Professor Yima Sen is the Director-General of Northern Elders Forum, NEF. In this interview, Sen says successive governments’ inability to secure lives and property is giving rise to self-defence among other issues of national interest in Nigeria.
Coming back to the issue of Amotekun, the governors of the south western states are the ones spearheading this and most of them are of APC and the Federal Government is also led by APC; do you see a clash coming? Where they disagree with the Federal Government, what do you think will happen eventually?
This question suggests that the problems of Nigeria transcend partisan politics and I told you earlier about this class dynamics of Nigeria and politics.
The people who are behind the scenes of power in Nigeria and are wealthy and are in the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy and the people who are the frontline politicians can be aggregated into one class called the ruling class.
Now, they have common interest and this interest goes beyond partisan politics and when they are threatened or when their communities are threatened and they put pressure on them and the pressure that is put on them is pressure that threatens privileged positions, they will have to appease their people and protect their interest.
Miyetti Allah has warned the South-West that if they don’t drop the idea of Amotekun, 2023 presidency may elude them. How may you react?
Is Miyetti Allah a political party? They are a community group. They are engaged in pressure group antics.
Where do the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, stand on Amotekun? What is their position?
The organization has not taken a stand on the issue. If it is discussed, you can be sure that my opinion will be that if government, the Federal Government in particular and of course state governments, has failed to provide security for the people, then they should not be averse or should not oppose community initiative so long as it is not unconstitutional and I think that there have been those types of initiatives by various communities.
I am talking about hunters in the North-East; I am talking about Hisbah police. There are all sorts of private security guards around the country that are protecting people’s businesses and all of that; I think they are registered with government.
And Amotekun, if it is constituted by state governors, I imagine that they will find legal framework to backup what they are doing and I also believe that the Nigerian security and defence forces should be in a position to monitor what these people are doing.
I think that we should be able to convert some of these things which are seen as threats into issues for national development.
President Buhari recently pledged to exit office in 2023 but was silent on which zone to support although there are agitations and interests. How do you read that?
The issue of going away after 2023 is constitutional. He is just stating the obvious. But on whether he can determine which zone or who succeeds him, you ought to look at whether he has the interest or whether he can actually do it or whether that is really his responsibility, we have to look at those factors.
From my own analysis, 2023 is open. Now, there are people who will lay claim to the principle of zoning that it should come to them. I know that there is a strong claim coming from the South-East but the problem with the claim of the South-East is that we have to deal with whether they are going to listen to Nnamdi Kanu or to politicians from that community.
Because that is a major distraction or it creates a lot of confusion. Of course, the presidency of the country has stayed in the North for a long time either military or non-military, either elected or unelected.
There are people who would say that with the presidency staying in the North, what has the North benefitted from the presidency staying in the North?
The bigger question really is that does the ethnicity or the state of origin or even the religion of the president matter? If the person is objective, caters for all and he is seen as the father of the nation, do you know that Paul Kaigame, the Tutsi President of Rwanda, that his people constitute only 16% of that country and in the civil war, the Tutsi were the target of the genocide, they were called cockroaches?
And like I said somewhere else, today a cockroach is leading that country and the people who were in the forefront of this attack were the Hutus who were the 82% of the population of that country.
That is an overwhelming majority. There is no group in Nigeria that is 82% of this country, yet in Rwanda, a minority has been accepted by the whole country and he is leading that country to prosperity.
The NEF is an important group going by its name but it does appear that these elders have not actually spoken up when it comes to 2023 politics and the presidency; why haven’t they spoken?
No, it is too early but certainly we shall speak on that but we cannot speak on that until we consult with our people and we do plan we will have a major assembly which will discuss that kind of issue.
It was planned for early this year and when it does hold, we will take a stand on these kinds of issues.
Do you see the forum supporting the South-East or do you want to retain power in the North
I shouldn’t pre-empt things.
But what is your own position?
I am not opposed to it but there are problems of how you organize yourself for leadership of a country of this nature and the present problem from the South-East and, as I said earlier, we don’t know if the voices of secession will overwhelm the voices that want to be integrated into Nigeria.
Assuming the National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, comes up to contest for President in 2023, would you buy into his ambition?
I am looking forward to a leader of Nigeria that will give Nigeria qualitative leadership irrespective of where the person comes from. I am concerned about the failure of Nigeria to develop up to its optimum since independence.
As a scholar and an analyst, I have written so much about that, that I am even tired talking about it. But, personally, I am a revolutionary and I believe that and I have inferred during this discussion that the class that has led Nigeria since independence has failed to maximize or convert the quantum of the resources of Nigeria into prosperity for the citizens of Nigeria.
The other problem is that the alternative forces, let’s say, for example, leftists or socialists, are also not well organized, so we have a problem there.
PDP leaders recently staged a peaceful protest against the Supreme Court ruling that sacked former governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, and brought in APC leadership in the state; what would you read of that Supreme Court judgment because many historians, analysts, critics are saying that no, they didn’t go in the right direction. You as a person, how would you read that and then, the attendant protest?
I can only talk about that as a layman. The legal argument, sometimes, you have legal acrobatics and, sometimes, ordinary logic is superseded by legal logic.
I think even some lawyers are also confused about this issue because, sometimes, the law is interpreted by certain lawyers differently; a judge may interpret it differently from a lawyer. So this is a whole new legal mystery. At old age, I am not going to read law. I am not interested.