•Says only death penalty can stop bandits, kidnappers
National President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) Alhaji Yerima Shettima has declared that it would be unfair for another Northerner to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari as the nation’s next leader. In an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, he also spoke on other national issues.
What’s your take on the present state of insecurity across the country?
It is very bad. It is very alarming. We never had it so bad in the country. But whatever has a beginning must surely have an end and this is why the federal government must rise up to the occasion. This is not what Nigerians expected, having voted for the APC, a party that promised change in 2015. This is not the kind of change Nigerians bargained for security-wise. But I believe strongly that there will be a change for good if government approaches the issue with all the seriousness it deserves.
I believe that there are a series of factors responsible for insecurity in the country. One is bad governance. Two, the level of impunity in the country is very high, and three, as the saying goes, an idle hand is the devil’s workshop. The high level of unemployment in the country has forced some Nigerians to take to crime, and something must be done to address this vital issue as reducing unemployment will help reduce crime in the country. Most of the policies by the government are not people-friendly policies, and to that extent, most people become redundant, and when people become redundant and useless, they become hopeless and then become easy targets for recruitment by people who have evil intentions like those behind banditry, and kidnappings. To me again, the service chiefs are not doing enough. If you give responsibility to somebody, and if the expected results are not being achieved, then you fire the person. The service chiefs have to do more, and not only that, there has to be synergy between the various arms of the security services. They have to work in harmony to ensure that they get optimal results in the war against terrorism. If I give you responsibility, and results are not being achieved, then you relieved the person of his duties. Nothing stops President Muhammadu Buhari from removing the service chiefs if tangible results are not being achieved. Kidnappers, bandits, and other criminal elements are still having a field day. They are still operating at an alarming rate across the country, and this is very unfortunate. It is sad that Nigerians are being held captive in their own country. Nobody is safe again. These criminals have become a big burden on Nigerians, and instead of the crime abating, it has been going up, and this is why I’m saying that the service chiefs should be fired if we are not getting the desired results. This is an election season, and security is very crucial to the peaceful conduct of the polls, and this is why President Muhammadu Buhari should do the needful now.
What should the government do to find a lasting solution to the insecurity challenges?
We can have community policing or state police to compliment the efforts of the federal security agencies. This is how it is done in other places. You have the federal and the state police. They complement one another. But we should get it right first at the federal level. More work is still to be done by the military, then state police or community policing can now come in. Although there is no country in the world that is crime-free or where you have perfection, what we are saying is that our security agencies have to improve on the present situation. They have to do more because nobody can tell me that these bandits and kidnappers are more powerful than the government or armed forces.. Those saddled with security should do more. A situation where cases of kidnappings and abductions have become a daily affair is not acceptable. It must stop. This is not the kind of country we envisaged. This is not the kind of country we desired. Then our security agencies should talk less about what they are doing because as they are talking, the bandits and kidnappers are also talking. What we need from them is more action. Let the results of what they are doing speak more for them. By talking every now, our security agencies may even indirectly be providing some information to these people. They should speak less. They should work behind the scenes, and give us results. I believe that our armed forces are capable of crushing these bandits if the right approaches are adopted. There is no way these criminals can overwhelm them. It is not possible.
The reason why this banditry is lingering is that some people are making money from the insurgency. However, the federal government must take decisive action to end the insurgency once and for all. Where there is a will, there will always be a way, Buhari’s government can still do something concrete to tackle the problem within the remaining few months left to the end of his tenure in office. This is a critical period as the general elections are fast approaching, and this is why Buhari’s government must wake up from its slumber, and take decisive actions now, otherwise, his government would be remembered as being the worst security-wise in the history of the country.
Some Nigerians have canvassed the death penalty as part of the solution to end banditry and kidnapping. What’s your stand on that?
I absolutely agree with that. Death sentences for bandits and kidnappers will help us tackle this festering problem. They should set up courts to try bandits, and kidnappers, and anyone found guilty should be summarily executed. This will serve as a deterrent to others. Maybe we have been treating them with kid’s gloves, and that’s why their ranks keep on swelling but if we introduce drastic measures like the death penalty, I believe it will help us stop these acts of criminality. There is no reason to keep bandits and kidnappers alive. Once they are found guilty they should be eliminated. Why do you want to keep these criminals alive? These are people who have no human feelings for their fellow human beings, so why should we pity them when they are caught? He who kills by the sword must surely die by the sword. The death penalty will scare these people, and it will make some would-be criminals think twice before joining these evil gangs.
