Hon. Ahmed Yerima represented Misau/Danbam federal constituency of Bauchi state in the 8th session of the National Assembly. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the veteran journalist states that, APC may end up as a Yoruba political party because the North would have no leadership that will unite it after President Buhari’s handover in 2023.
Most people were surprised that you lost your re-election bid to APC. What happened?
I don’t believe that I failed the people that I represented, but the situation in Bauchi state is a reflection of a lot of things that is happening in Nigeria. There is illiteracy, sycophancy, self-enslavement and personality cult in the north. Secondly, rigging election became a norm in most parts of northern Nigeria and authoritarian leadership is now accepted as a habit and process of electoral law which is very unfortunate. I believe if there was a free and fair elections, I wouldn’t have failed because I empowered people personally and officially. I also represented them very well at the National Assembly. But we also need to look at the people we represent. Do they understand what democracy is and the function of a lawmaker? These are the things to be considered in judging why and how somebody lost election in Nigeria. I came from a background that is intellectually backward. They are not able to understand and appreciate what is required of a leader. Everything revolved around APC and Buhari. I don’t think the people are fair to themselves because some people didn’t help or represent them well yet they chose to still vote or rig for them.
Some people blame your loss on the face-off between you and your former governor. Do you think it played any role?
The governor also failed. That might be one of the reasons I believe. I opposed the former governor entirely for two or three reasons. There was no project to show since he took over and there was no good relationship between him and the people of the state. The governor was a one-man show. Those were some of the things I opposed. So, yes they ensured that I lose the election but the worst of it all was the attitude of the people. We did the same opposition with Yakubu Dogara but because he came from a Christian background and minority tribe, they honoured their ward. They appreciate what he did for them more than my area where it’s predominately Muslims and more of an illiterate community compared to the Christian community in Bauchi state where Dogara comes from. A typical example I will give you is that, every part of Nigeria where there is a Christian majority, they appreciate their leadership and representatives than in the Muslim north, may be with a few exception in Kano, some parts of Katsina and other pockets of the north. It has become a tradition in the north to drag their best down. The syndrome of bringing ‘this person’ down is worst with us than it’s done in Christian community. So that is what played out between my community and Dogara’s community. We have done our best. The same happened in Katagun where the former member from the APC did his best for the people, yet that syndrome of witch-hunt and backstabbing brought him down.
Most of the people that lost in the elections in Bauchi were those that abandoned the APC and crossed over to the PDP. Do you think that was a major factor?
I don’t think that was the only reason. It might be in some cases. But the syndrome of bringing people down played a major part in losing the elections for most of us. The personality cult of Muhammadu Buhari is a factor and then illiteracy in the north. They also bring up religious sentiments in the north and that is why, the people associate the APC with Islam and PDP with Christians, which is not true, because PDP was ruling in the past. From 2015 when the APC came to power, they beat up the drums of religious sentiments.
There are feelers that the presidency is considering your former governor for the ministerial appointment. What is your take on this?
It’s left for Buhari because I don’t have the right to tell him who to nominate for ministerial appointment. It’s not my business. He can appoint him to be anything he wants. If they feel he is the best person from Bauchi state, then they should go ahead and appoint him.
Do you have any regret leaving the APC for the PDP given the fact that you lost the election?
No, I don’t have any regret because it was a choice. You can always associate with people you think you can blend with. There is no law that allows people to be independent candidates in Nigeria otherwise people like me will not associate with any party. PDP and other parties are just platforms, there is no defined guidelines or defined ideology like on taxes, population growth or anything that separate them from each other. All the parties are just platforms of people seeking power and position. It’s not like United States where you have Democratic Party, Republican or anything. It’s just a group of individuals with personal interests that come together and form a party. I always believe in my ideas and thoughts about leadership. I will oppose anything that I believe is wrong. Politics is not a career for me. To me it is an opportunity to offer service to the people. I will continue with my ideas and won’t stop to telling people what is right. Nigeria is not moving forward and so it needs people that will point it to the right direction.
Who should be blamed for the current state of the nation?
I will blame the people and the leadership because they refused to comprehend the basics of leadership. Leaders don’t think of public interest but for personal reasons. Aspiring leaders don’t have an idea of what they are going to public office to do.
Most of the lawmakers that defected from their political parties lost re-election bids. What does it portend for the 9th National Assembly?
It means inexperience. Two, the National Assembly might not be able to meet its expectations at some points. The leadership of the National Assembly is good because they have experience but for some at the constituency level, they are not ranking so it will affect their delivery. A lot of them especially from the APC were favoured by their governors to get there not because they have an understanding of what they will do there or interest of their people at heart. So those that will be unfortunate to have new comers might not benefit much but those with ranking representatives will benefit more.
