Comrade Elliot Afiyo, the National Chairman of the Northern Youth Leaders Forum (NYLF), the umbrella body of 42 Northern Youth Organizations formed by the Northern Political, Traditional, Religious and Military Elites in 1990 with a membership of over four million Youths. He is the third National Chairman of NYLF, also the Secretary- General of the Association of West African Monarchs and a senior Pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). In this interview with AUTHENTIC News Daily, he bares his mind on intrigues ahead 2023 presidency, as well.as other national issues. Excerpts:
NYLF has been engineering the process of producing Presidents since 2003, I recall when NYLF nominated and presented Late President Yar’adua in 2006 and also in 2010 when NYLF insisted on former president Jonathan to run in 2011. In 2014, NYLF insisted on President Buhari. What informs the reason for your nominations?
In 2003, there were forces from the North that for one reason or the other, wanted a change because they believed and truely to some extent, that the North was being marginalized economically and in terms of infrastructural development.
But we felt that will be a breach of political agreement signed with Obasanjo in 1999.
It was a serious issue. But thank God, former President Babangida and former Head of State, Abdulsalam Abubakar were able to douse the tension and brought peace and understanding. Even at that, it was a difficult task to convince the Northern youth to dump Buhari for Obasanjo in 2003 Presidential elections.
In 2006, we were able to convince late President Yar’adua to accept to contest in 2007. He reluctantly agreed but some two terms Northern governors opposed the decision and wanted to break away.
They were subsequently faced with an option either to remain in PDP or decamp to ANPP. Before then, ANPP had already endorsed Buhari. They were also threatened by the Federal Government through the then Chairman of the EFCC who went to the National Assembly and told the Senators that almost all of them had one or two cases of corruption against them, weighing the available options, they decided to remain in PDP.
In 2010, it was Obasanjo that persuaded the Northern politicians to allow former President Jonathan to contest and serve for only one term.Based on this understanding, an agreement was reached and accepted by thirteen senior politicians. This agreement was signed and the original copy collected by one of the Governors from the South-South.
In 2014, former president Jonathan reneged on this agreement and decided to contest. The North felt cheated, belittled and ignored.
The attention of former President Obasanjo was drawn to it and Obasanjo thrice warned Jonathan on the consequences of his action and thrice Jonathan rebuffed Obasanjo. Meetings of the Northern Political, Religious, Youth and Traditional Leaders were held in Sokoto, Kaduna and Kano and after these meetings, a final and unanimous decision was taken to remove Jonathan by all means either democratically or otherwise.
A decisive awareness campaign was initiated towards the 2015 presidential elections. In order to prove the political worth, value and supremacy of the North, Buhari was supported by the entire North-West, North-East and North-Central Youth, Religious and Traditional Leaders irrespective of political, religious or ethnic leanings and against all odds, Buhari won convincingly in all the three geopolitical zones in the North. Even Jonathan’s political field commanders from the North were involved in this political conspiracy against him. The defection of some Northern Governors to the APC was part of this conspiracy while some remained in PDP to work against the President from the inside.
Note that we supported and voted for Buhari in 2015 not because we considered him as the best candidate for the North, but because he was the only option and available best candidate to be used to politically chase out Jonathan in other to conserve, preserve, maintain and sustain our only best asset that is political supremacy and power.
In 2019, we knew quite alright that Atiku will definitely win the election but he will not be given his mandate based on the political conspiracy against him despite our efforts towards uniting him with Obasanjo in 2014.
We consequently decided as a Forum, not to waste our resources, time and energy to support him. We could not also campaign for Buhari because we were not happy or satisfied with the performance of his administration especially the security situation in the North, as a Forum, we directed and supported the state chapters in the areas of mobilization and election of individual candidates instead of parties.
That was why PDP won in some states and APC also won in other states. Many people didn’t understand the political mathematics and scheming that resulted in these victories and defeats, but we knew what we did.
So what Bishop Kukah said was right to have made those remarks at Christmas?
Of course yes! The only part of Bishop Kukah’s Christmas homily that I don’t expect from him is tagging Islam as having a pool of violence.
