Alhaji Shettima Yerima, the National Leader of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), has voiced apprehensions about the transformation of Bola Tinubu, once a pro-democracy activist, into the figure seated in power at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja. Yerima, who, alongside Tinubu, was in the trenches as a pro-democracy activist during the struggle to establish Nigeria’s nascent democracy, expressed reservations about the current trajectory of the president’s policies.
As the National President of AYCF and a former Youth Director of the political pressure group NADECO, which fiercely opposed the military junta led by the late General Sani Abacha in the early 90s, Yerima raised concerns that President Tinubu might have fallen under the influence of the infamous “Aso Rock Cabal,” a term used to describe a shadowy group of advisors with significant influence over past administrations.
Yerima, in a conversation with Arewa Punch Newspapers, conveyed his unease, stating, “The Bola Tinubu that I know and that I once worked with in the trenches is a totally different person now. I hope it’s not what I am thinking, and I don’t want to believe that he would be hijacked by the same characters.” The youth leader went on to express skepticism about certain appointments made by the president, particularly those seemingly sidelining the youth in favor of older individuals.
He emphasized, “I expect that by the coming of Tinubu, certain things would have happened where he would begin to believe in this present generation rather than the old men of the past who had worked with him and the same people coming back tactically behind the doors.” Yerima urged Tinubu not to succumb to the influence of those who may attempt to manipulate him behind the scenes, citing the need for the president to remain focused on empowering the youth.
In his admonition, Yerima drew parallels with former President Muhammadu Buhari, cautioning Tinubu to learn from Buhari’s experiences in office. He referred to the period between 2015 and 2023 when Buhari, despite his initial promises, found himself surrounded by advisors who, according to Yerima, effectively constrained his ability to govern.
Yerima’s reservations highlight the complex dynamics of Nigerian politics, where figures once united in pro-democracy activism can undergo transformations that draw skepticism from their erstwhile allies. As Bola Tinubu navigates the challenges of leadership, the watchful eyes of pro-democracy activists like Yerima underscore the importance of staying true to the ideals that fueled their earlier struggles for democracy and justice.