Still on the National Assembly, were you surprised with the caliber of people elected to lead the 9th National Assembly?
No, I wasn’t surprised. Femi is a good guy. He is qualified to be the Speaker of the House. He has the prerequisites for success. Maybe there was influence from outside but it’s up to him to manage it well.
Coming back to the state of the Nation, are you not worried with the spate of killings that is taking place in some states across the nation?
It’s the responsibility of government to protect lives and properties. It was the rallying point of APC that brought them to power. So if they could not meet up with the challenges of security, it means they have failed in that aspect.
What are your expectations from the second tenure in office of President Buhari?
That is a tough question because he had all the opportunities to change things but he didn’t do it in his first term. He said he was fighting corruption but I haven’t seen the result yet. May be the actors changed from Peter to Mohammed, from Moses to Abubakar, from James to Yahaya. So, those are the changes we have seen so far. But there is still compromises in due process, the massive corruption in MDAs is still going on, the government is not checking the Procurement Act and other discrepancies in the system. As the former chairman of the HousePprivatisation Committee, I also know that there were lots of laws that were flouted like the Ministry of Aviation will just decide to privatise an airport without consulting the BPE which has the mandate to oversee the privatisation of government properties. If I will advise him, then there must be regulations of government process because if I say they should concentrate on roads, there are lots of projects that were inherited in 2015 and till date they have not been completed. It’s not just to become a leader but you need to have a plan of what you want to achieve. So Nigerians are the best ones to judge if he has really fought corruption. Peopel talk of railway from Abuja to Kaduna but Jonathan started that project and completed it and now the beneficiaries are Nigerians and APC government. In Europe, Tanzania and Kenya, they have thousands of rail lines.
Where do you see Nigeria in the next four years?
People will be more understanding of what is happening in government, and once they get that understanding, they will have no choice but to look for alternative leadership. Nigerians will face lots of setbacks and they will learn a lot about their leaders. I don’t think there will be another personality cult when Buhari leaves the APC because after this term, he cannot contest again. The north will now realise that they have lost out. Nigeria will remain one but not united. Nigeria was more united during Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan times than it is now. This religious sentiment was not as pronounced as it is now. We all joined the APC thinking it was a national party but now, it’s being turned to another thing. Some came to the APC for powers, others came because they were aggrieved in other parties and for many others, it is because of personality cult. Political party should not revolved around a single person and that is what is happening in the north.
APC may end up as a Yoruba party because the north has no leadership that will unite it after Buhari leaves office. The masses follow the APC not because they know Buhari or he has done one good thing for them but because of envy and sheer mischief that he will confiscate the wealth of the rich. That is the illiterate north I’m talking about unlike the Yoruba APC that have a vision and strategy under the leadership of Bola Tinubu, who is a very good political leader. So, they can always come as a bloc to negotiate for a position at the national table. The north will los out, which will be unfortunately for them because the north is ravaged by poverty and illiteracy. They are backward educationally and in infrastructural development. They are the ones who are always preaching the dichotomy of religion in politics, dichotomy of tribe, regional and local government more than other zones. So the north, the way I see it in the next four to five years will have a major setback. As we talk now, the north cannot show any benefit that they have gotten from the support they gave Buhari administration. The leaders that could lead the north like Saraki are being destroyed, while Dogara and Atiku are gone. So, who do they have in the north? Kwankwaso has also been abandoned. So the north will become the loser in the federation.
What are your expectations from the new Bauchi state governor, Bala Mohammed?
The people of Bauchi have a lot of expectations from Bala Mohammed. They voted for him because they hated the previous administration. There are a lot of expectations because the people have suffered. Most will want him to rush and start delivering on campaign promises but, we need to be accommodating and give him time to settle down and sanitise the state first. I expect him to create a social investment initiatives that will kick-start the economy of the state to create employments and economic activities. I expect the governor to carry everybody along. The previous government failed because of nepotism, lack of purpose and the governor then refused to listen to voice of reasoning. Principal actors that brought the government in 2015 were not tolerated again. We were made outcast deliberately by the former governor. If Bala carries everybody along and make everybody understand that it is a collective victory, then he will enjoy everybody’s support. I hope he will not make the same mistake the former governor did.
Coming back you personally, what are you doing now that you are not re-elected to the House of Representatives?
I have a job. I do a lot of consultations on public relations because I’m a professional journalist. I spent most of my life in Europe. I can always go there and work there.
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