mind. But the military government annulled the election and created more suspicion in the land and that is what we are still facing today. That has happened. I think June 12 is celebrated so that we can have moments of reflection on our past. This will help us get a better Nigeria and generation for the future.