Yerima Shettima is the National president of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF, and a major actor in the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as the nation’s President in 2015. But Shettima who is now regretting his roles and those of his group in the emergence of the president, in an exclusive chat with DAILY POST’s Deputy Editor, Sylvester Ugwuanyi, had among other things described the three years of Buhari’s tenure as a waste. Recall that President Buhari had recently said a lot of Nigerian youths are lazy and do not want to work.
How do you react to the President’s comment that a lot of Nigerians prefer to stay idle?
The statement of the President is uncalled for. Why should I support him? What the President said about Nigerian youths in London is uncalled for. It is unfortunate.
Is it possible that the President had any section of the country in mind while making that statement?
This insult is to the Nigerian youths. He did not specifically make mention of the South or the North. It’s to the Nigerian youths and it’s unfortunate. As a father, he shouldn’t have spoken that way not even in the country but outside of the country where there is a gathering of persons from so many countries. For the president to have made that pronouncement, for us it’s an abuse on our sensibilities. But having said that, the youths have heard all and 2019 will be the deciding factor; whether we are jobless, whether we are lazy. Whatever we are, 2019 will be the deciding factor.
Does the presidency’s clarification that Buhari wasn’t referring to all Nigerian youth make any difference?
Femi Adesina clarifying that the President said a lot of, not all Nigerians does not make any difference. We don’t expect to hear anything different from what Femi Adesina said. That’s his job. He is paid to do that, and he will keep saying such. But good enough, he didn’t deny that the president said Nigerians are lazy. But he made mention that the language was not generally for Nigerian youths as a whole. No matter what, even if it is one or two youths, no matter the number, the fact remains that you cannot continue to go out of this country and abuse the sensibilities of Nigerians. It is wrong, especially this present generation that worked so hard to ensure that this government came to be. It is wrong.
Do you think this controversial statement will reduce the crowd pulled by the President whenever he visits northern states?
Since the statement was made, he has not visited Kano or Kaduna yet. So let him come back, visit Kano or Kaduna then we will know whether he is still popular or not. Even before the statement, the crowd has already reduced so as regards crowd trooping to welcome him now that he has stated this, we don’t know what will happen again until he is back.
But is the electoral worth of the President still intact for 2019?
The president is destroying his goodwill from Nigerians, that’s the truth. Some of these statements are uncalled for. Some of the government’s actions are totally uncalled for. I can assure you that the support he got in 2015, he is clearly not going to have it in 2019.
Are the media handlers of the President living up to expectations?
Adesina and Lai Mohammed are the worst media handlers any Nigerian government has ever had. They are the most terrible people that has ever worked for any government of this country that I have ever seen. This is a bad time for the government because the image makers are really not doing good at all for the government. Within them, they are not even coordinated.
Since the President made the remark about youths in London, what has the reaction from your members being like?
From the moment that statement was out, there have been a lot of complaints and grumbles from various people from many places, and they kept calling. The complaints were too much that I was compelled to issue a statement. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have said anything because I am not surprised to see that kind of statement because the government does not believe in the Nigerian youths from inception. If you look at the arrangement, the appointments, and how the government relates with the youths of this country, you will see that they do not have respect for the Nigerian youths despite the contributions of the youths. Don’t forget that the youths put their lives on the line to fight against the previous government to the extent that this government came to be. But when it comes to sharing the goodies of government, the youths are nowhere to be found. The most they can do is to look for some young men who they make SAs. They make us look stupid. It is high time we woke from this madness and begin to do things right. We have come of age and I can assure you that the Nigerian youths are well-organised, well-informed now. Certainly, 2019 will be the deciding factor.
With all the support you gave Buhari ahead of 2019, can you categorically say you’re disappointed in Buhari?
We are completely disappointed in Buhari and we will never make this mistake again.
At what point did you start being disappointed in the present government?
At the first year of his tenure, we said let’s give him the grace to settle down because he has taking his time looking for the best brains in the country to work with. We didn’t make any comment. Second year, we assumed that with the coming of the best brains in the country already nominated as ministers, they would have had their blueprint on what to do, we realised that the second year came to pass without any serious thing happening. Then we became suspicious. The third year, it is obvious that in Nigeria’s history, a tenure of a government is four years. And the moment you realise that after three years, the government cannot pinpoint one particular thing they have achieved, in the fourth year, if you sit down to assume that in the next one year, the government will do any miracle then you must be living in the figment of imagination and for us we know that the job is over. The three years of this government is a waste.
Is your group really working with southern counterparts, are the Arewa youths working with southern groups for 2019?
If you monitor our activities lately, you would see that we have built a serious synergy between the north and the south. And we work together in a very cordial manner. We are working strategically on what and things to do. The work is going on collectively. All hands must be on deck to ensure that we save Nigeria from this quagmire.