Yerima Shettima is the President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum. In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he speaks on the controversy over zoning for the 2023 presidential election, Southern Kaduna crisis and other issues of national interest. Excerpts:
You have always insisted that the North will produce President Buhari’s successor in 2023 but the President’s nephew, Mamman Daura recently said competence should be considered for the next rather than zoning. What is your perspective on that?
I’m in support of what he said because the issue of zoning has not helped us in the past and it will never help us now. Yes, it is true that it must be seen to be applied in the spirit of justice, equity and fairness to all. But don’t forget the fact that this is the same thing that brought us to where we are today. So, I am of the view that competency can come from any part of the country. If we have any competent hand from any part of the country, we will all queue behind that person and help him succeed so that we can get things right. If we can’t get it right, things can never move forward and we will just remain stagnant on one spot.
So, I concur with Mamman Daura’s view that competency is critical at this particular time without minding the region where that person comes from. In the past, my position has always been that the North will retain the power but when I look at events in the country, between three years ago and last year, a lot of things have really changed. We are more divided than we used to be and so on that basis, I resort to my recent conclusion that let us settle for competency rather than zoning. If we have the best eleven from North- East; South-South; North-Central; South-East; North-West and South- West, let us bring them to the fore and let Nigerians decide. But in the North, we will ensure that we vehemently refuse any arrangement by any political party that will say categorically that it has zoned the presidency to any geo-political zone. We will vehemently resist that. Let there be a level playing field for all. Let everyone bring their best to the table and allow Nigerians decide who they want. This is democracy.
So, in essence you are saying you are no longer rigid on the North producing the President in 2023?
My position now is that the unity of the country is far paramount, and it is that unity that we are taking into consideration when members of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum took the position that it is competence that should now be taken into consideration when picking Buhari’s successor in 2023. Our position now is that the Presidency can go to any geo-political zone in 2023. But whoever gets it must be very competent. He must be a dynamic hardworking Nigerian who is not above 70.
You said the next President must not be above 70 but some Nigerians are saying the two leading Presidential candidates in USA are over 70 and as such experience should be considered. Do you share this view?
If Americans decide that is what they want, that is for America. We are Nigerians, not Americans. So, let us not be making reference to what is happening in America or using it as yardstick for us here. We are saying that the younger generations must be encouraged to occupy the political space. Side by side, let there by synergy between the younger and the older generation, but not when the reverse is the case where the younger generation are being neglected. We vehemently say no.
Are you saying the likes of Atiku Abubakar who are over 70 should forget the 2023 presidential election?
Well, I don’t know if he is up to 70. I don’t want to mention names of individuals here; I am just talking generally here.
Chief E.K Clark said other Nigerians should allow the South-East produced the President as it is their turn. Do you think his argument is worth considering?
This is democracy and everybody is entitled to his opinion. That is Clark’s opinion and I’m also telling you our own opinion. Is Clark’s opinion constitutional? No, it’s not. It’s an arrangement. We can also decide on our own arrangement but the reality is that the constitution supersedes any arrangement. Any arrangement outside the constitution is null and void. It is not legitimate; it is not binding on anybody and it is not constitutional.