Comrade Elliott Afiyo is the 6th National President of Northern Youth Leaders Forum (NYLF) the umbrella body of 42 Northern groups which was formed in 1994 by the Northern political, economic, military and traditional rulers to propagate and protect the northern interest within the national interest.
The forum is unarguably the most powerful political group in the North that is firmly rooted and grounded in the rural northern areas that account for 70% of Northern votes. The Forum has been influential in the making of Presidents since 1999. Apart from producing governors (both serving and former), it can also boast of producing a number of legislators both at the national and state Assemblies.
Comrade Afiyo is also the Secretary- General of the Association of West- African Monarchs (AWAM), the umbrella body of West- African traditional Rulers. He is also a senior pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). A fearless and down to earth crusader, Comrade Afiyo bares his mind on burning national issues from his hometown in Girei, Adamawa state.
Happy Christmas Sir. We observed that after the meeting with your patrons, you decided to be silent. Can you tell us what is cooking Sir?
Comrade Afiyo: I don’t think there is any silence. May be you have not been able to watch or listen to the international media organizations. The truth of the matter is that our Patrons especially the former leaders are divided. While some of the former military leaders are rooting for Obi, some are rooting for Atiku while the traditional rulers are rooting for Tinubu. The patrons are divided into three major Blocks and this development is giving us major concern.
Thank God that these issues were resolved to a certain extent after our meeting with them two weeks ago.
It is rumored that your forum will finally endorse Bola Tinubu instead of Atiku or Obi what is your take?
Comrade Afiyo: well, you know that our forum stands for justice and fairness. We have been adhering to that especially in 2003, and 2011 when we stood and supported southern candidates against a northern candidate. We jointly reviewed the political developments with our Patrons and putting the collective interest of the nations, the forum was directed to nominate one candidate and present such candidate to our Patrons for endorsement. We had a meeting with our zonal and state coordinators yesterday and a decision was taken that all the state coordinators should organize their state NEC and submit their nominees to the political committee who will in turn submit to the NEC for final presentation to our patrons.
The most important aspect of this decision is that all our Patrons have unanimously agreed to drop their personal interests and support whoever is endorsed.
When are we expecting the final endorsement?
Comrade Afiyo: We are meeting with all our patrons at Minna in two weeks time and we will address the press thereafter. Definitely whoever is endorsed, becomes the next President by the grace of God and we must have genuine and convincing reasons to justify our endorsement.
But we can see a particular candidate pulling crowd and even some supporters of other candidates shouting his name during their campaigns?
Comrade Afiyo: Don’t be carried away by such developments. All the candidates are renting the same crowd. The same people are being sponsored to embarrass other candidates during their campaigns. All our states coordinators use to send reports after every rally in their states. Some APC governors are working for Atiku just like some PDP governors apart from the G5, are also working for Tinubu. What you see or observe during rallies is not the reflection of what is going to happen.
Nigerian electorates especially the northern electorates are more enlightened now. They listen to Imams and Pastors but will definitely not obey them anymore. The result of the 2023 presidential elections will shock everybody even the key players just like 1993.
Are you saying that the results of 2023 will be contrary to expectations?
Comrade Afiyo: Quite contrary to expectations of the conservatives. One thing is sure, if at all the elections would be held, Nigerians from all over the world will feel the sense of belongingness, togetherliness and brotherliness after the results are declared.
Frrom your analysis, it seems we are going to witness a lot of betrayals?
Comrade Afiyo: Are we not witnessing high levels of betrayals now. Looking at what is happening in and around the leading candidates, genuine loyalists are completely barricaded from accessing the candidates but one. The hypocrites, liars, failed politicians are now members of their inner circles. Though 98% of politicians prefer lies to the truth, if you tell them lies, they will embrace and easily believe you, but if you tell them truth, you are automatically a suspect and not worthy to be trusted and as such should be kept at a distance with a concurrent monitoring.
This is why today I am not embraced fully by any of them unless after their retirements because I have no any other interest but national interest, therefore, I must tell them the truth.
That is why you are poor?
Comrade Afiyo: Hahaha. I am not poor by any standard. I can eat anything I want to eat, drink anything I want to drink. Sleep anywhere I want to sleep. I am fully in charge of my family responsibilities. I am assisting the less privileged in the society. I can visit any local government in the north without paying for accommodation, feeding or logistics because at least 20 of our members will be struggling to outsmart each other in paying my bills.
Today, if I want to visit any former president, serving governor or traditional ruler, I don’t need to book an appointment because they know that I will never request for anything.
Finally Comrade, it is a known fact that you are very close to Atiku. What will you do if he is not endorsed by your Forum.
Comrade Afiyo: My closeness with Atiku will never stop me from carrying out the mandate of the Forum. Relationship, tribe or religion will never be considered by me when it comes to national political or economic interest.
I was close to Atiku and we belong to Adamawa state, yet I worked against him in 2007. My house in Kaduna was completely burnt down with four of my cars because of Atiku. My house in Abuja and Yola were revoked and taken away because of Atiku. Yet I supported him in 2014 without asking for a dime. I only complained to him through Garba shehu the present presidential spokesman. Nothing was done and I am not bothered.
I supported Bala Mohammed against Atiku before PDP’s primaries because our forum endorsed Bala Mohammed. A strong and united forum was handed over to me 14 years ago. By next year June, I will be completing my third term of 5 years and I must handover a more united, vibrant, focused and virile Forum to my Successor by His grace. This is why I must not compromise the national to ethnic, regional or religious sentiments.