Comrade Elliot M. Afiyo is the National Chairman of the unarguably most popular and influential Northern Youth Organization called Northern Youth Leaders Forum (NYLF) the umbrella body of 42 Northern Youth Groups formed by the Northern Political, Religious, Traditional and Military Elites in 1990. NYLF is unarguably the most powerful and influential Youth Organisation in the North in particular and the Nation in general. This Forum has been engineering the processes of determining who the President of Nigeria becomes since 1999. Comrade Afiyo is the third National Chairman of the Forum after Prof. Musa Danladi Musawa and Prof. Sadiq Usman Abubakar. He is also the Secretary –General of the Association of West African Monarchs and a Senior Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). In this interview with our correspondent, he speaks on several burning issues.Excerpts:
Comrade, good evening sir. In your last interview that you granted last month, you clearly stated that APC must respect the agreement of shifting the presidency to the South – West in 2023. Do you still believe that it is justifiable?
I have said it and I will continue to say it that the presidency must not only be shifted to the South but to the South-West because that was how the agreement was signed. I have not seen the agreement but somebody read it on phone to my hearing. If that was what was signed, so be it. If at all we must remain as a corporate entity called Nigeria, justice must not only be done, but seen to be done.
In PDP too, you were quoted as saying that the ticket for 2023 presidency should be zoned to the North – East?
Yes of course and of course yes. As a determined youth leader, I must say no if no is expected and yes if yes is clearly defined because my future and indeed those of the Northern youth are at stake. The North-East zone was denied that opportunity in 2015 by the former President Goodluck Jonathan. By justice, common sense and fairness, the North-West wasn’t supposed to produce another President after Yar’adua. But because the North-East was denied that privilege in PDP, the APC took advantage of it to present President Buhari and the North generally embraced the idea.When we were shouting and drawing the attention of the PDP on the long term consequences of this action on the political scene, people from the south especially the south-east were mocking us. They went as far as calling us political Almajiris. I remember vividly, the president of the Igbo Youth Movement, Mr. Elliot held a press conference on the 16th of October, 2014 in Enugu and called us retrogressive elements. This is our time to laugh and he who laugh last, laughs the best. PDP has no option than to zone its presidency to the north-east zone if at all it must bounce back to power.
In your interview last month, you claimed that your members from the north-west supported the idea of zoning the presidency in 2023 to north-east (PDP) and south-west (APC). But a group called northern youth forum issued a statement signed by one Alh. Goronyo that you were bought over. What do you say about this allegation?
Bought over by who? All through my life, I have been propagating and defending social, political, religious and ethnic justices. No government or an individual would buy my conscience. Check the Punch Newspaper of 17th September, 1997. I was then the National President, Arewa Youth Congress of Nigeria (AYOCON), I held a press conference warning the South against targeting Northern Sole Administrators. I was called and termed a sell out by some of my brothers. My Pastor who is a Southerner, called me and threatened to suspend me. I was part of the organizers of SAP riots during Babangida’s regime despite the fact that two of my Cousins were occupying sensitive positions in that government. My Mentor Prof. Jubril Aminu was the Minister for Education, yet I personally sponsored the riots as a Student. I don’t believe in sentiments. Peace can only be guaranteed if there is justice and fairness.
Of course, we expected reactions from people like Goronyo. In every house, there must be different vessels. The NYLF does not collect money from anybody but gives money to people. You are free to check our accounts from 1990 till date. The decision was taken by NYLF NEC during our meeting in Gombe not by me and I stand by that decision.
There is this argument that the South-West may not have a generally acceptable candidate for APC because of the rift between the gladiators such as Tinubu and Fayemi. Don’t you think that it would affect the chances of the APC?
You should know that I am not a card carrying member of any political party and will never be in any way.I am not supporting any candidate. Let me tell you the truth. This political rift is being engineered and sponsored by forces outside the South-West because of their personal political interests. You can’t imagine the APC lobbying the former president Jonathan to contest. Where are the Lai Mohammed who told us that Jonathan’s administration was the worst government ever produced in this country in terms of corruption. They keep blaming such government throughout the first four years. You are now lobbying the head of that government to come and lead you in 2023. This is simply political ineptitude and madness.
As I said earlier, I am not campaigning for any candidate but I can tell that Bola Tinubu would make a good candidate of the APC because of his boldness, courage and political doggedness. He has demonstrated it under Obasanjo. If Lagos could survive without federal allocation under Tinubu, I think the APC needs to consider him. Besides, he has paid the price than any other person.
Mind you it is my personal opinion not that of the NYLF and I am not endorsing him. The decision of the NEC of NYLF supersedes and overrides any other personal interest.
People especially from the South are saying that Nigeria should be restructured before 2023 elections. What is your Forum’s opinion?
Nigeria needs restructuring from the ward level to federal level no doubt. But what are we restructuring and how? No one tells us how and what. Some are saying that the powers are concentrated at the Centre, so there is need for devolution of power. What of the states? The state Governors are more like Emperors in their States. The truth is there is no genuine intention to ensure justice or correct the injustices in Nigeria.Obasanjo came up with a constitutional conference that has a hidden agenda of third term. A new constitution written by three persons was smuggled into the venue even before the start of the business. How do you expect the outcome of such conference to receive general and wide acceptability?
