Beauty Yahawah is the spokesperson of the National Youth Movement for Atiku Abubakar (NYMAA). In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Jayne Augoye, Mrs Yahawah speaks on the 2019 presidential election, the chances of the PDP candidate, the Not-too-Young to Run Act and the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari. Excerpt:
PT: What is this movement all about?
Yahawah: National Youth Movement for Atiku Abubakar is a network of intelligent and accomplished youths, who came together with a mission to support the presidential ambition of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. We understand that supporting His Excellency’s election will rescue the tanking economy, and steer the country to a much better path. This movement is currently in all 36 states and the FCT.
PT: Was the group floated before Atiku’s emergence as candidate of the PDP or after? How was it formed and who are the people in this group?
Yahawah: Yes, it has been around before his emergence as PDP’s presidential candidate. In fact, one of our initial goals was to ensure that he emerged as the candidate of whatever political party he chose. We all know that H.E Atiku has nursed an ambition to be president for a long time. We got ourselves ready to back him since there were speculations that he will run for the 2019 elections. It is not about the party, it is about the person. He is the messiah Nigerians have been waiting for. Our national coordinator Dr. Anthony Okhidievbie-Alfred who served in the Delta State Government mobilised all of us for this cause. It is one we all believe in and since then, we have supported Atiku every step of the way. We have State Coordinators in all states. Chief Michael Eze is the Ebonyi SC, Bar. Austin Opubor is the Delta SC, Hon. Benedict Oluwagbemiga is the Ogun SC, Mr. Victor Itsede is the National Secretary, etc. The list is endless. All are accomplished and very bright youth who fully support H.E Atiku Abubakar. We will spread to every nook and cranny of every state, to ensure Atiku wins this election. Nigerian Youth understand the need for him at the helm of affairs of this nation before it is too late.
PT: How is the group funded? Do you get money from Atiku or his campaign organisation and how much?
Yahawah: NYMAA is funded nationwide by our founding members, and key members of the organisation. National Youth Movement for Atiku Abubakar does not collect any funding from His Excellency or his campaign organisation. The NYMAA engages directly with youth from the top to the grassroots everywhere in Nigeria to ensure their support for H.E Atiku; there is no other choice for president, come 2019. When you see that God has provided only one answer to the issues the country is facing, you throw your weight behind it because you know it is for the betterment of all Nigerians.
PT: Why should I vote for Atiku? Put in another way, why should Nigerians invest their votes in Atiku?
Yahawah: Can’t you see the situation in the country? I remember in 2015, the Naira weakened and fell to N200 to $1. Everybody, including myself said “GEJ out”. It was such a terrible thing to happen in the country at that time. Today, if $1 became N200 won’t the whole nation celebrate? And that is if it returned to how Buhari met it. We said there is unemployment. Three years into Buhari’s tenure, six million more jobs have been lost. Millions are now receiving half-salaries when they were not before. Many have not even been paid at all for months. PhD holders are sitting at home. How will somebody graduate from University and begin to teach “A for Apple” in a nursery school? And you wonder why our brightest doctors, engineers, and so on are leaving the country in their numbers daily? Some Government hospitals are still using the same equipment they used since Nigeria’s Independence. We are not throwing our support behind someone who has not delivered. In his own state Adamawa, he is the largest private employer. He has created over 200,000 jobs directly and indirectly all over the nation. Buhari has done such harm to the economy and quality of living of all Nigerians, and the nation at large in the name of “change”; why is he even contesting for a second term. Hard loan today, soft loan tomorrow, now the country is in the worst debt it has ever been in. He said he will eradicate Boko Haram within months in office, they are still executing people today. By God’s grace, Buhari will be voted out come 2019 and the presidential candidate with the best track record Atiku Abubakar will take his place.
PT: For many Nigerians, Atiku and President Muhammadu Buhari are the two major candidates in the coming presidential election. This is not to undermine other candidates as they are capable of creating an upset. But what is Atiku bringing to the table that should make Nigerians to dump Buhari? What are his selling points?
Yahawah: You say this as if Buhari is backed by the majority of Nigerians. He is not. We all want change for the better, and Atiku is able to deliver on that. He supports restructuring which proves that he is a Nigerian first. I am very happy about it because this means every Nigerian will have an equal chance, and this will put the discontentment of some tribes to rest. All that will cease. Pertaining to Buhari, it has never been more evident that a sitting president should go. Even the President of America said he is a lifeless President. And how long was their meeting? Anybody who supports him is either looking for their own personal gain or is addicted to poverty. Entrepreneurs are crying. Professionals are crying. The youth are crying. The elderly are crying. Nobody’s life is better under Buhari’s government. Establishments that should be full of activity are empty because there is no money in the country. Even the IDP camps to care for victims of Boko Haram were so underfunded that the children there began to develop kwashiorkor, which sparked nationwide protests. There is no contest or question. Atiku’s companies are there. His farm is there. His schools are there. He even gives loans to farmers, so they will not starve especially under this current economic situation. He is the largest employer of labour in Nigeria. He has helped Nigerians in all sectors. If he does all this on his own, what will he do as President? His achievements are enough proof. If you think it is easy, or not a big deal, try launching one successful establishment.