That shouldn’t have come from any enlightened or educated elite not to talk of coming from a Bishop and a member of the peace –committee. I am a senior Pastor in RCCG. Should I come now and say Christianity is a religion of criminals because before now, vices such as kidnappings, rituals, cultism, armed robbery, 419 or assassinations were mostly carried out by Christians who bear the names such as Paul, Silas, Peter, Gideon, Mark and even Joseph? Nobody preached or invited me to leave my church to RCCG.Jesus personally appeared to me and asked me to leave and join RCCG because my spirit was down and discouraged as a result of the violence I witnessed in my former denomination.
Violence is carried out by both Muslims and Christians. We had witnessed violences even inside churches. Presently, we have Muslim leaders, Sheikhs and Imams that are speaking and condemning these killings and other violent acts more than Pastors and Christian leaders.
The Sultan of Sokoto is the Fulani leader, as well as, the head of the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria. When the conference of Bishops including Bishop Kukah visited him in the early 2020 at Sokoto, he told them point blank that he was disappointed in them because nothing was working and they said nothing.
I remember vividly when the Association of Christian Traditional Rulers paid him a courtesy call in his house in Abuja, he told us that he will never be silent when people are being killed because he is a Fulani and a fellow Fulani is the President. He once said any herder found with AK47 riffle should be arrested.
How many of our Christian leaders come out to condemn the senseless killings in Nigeria? I am from Adamawa State and from Girei Local Government Area. All my elder brothers lived and studied in Girei. They were accommodated and fed by the Fulani who are Muslims until they completed their studies. What moral grounds or rights do I have now to condemn the Fulani or the Muslims that they love and practice violence?
To be sincere with you, I don’t mind what people would say, there is no religion or tribe that has no bad elements, majority of Muslims are more tolerant than the majority of Christians. The Fulani have more regards and high standard of moral values than many other tribes in Nigeria. Before now, hardly would you see a Fulani man or woman who is an armed robber, kidnapper, fraudster or ritualist until now when we have bandits.
If you take a genuine look into the history and causes of banditry in the North, you will find it very difficult to blame them although one cannot justify shedding of innocent blood under any reason.Between 2010 and 2014, they were being killed at will, their cows rustled, wives and children killed or abducted to be used as servants to Boko Haram leaders and their houses or tents destroyed. All their belongings and sources of survival were destroyed.
What do you expect from such a people? Violence of course. They have to mobilize themselves and with the assistance from their kith and kin to defend themselves (and you know of an average Fulani man), vengeance is a normal and acceptable way of a living.Unfortunately, some political elites took their advantage to be used to settle old scores and also execute their agenda without any commiserate or proportional reaction from the Governments.
During your NEC meeting in Gombe, NYLF adviced the PDP and APC to zone their presidency slot to North –East and South-West respectively, what is your reason for taking this decision?
From the analysis I gave you, you will realize that the decision of Jonathan to contest for the second term against the initial political agreement in the PDP, brought Buhari and by extension the APC to power and consequently all these security challenges we are witnessing and experiencing today in the country. That was what brought the alliance between the North and the South –West. If former President Jonathan had respected this agreement, APC wouldn’t have come to power because the North would have voted massively for the Northern candidate who would have come from the North-East.
In the same vein, we were told that there is an existing agreement in the APC that power should be shifted to the South –West after Buhari. We therefore insist that such agreement should be respected so as to avoid a boomerang effect and consequences.
All these agitations for restructuring, true federalism, Biafra or Odua Republic are as a result of injustices. Let’s just avoid them by ensuring justice to all.
The North- East that was denied that opportunity in 2015, should first of all be pacified and the South- West that have entered into an agreement with the North in APC, whether right or wrong, should also be considered. That was our honest reason.
Remember that there were Igbos in APC when such agreement was written, signed and sealed. They did not bother to challenge that agreement when it was being sealed because of their belief then that APC could not have won the presidential election, I was shocked to see some of them gathered to demand for the APC ticket in 2023.
But the South-East is claiming that it is their turn since they have not produced any president in this political dispensation.
I don’t really understand how it becomes their turn. The political agreement in PDP is between the North and the South not among geopolitical Zones. It is left for the South to decide which zone to produce the president. Let the three geopolitical zones in the south decide which of them to produce the president in 2023.
