The National President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF, a political pressure group and umbrella body of all youth groups in northern Nigeria, Alhaji Shettima Yerima, has disclosed that his group has replaced Shege Ka Fasa with a new security outfit called Arewa[i] Security Marshal. Shettima who is also the convener of the Coalition of Northern Groups told Scudnews in an exclusive interview at the weekend that the new outfit is presently being registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and that the modalities for its operation would be unveiled after registration.
According to him, the northern governors have violated the confidence of northern youths and exposed northerners to inconveniences not foreseen and therefore, they have decided to take their destinies in their hands. “They are very good in condemning but they have no alternative. Are these the people we should rely on to put our lives and destiny in their hands and expect to get results? They will never give you any result. It is very unfortunate. We may all die if we rely on them.”
As you are aware, the president came out strong recently to say the best of the military Service Chiefs was not good enough and that they should leverage on what they have been able to do so far. That was after a coalition of northern youths protested about the killings by bandits in the north. But it seems from the statement by a wing of your coalition, that you are not convinced that the situation can change even after this challenge by the president to the service chiefs. Why are the northern youths pessimistic, as it were?
You see, the truth of the matter is that some of us are really, really not unhappy with the situation in the northern part of the country. Don’t forget almost 50 percent of our people are farmers. Today our people can no longer go to their farms because of insecurity. It is either they are being killed, kidnapped or one thing or the other will happen to them. As a result of that most of them don’t go to their farms anymore. So, some of us felt that in the nearest future if steps are not taken we are all going to die of hunger. It is not the north alone because even by extension the south will be affected. So what we called for was a peaceful protest and the reason we called for the protest was to put the government on their toes and to create a situation of consciousness so that government will checkmate some of the excesses of these security chiefs. When we did that, one of the leaders of the coalition was arrested. Immediately we demanded for his release. I was at the scene. When they brought him from Katsina I was the first person he called. Some of us felt that it was not right to detain him because the protest was peaceful and nobody can stop Nigerians from crying when something is wrong. But the fact of the matter is that something went wrong and we did not just wake up one day and took to the streets. We felt there is the need for somebody to talk so that the government can sit up. Don’t forget that for the first time in the last five years there is no way you will find this on record where Buhari openly condemned and cautioned the service chiefs. You see whatever we are doing we are doing in the best interest of the country. We are not in any way working to destabilize the government, causing confusion or compound their problems. We are always on the side of advising them or drawing their attention to something wrong so that this country can move forward. If the country is bad and things get out of hand it does no good to us. All of us will be direct victims of the bad governance. So the protest was in good faith and immediately he rose up whether the statement was genuine or not, it was to draw the attention of government to what is going on and as God will have it the government, NSA and the presidency through Garba Shehu made statements where the president said he would no longer tolerate anything for an excuse. Our demands were very simple. What we said was that if they cannot do it, if they have run out of ideas it is not out of place to change the service chiefs and to come out with younger elements who can do it and that probably they have done their best and their best is not good enough for the country. For us we have spoken and we believe we should give them the benefit of doubt. This protest happened about two weeks ago but you can see what is happening now. To an extent, some of us are beginning to see body languages, not because it is satisfactory but we can see some actions going on. Let us give them some benefit of doubt for few months to come. If we don’t see any change then we can also sit down and review the issue and probably come out with another style that we think would be better for the country.
From your point of view having regards to the evidences before you, can the military alone win this war on banditry?
That is where they are missing the point because this is not a conventional war in respect of banditry, kidnapping and terrorism in Yobe, Borno and other states in the north and…
(Cuts in) I asked this question because the security outfit you formed last time, Shege Ka Fasa which was what your coalition saw as an outfit that would tackle banditry and kidnapping did not…
(Cuts in) I am coming. That is where I am going. We the youths in the north came out with something, but unfortunately, you know our people sometimes they don’t appreciate some of our ideas. We have seen the youths in the southeast doing same and they got the support of their people as regards community policing approved by the government through the Inspector General of Police. We have seen the Amotekun case which was an idea brought by younger elements like us and has been bought over and we can see the result. But in our case even when we rose up some of our leaders who do not actually understand where we were headed criticized us. We didn’t do it to confront anybody. What we said was that there is need for community policing. There is no way you will continue to work in isolation in a community and you get result without involving the people. I have always been an advocate of community policing just like you have in other parts of the world. It is not a wrong thing. Let us have community policing that would complement the efforts of the federal Police. For intelligence gathering you need to build synergy, confidence and trust. They need trust and somebody to rely on to protect them; but if you make them to understand that they are just bloody civilians who have no role to play, how can you fight the bandits? You probably have an Emeka from Anambra State and you made him Area Commander in Kaura Namoda or Commissioner of Police in Zamfara State he will not succeed because he is not vast in that area, not because he is not competent. You picked an officer from Lagos and sent him to Daura and you expect him to succeed? It is not possible but when you have synergy between him and the community security outfit or vigilante you can be rest assured that you will get classified information because the locals know the terrain and what is going on there than others from outside the community. They know those assisting the bandits and the criminals among them; they also know when somebody is harmful and they will expose them, but they need synergy. This is what we meant, but they criticized us and refused to give an alternative. It’s very sad and unfortunate. Under the leadership of the Northern Governors Forum, the Governor of Plateau State openly, on behalf of Northern Governors came hard on us and queried us on why we initiated Shege Ka Fasa. Fine, but if they have problems with the name, at least we have the idea and what we expected them to do at that time was to call us and say okay change the name and let us advise you on how to go about it. As they condemned Shege Ka Fasa then up till today they have not given an alternative. They are very good in condemning but they have no alternative. Are these the people we should rely on to put our lives and destiny in their hands and expect to get results? They will never give you any result. It is very unfortunate. We may all die if we rely on them. The way the southern governors are thinking fast, cooperating and building synergy with prominent people and organizations that are not useless ones, the northern people here especially the governors are not in any way like that because most of them don’t mean well. The pride of their people is not before them but rather they are after what will benefit them directly and that is why we are having this problem. There is no way you can do it alone. They need to build synergy; they need information, but the moment you start thinking that you are Alpha and Omega just know that you are making a fool of yourself and you can’t get it right. That is the problem.