Some people have said it’s only restructuring that can solve Nigeria’s many challenges. Do you agree?
There is no alternative to restructuring if we want to become a great nation. Our leaders claim that Nigeria is a federal state and that we are practising federalism, but this is nothing but a false claim. What we are practising is seriously flawed federalism. It is a mockery of true federalism. The central government or what we call the federal government is too powerful, and this is not supposed to be so in true federalism. I have always been an advocate of restructuring, and I believe that this is the time, or for the new government that is coming after Buhari to embrace restructuring because there is no alternative to it if we want to realise our potential as a nation. We need to decentralize in order to make the centre less attractive. We need to devolve more powers to the federating units as too much power is concentrated in the hands of the central government. It is not done under a true federal government for the centre to be all too powerful as we have it now. We need to decentralize so that the regions can be more viable and more productive. If we decentralize it will make the federating units or the regions do better economically, politically, and even security-wise. If this is the type of federalism that we practised in the First Republic, the late Obafemi Awolowo couldn’t have achieved those great feats he achieved in the defunct Western region, and the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe couldn’t also have achieved the results he achieved in the old Eastern region, and same also goes for the late Sir Ahmadu Bello in the Northern region. He also couldn’t have performed excellently as a Premier if he was operating under a flawed federalism. If the centre had been too strong, these late eminent statesmen including the then Prime Minister, the late Sir. Tafawa Balewa couldn’t have recorded successes that are being attributed to them today. We need to decentralize so that the centre can be less attractive, and also to promote healthy competition for development among the states. Decentralisation will also make state governors become hardworking, as most of them are lazy. They are not enterprising. They are not inward-looking as they rely only on monthly allocations from the central government. But the allocations are now even shrinking and may even soon dry up. So the earlier the state governors start looking inwards instead of depending on the centre for allocations to run their states, the better for them.
With restructuring, state governors will be more focused, they will become more enterprising, and they will look for ways to harness resources in their domains with a view of generating revenues instead of going cap in hands every month to Abuja for the monthly allocations. It will help them to be more productive. As it is now, things are gradually falling apart at the centre, and it appears as if the centre can no longer hold, so restructuring is the only way out. Although restructuring was part of the sloganeering of the APC during the campaigns in 2015, now after almost eight years in office, they’ve not done anything about it, and it is evident that they can’t do anything about it again but the incoming government must do something about restructuring otherwise the future of Nigeria as a nation is in danger.
What’s your assessment of the last seven and half years of the APC-led government?
They have done their best, and they can’t do more than what they’ve done up till now. Although in some areas like infrastructure provision in terms of roads, and railway construction, the government has tried. But in terms of corruption, this government has not done a lot to fight it. We expect more than this but they didn’t get it right. However, they’ve done their best, and they can’t do better than what they’ve done, so we wish them well while we pray for the next government to be better than this. You can’t give what you don’t have. We should leave the rest for history to judge them. But we should pray that the next government should be better than this.
Can Nigerians vote for another Northerner after Buhari’s eight years in office? What would that portend for Nigeria’s unity?
It will be very unfair for another Northerner to step in after Buhari. It will be immoral and unjust. For equity and justice, Buhari’s successor should come from the South. It will be unfair for us to support a Northerner to emerge as Buhari’s successor. The South should produce Buhari’s successor. Although I’m not an advocate of zoning, and I will never support zoning because it is not in Nigeria’s constitution but for fairness, and justice, and for the sake of Nigeria’s unity, the Presidency should come to the South in 2023. However, it is Nigerians that will decide, and to that extent, the choice will be made by Nigerians. But like I said earlier for fairness, and justice, it should be the turn of the South in 2023. Nigeria belongs to all of us, and we must give everybody a sense of belonging.
What’s your take on INEC’s preparations for the 2023 general elections?
INEC under the leadership of Prof. Mahmoud Yacoub has been doing well, and there is no doubt that they are ready for the elections. I implore Nigerians to support the commission to succeed. Although some anti-democratic elements have been attacking INEC offices across the country, these forces of darkness will not succeed. They must be fished out, and be made to face justice. INEC must be given all the support it needed to conduct successful polls. Prof. Yacoub and his team are doing a yeoman’s job, I have no doubt that INEC will live up to expectations in 2023.