Going by the agreement in PDP, Jonathan ought to have served for one term having completed the remaining two years of Yar’adua. But he reneges and was fully backed up by the South-East. The South-East betrayed the North by supporting Jonathan in 2015.In the APC, there is an existing agreement that the power should not only shift to the South but be shifted to the South-West.￼The truth is that the North has learnt its lessons. Forget the fact that there was religious and ethnic differences in the North which was propagated and manifested during the Jonathan era and is clearly being implemented by the Buhari administrations, If it comes to political elections, we always go enmass in one direction because the Southerners always refer to us by our ethnic nationalities names such as Hausa, Fulani, Nupe, Bwatiye, Igala, Igbira , Idoma or Tiv before elections. But recognize, classify and categorize us as generally as Hausa after elections. An average Northern politician is very mindful of this divisive tendency against the North.Power is never donated or given free to anyone by God through man. Check the scriptures, all those that were given power by God paid the price. Those that acquired power also paid the price –mostly those that didn’t pay the prize don’t last in power or always misuse or abuse the power. Check the scriptures and history.
Some are arguing that it was donated to the South-West in 1999, the South –West through Abiola paid the price, it was not donated. If I may ask, where were the South Easterners when these agreements were being written by the PDP and APC. We breached the agreement of PDP and we are paying the price now. If we break that of APC, we may pay a higher price by saying bye to Nigeria.
Let me be frank with you, an average Northerner will be more comfortable with an Igbo as President than a rigid Northerner. The reason is very simple. A president of Igbo extraction will be 90% loyal and be willing to play to the gallery and the dictates of the Northern powers than a Northerner who may ignore them, no president of Igbo extraction will summon the courage and boldness to try. Igbos political elites should briddle their tongues, control their utterances and also deal with their selfish interest which they always placed above the collective Igbo interest.
What the Igbos need now is genuine and deliberate National integration. To be frank with you, I know about four Igbo politicians who are lobbying seriously to be considered for the Vice Presidency slot in 2023. They should borrow a leaf from the Yorubas on how to actualize their dreams. They will never get the Presidency through threats, no sensible Nigerian would vote for a Biafran as Nigeria’s president.
We have some politicians from the North-West such as Tambuwal, Kwankwaso, Shekarau and Lamido who are rumored to have interest in 2023 presidency, is it justifiable to have another president from the North in 2023?
As I said earlier we are in a democratic dispensation and so the only asset the Northerners are left with in this enterprise called Nigeria is political supremacy and power because of our collective determination, political unity coupled with our numerical strength.
Once either of these three things is affected, the North has nothing left than to become push–overs and ready-made vessels in the hands of the Southerners. In order to preserve, sustain and maintain this asset, it requires nothing but justice, fairness and sense of belonging by all Northerners irrespective of geopolitical zones, ethnicity and religious belief.
It is injurious and morally unjustifiable and unacceptable for somebody to come from the North –West to contest for the presidency in 2023.The North-West has produced two presidents and a vice president, we believe it is the turn of the North-Central or North-East to produce the president or vice president which must be fully endorsed and supported by the North-West.
Fortunately, we have over two million of our members from the North –West and they have agreed not to support any candidate from the zone in 2023 in the best interest of the North.
Don’t take this as a political threat, if anybody from the North –West believes that they can dominate other two zones in the North because of their preponderance in number, let them try it and see in 2023.
I strongly believe and truly too that even a Fulani man from North –East would never vote for any Fulani man from the North –West in 2023.
So who are the politicians NYLF is considering for 2023?
For now, six politicians have directly approached us and we have not penciled down any. But you will agree with us that we have the Bala Mohammed, Atiku Abubakar, Danjuma Goje, Prof. Babagana Zulum, Ahmed Lawan etc from the North –East, if any of these politicians is chosen to pair with Governors Nyesom Wike, Okowa, Ben Ayade, Raymond Dokpesi, Peter Obi, Rochas Okorocha, Orji Kalu, etc, we will have a near perfect ticket.
From the South –West, we have Tinubu, Fayemi, Osibanjo. If any politician is chosen to pair with either el-Rufai, Ganduje, Lalong, Bagudu or Babandede, we will have a good combination.
Are you then saying that the political battles for 2023 have started in earnest?