I asked a question: do you think the military alone can win the war against bandits and have you jettisoned the idea of shege Ka Fasa? Are you fine tuning your strategy or thinking of something else?
What we did was when they raised the issue…let me answer the first one first. This is not conventional war; so merely shooting guns and throwing bombs is not enough to solve the problem. They need to build synergy between them and members of the communities and get result. The issue of security must be all inclusive. Everybody must be involved and this is the first answer. The answer to your second question is that when we thought about the issue of security challenge in the north and we raised it we had a lot of blows from all angles; from the governors, traditional rulers and others and some of us even had to go out of our ways to retaliate. We responded with some ugly words that are not in tandem with our culture. Of course, we reacted because we least expect such criticisms coming from some of our prominent leaders that we had respect for. However, at the end of the day we were asked to go to the Corporate Affairs Commission to register. At the end of the day they played politics with the issue of registration and refused to register the body. At the end of the day we hired Lawyers who took the matter to court. We challenged those concerned why we should not be granted permission to look at issues relating to protecting ourselves and to complement the efforts of the Federal Government. We asked to know why it is possible for the south west to have Amotekun and the south east to have their security outfit and why the northern case is so exceptional and different. We also asked why we are not enjoying the support of northern governors? It was the Federal Government that we took to court some few months ago.
Do you really need to go to court before setting up an outfit meant to secure your people?
Yes, so that they don’t misunderstand us and mistake it for something else. That is why it is better for the court to interprete it. We demanded that it is our right to have security outfit in the north like they have in the south. Why is it impossible for us to have an outfit when, in fact, we are the worst hit in terms of banditry, kidnappings, terrorism and other vices in the country? Why place that impediment that made it difficult for us to register the outfit we raised? We believe there is more to it but time will tell. We felt that since we have the right to speak on behalf of our people in the north it is better we seek interpretation whether or not we have the right to form an outfit that will defend our people and fight banditry and kidnappings that are wreaking havoc since the south west and south east already have.
What is the relationship between your organ, the Coalition of Northern Youths Group and Northern Elders Forum and the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF on this issue?
On this issue, the Northern Elders Forum…of course, don’t forget we are very close. In most cases we have joint meetings where we discuss issues relating to northern Nigeria and Nigeria at large. We also discuss fundamental issues and in most cases it is either they advise us or we advise them. Just recently you remember they advised us to put our protest on hold. The protest was supposed to come out a day before their meeting but after gathering some information they advised that we shift the day of the protest. The ACF, of course, don’t forget they are neither here nor there because of their new leadership…I don’t think they have had any meeting lately due to the emergence of their new executive. So we are closer to the Northern Elders Forum under the leadership of Professor Ango Abdullahi whom we see as our role model and have a lot of respect for as a father. Now, we have decided to change the Shege Ka Fasa to another one which we are working on. Many names were suggested but at the end of the day we arrived at Arewa Security Marshal. We are working on the registration now; so as soon as that is done we will tell Nigerians our position and how it is going to work to complement the efforts of the Federal Government to ensure that we enjoy synergy. As it is we have dropped the court case.
With whom or which organization did you arrive at the name Arewa Security Marshal? Is it with the Northern Elders Forum?
No, no, no. We came up with the name, Arewa Security Marshal at the level of the Northern Coalition Group.
After this decision have you briefed the elders of the north so that you don’t make the same mistake your group was accused of when you came out with Shege Ka Fasa?
Yes, we have discussed with them. We are only to notify them. But this is our platform, our organization and any other person can also apply to say what he thinks about it for as long as it is an issue that we think should be brought to the fore to complement the efforts of the Federal Government.
I am asking this question because the last time the elders were angry about the name Shege Ka Fasa and now that you have a new name is it not…
(Cuts in) Honestly, honestly, we do not expect every elder to key into it. We are at liberty to do what we think will be In the best interest of our people. Who are the elders? Is it at the platform of the Northern Elders Forum? No. So if an individual in his capacity feel that he is not comfortable that is his business.
Get what I am saying right. Amotekun, for instance, was the idea of Governors of the south west region. Have you discussed with the Northern Governors’ Forum?
Let us get the registration first. Or is there any law that says we cannot form a Vigilante group until we get the permission of a governor when we have been registered?
But can you really form a Vigilante group in a state, like Kaduna, for instance, without the governor’s knowledge?
Let us get the registration first then when we get the certificate we will know how to resolve it. After the registration we will now see the elders. We are doing this because of the excesses of these bandits and kidnappers who have turned the north into hell for our people. Listen, I believe all well meaning northerners should embrace this. Haba! Every day if you are not hearing of 100 killed in Katsina, Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto states by bandits who will sack the people from their ancestral homes you will hear that many people were kidnapped. For how long are we going to continue like this? We want to collaborate with these governors. But as youths we cannot fold our hands and wait for bandits and kidnappers to always take us by surprise. The other time we came up with Shege Ka Fasa they said we were abusive. This time it is Arewa Security Marshal which is a vigilante type of security; let’s see what happens.