That was why I declined or rejected my nomination as a Delegate because I knew the reason why it was conceived.In 2014, Jonathan came up with another one whose outcome has been written even before the announcement. To perfect the predetermined result, Delegates were carefully handpicked and selected. That was why I deliberately held a press conference in Yenagoa and said that the conference is already dead on arrival because the North was not genuinely and fairly represented.
You cannot restructure the country without first tackling the fundamental problems of political development and management. The corruption and nepotism is more clearly carried out in the states and local governments. Let’s first of all, address these issues bottom-up before talking about restructuring.
Recently the Governor of Ondo State issued a quit notice to the Fulanis to vacate the State. What is your Forum’s stand on the quit notice?
First of all I need to correct that error of a quit notice to the Fulanis. Governor Akeredolu did not not ask the Fulanis to vacate the State. The Governor asked the bandits to vacate a particular forest which has become a den of criminals.It’s very unfortunate that the Fulani nation is being erroneously represented by the Miyetti Allah whose leaders are local herders. The only Fulani leader who is the Sultan of Sokoto has spoken. That supposed to be the position of the Fulani nation. Unfortunately, some of the Fulanis who heads some trivial Fulani Associations do not respect the opinion of the Sultan.
You talked about the Northern political supremacy in your last interview. What do you mean by that statement?
Let me take you back to 1956 conference. When the Northern Delegates opposed Nigeria’s independence because of the fact that the North was not ready, the Southern Delegates organized Agberos before the closing of the conference to mocking the Northern Delegates. Even Joseph Tarka, Ibrahim Waziri and Aminu Kano were also mocked.This singular incident made Ahmadu Bello to summon a meeting of all the Northern politicians to discussing the political interest of the North and it was resolved that the Northern collective political interest must be protected, secured and sustained by all means irrespective of our political, ethnic or religious differences.
To demonstrate his commitment to this course, Ahmadu Bello dropped the prefix Alhaji and replaced it with Sir. He appointed Chief Sunday Awoniyi as his Secretary, Kassim Imam was made Governor and he also embraced, sponsored and trained Northerners irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political differences. Many indigenous minority tribes such as Gowon, Pam, Maimalari, Danjuma, Jalo, Dan Suleiman and many others were enrolled into the Military to give sense of belonging. Hausa language was deliberately popularized as a weapon of unity. Since then, the Northern supremacy was established both in the political and military scenes.
This is why every genuine or concerned Northerner must be worried with what is happening in the North now. If we failed to address this security and political issues, our generations will become political slaves in no distant future.This political supremacy is being passed to generations. If in doubt ask former President Obasanjo who thwarted his third term agenda. Ask Jonathan why he failed to implement the 2014 Constitutional Conference Report who chased him out his massive infrastructural developmental projects and Almajiri schools in the North.
Are you saying that the North would not support Jonathan in 2023 if he decides to contest?
Dr. Jonathan will surely get the support of the APC to get the ticket but he will never get the votes of the Northerners in the election proper and you know what it means. My advice to him is to remain in PDP and be a kingmaker like IBB so as to retain his respect and integrity.
You are a Christian and a Minority from Bachama tribe. People especially from the middle belt are yearning for the presidency. Don’t you think it’s time to think in that direction?
I would like to state here very clearly that I don’t succumb to sentiments of any kind because I believe and strongly too, that I will give account on the judgment day. There is nothing wrong in identifying yourself as Middle belters. But it is totally wrong, misleading and unacceptable for middle belters to identify with PANDEF, Ohaneze and Afenifere against ACF. The truth is that whether you are a Middle Belter or not, as far as you are a Northerner, the Igbos will call or refer to you as Onye Hausa. Yorubas will call you or refer to you as Mallam.Senators David Mark and Jonah Jang contested for PDP’s presidential primaries at the prompting of the middle Belters. Ask them how many votes they got from Benue and Plateau States?As you rightly said. I am a Bwatiye man from Adamawa. Ask the Bwatiye politicians who contested for political offices in Bwatiye land to tell their experiences in the hands of fellow Bwatiye men and women.
The Bwatiye from the Central Zone of Adamawa State are perpetually and systematically being marginalized, dominated and frustrated politically. That is why we have resolved this time around to produce a Governor from the Central Zone irrespective of religious or ethnic background. We must team up with our Fulani, Kilba, Vere, Yungur and our Lala brothers to produce a Governor under any political party come 2023. I am very sorry for descending to the level of state politics but I can’t be securing the interest of the North while my people are being denied of their rights and inheritances because of ethnic and religious considerations.
But sir, you don’t sound as a Pastor putting into consideration that majority of RCCG Members are Southerners?
I am a Pastor and a true Oracle of God that is why I am saying the truth no matter whose ox is got. John 10;32 says you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. James 4:18 says anyone that knows how to do good and failed to do it is a sin. I can’t know the truth and keep quite because of fear. I cant go to hell because of somebody’s sin.
In our Church the RCCG, we are fortunate to have a Father Pastor E. A. Adeboye and our Regional Pastor E. A. Adeyemi who don’t use the pulpit nor allow the pulpit to be used by any Pastor for political issues and I am not a bastard nor a disobedient child. I relate with my Members purely on spiritual and other issues definitely not on political issues.