I de laugh oh. The political battles for 2027 has been concluded already and you are here talking of 2023?
Recently there was a meeting in Abuja where the only agenda was 2027 presidential arrangement, these politicians have their short, medium and longterm plans just like our Economists.
Recently, the House of Representatives invited Mr. President but the President declined, some people are saying that Mr. President disobeyed the law. What is your Forum’s position and thought on this?
Mr. President did not disobey any law as far as we are concerned. Mind you that the House invited the president, not summoned the president, It was an invitation not a summon. The president is at liberty to make a choice. He initially agreed to honor the invitation but later declined. You should know that Mr. President is a public property of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and as such, it is the duty of his security aides to guard, protect, defend, advice and guide him. Even though none of his managers came out to tell us why he declined, for the simple fact that one of his political aides said that the Speaker was not in control of the House was enough evidence to tell us that Mr. President declined to honor the invitation based on Intelligence Report.
As a security and intelligence expert, I could rightly conclude that the intelligence gathering might have suggested either a breach of Mr. President’s safety and security, possible reactions of the House Members may embarrass or ridicule the President or the Nation, possible leakages of security strategies or plans to the public, exposition of security networking, look-out or buy-in actions and reactions.
The invitation itself was faulty. The House should have invited the Ministers of Defense and that of Interior or at best, the Principal Officers of the House should have sought for a private audience with Mr. President.
This issue is not supposed to be a news not to talk of a news headline; I would rather blame the Minister of Justice who misfired the public debate by quoting section 2018 and other sections of the 1999 Constitution as amended that the House has no constitutional powers to summon Mr. President whereas Mr. President was only invited by the House. Even as a private citizen, you have the right to invite Mr. President to your Birthday party either orally or written and the President reserves the right to honor or decline the invitation whether It is written or not. It is never a constitutional matter; neither does it require the brouhaha that is taking place.
Sir, recently the federal government through the PTF says it is considering a second lockdown because of the second wave of COVID-19 (intercepts)
I think it is right time to warn the federal government and indeed all northern state Governors not to look into the direction of any form of lockdown.We have extensively discussed this issue in our last NEC Meeting in Gombe and came to a conclusion that if any of the state governors in the North imposes any lockdown because of COVID-19, such state should prepare for ENDLOCKDOWN protest by the northern youths which will have far more worse consequences than ENDSARS protest and the consequences will be better imagined.
Most Nigerians and in particular northerners depend on daily labor and trade to feed themselves or cater for their families but here are state governments locking down their states without making adequate provisions for their people.
Some even lockdown the palliatives sent by the federal government in their warehouses, can you imagine how many people died of hunger and starvation during lockdown in northern states?
How many were sick during lockdown? How many families were separated during lockdown? How many businesses were closed? How many people lost the sources of their livelihood and jobs?
Check the chart that is being released daily by NCDC and take a look at the positions of Bauchi and Kogi states and then compare them to other states.
These two state Governors refused to lockdown their state even for one hour, yet they have the lowest number of positive cases, must we lockdown because U.K and E.U locked down? Let’s see any state governor who has the guts and courage to lockdown his state in the north. Wallahi such Governor and his household will be lockdown, enough of this madness and gambling with our lives.
You closed places of worship and markets but left the airspace to welcome and allowed people from high risk Countries to import the virus into the country, you impose curfew in the night and early hours of the days, but allowed movements in the day time how possible is this action? Does it mean that COVID-19 moves only in the night when there is less movements and interactions by the people? Which northern state can survive second lockdown apart from Kano? If you lockdown Kano, you have invariably and successfully lockdown fourteen out of the nineteen northern states because these states depend on Kano for their commerce, I repeat myself clearly that any northern Governor that announced a day lockdown of his state without making adequate provisions for the citizens, should be ready for the consequences that will follow his action. Such Governor and his family will be locked down for two months and I dare say nobody will stop us for occupying such Government House for the two months.. We know how many of our members that died during the lockdowns.
We want to also warn the PTF on COVID-19 not to extend the resumption date for all the educational institutions beyond the 18th of January, 2021. We have observed that the Students observe safety protocols in schools more than in their homes
.Thanks for your audience and candid answers.
You are welcome anytime.