PT: So, what major challenges have you encountered in selling Atiku to Nigerians?
Yahawah: No challenge because Nigerians have common sense. Neither are they sheep. You know somebody by their works, not by their carefully edited speeches.
PT: Some Nigerians have alleged that the PDP presidential candidate is corrupt. Isn’t this a huge problem for him in this contest, especially when Buhari is seen as incorruptible?
Yahawah: No it’s not a “huge” problem. It is not a problem at all. The APC cannot find anything against Atiku, and so they have resorted to gossip that he is corrupt. Name one proven allegation against him. Buhari is seen as incorruptible? Don’t be deceived. If corruption has been found under him, doesn’t that mean he himself is not clean? He is the head of government. None of these can be done without his knowledge. We recently witnessed the very reckless rigging of the Osun State governorship re-run elections, APC thugs brutalising any person perceived to be for PDP at the booths. None of the bloodshed was televised, although some of it was recorded and posted on social media by Nigerians. Some even died, people wailing that their relative died from injuries sustained at the polling booths, people being given N10,000 “acceptance fee”. There was no word of any of it on television. Better don’t be deceived.
PT: Some Nigerians see Atiku as desperate considering that he has shown interest for the position for about six times since 1992. What is your take on this?
Yahawah: If anything, what this shows is that he is determined to progress this country. He is a very wealthy individual, whatever happens to the economy will not change that. So this shows that he is contesting for the voiceless, for every Nigerian from the smallest to the greatest, to get Nigeria to where it needs to be. Do you realise that he does not have to do anything? He can just sit and watch Nigeria in this hole, and he will still be rich. But he is for the betterment of all Nigerians, God has given him the know-how to get Nigeria working again, and he is determined to get this nation out of poverty and mismanagement.
PT: You and your colleagues in NYMAA are young and you are rooting for a man who is above 70 to be president. Doesn’t that mean you have no faith in the youth taking over the political leadership of this country? Does it not also show a vote of no confidence in the Not Too-Young To Run Act?
Yahawah: Listen. If a car was once on the right path, and deviated over the years down a road that is not the right road, one cannot expect to get back there in the twinkling of an eye. There was a time in this country when youth in their 30s were Heads of State, and the economy thrived. Gen Gowon once said Nigeria’s only problem was how to spend money. But now that we are on this road, God has helped us by giving us Atiku. We will not return to youth rule suddenly, but we have someone who believes in youth leadership and has stated that most of his cabinet will be youth. This is a reliable statement as many youth worked under him in the Obasanjo administration. So no and no to both questions. Atiku is the only one credible enough to run the nation at this time, and he is big on youth leadership, which will give youth the platform they need for subsequent administrations. This is another reason why he should be elected by Nigerians.
PT: What is your assessment of the Buhari administration?
Yahawah: Buhari’s administration has failed Nigerians, plain and simple. This is not a political statement. Even a 12 year old will tell you this administration has failed. A 90 year old who barely goes out will tell you this administration has failed. It is clear as day, and all he gives is excuses. Buhari once said change is not pleasant. Any change downhill has a name, it is called failure. Any change that makes a nation or organisation much worse is called failure. Even a farmer in the village knows he must deliver. He cannot be on the farm all day and come home with excuses. His wife cannot cook excuses. His children cannot eat excuses. But the President of a nation comfortably gives excuses like human beings are not suffering as a result of his lack of performance. It is very bewildering that he is even running for a 2nd term.
PT: Should Atiku lose the election, what next for your group?
Yahawah: Atiku will not lose by the grace of God.
PT: Many Nigerians, especially the APC members believe that the PDP ruined Nigeria while in power for 16 years, what gives you the hope that they will want Nigeria to return to them?
Yahawah: As I said, we are backing the individual Atiku Abubakar, and not the entirety of the party. His track record shows that he is the most exceptional candidate by far. If PDP ruined Nigeria, what has APC done? Under PDP rule Nigeria did not borrow money from all over the place like Buhari has done, like the country will not have to pay it all back with interest. Nigeria was never the poverty capital of the world under PDP. As people have their different sentiments for one reason or the other, you must come with facts and not sentiments. How will a nation be poorer even after the whole whistle-blower episode? Where did the money go? Some of Abacha’s loot was even returned during this administration. How is Nigeria worse off even after all these? Returning the economy to how PDP left it in 2015 would be seen as a milestone achievement for the APC at this time. But we will not give them a chance to further plunge the country into poverty and debt.
PT: You are from the South West. Do you perceive like others do that the party has not treated the zone well, especially if you consider that Atiku picked his running mate from the South East?
Yahawah: For half of the 16 years PDP was in power, Obasanjo who is from the South West was president. So I don’t understand your question. The South West has produced many top officials in the federal government under PDP. As for Atiku’s choice of running mate, Peter Obi is an excellent choice. I am very excited for the economic revival that would take place in the country under an Atiku/Obi government. It is very important for the youth and everyone to go out and vote for Atiku Abubakar in 2019. Your question is the reason why restructuring is important. Under Atiku a Nigerian will be a Nigerian. No more of this South and North talk.