By Ismail Omipidan
When the American comedian, Groucho Marx, defined politics as “the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies,” he may not have had Nigeria in mind.
However, his definition of politics aptly describes our present situation in Nigeria. Otherwise, a cerebral Nigerian journalist would not have picked up his pen to write and conclude without any empirical evidence that a man who was hounded by Boko Haram elements for eight years is the same man sponsoring them? Come off it! Certainly, the Shettima you “ventured” into his mind is different from the one aspiring to be Nigeria’s Vice President on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. You probably may have taken the wrong shuttle, Sir!
Kashim Shettima was never a member of the defunct Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, or Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU. But his ideas about politics and governance can be squarely located in the ‘Talakawa’ ideals and principles of politics and governance. He has consistently proved to be a detribalised and a compassionate leader.
When he lost his Police Orderly in 2018, he not only picked the new one from the same state, Bauchi, where the late one hailed from, he also went for a Christian against the wish of members of his kitchen cabinet. The former Orderly was a Muslim.
The rug in his office, as at the time of my last visit in April 2018, a year to his exit from office in 2019, was the same rug he inherited in 2011 from his predecessor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, with Sheriff’s name boldly inscribed on them.
In September 2014, Shettima had embarked on planned assessment meetings with school authorities in Sudan and the United Kingdom, where 70 students on the state’s sponsorship were undergoing undergraduate studies in medicine and geo-sciences. He hardly arrived his first destination when Boko Haram insurgents took over Bama, one of the most populated towns in the state — 70kilometres from Maiduguri, the state capital.
Tension was high, as news went round that Maiduguri, the seat of power, too, was about to be overrun by the sect. Shettima cut short his trip and returned to Abuja, where he held strategic meetings on the Bama takeover, including constituting a committee to oversee the distribution of relief materials to victims of the Bama attack.
Thereafter, he announced his intention to return to Maiduguri, the next day, an intention almost everyone around him, including me, kicked against. As one who had known him right from his days at the Zenith Bank in Maiduguri, I sought audience with him, where I tried unsuccessfully to persuade him from returning to Maiduguri the next day. I advised he should stay for a few more days in Abuja before returning to Maiduguri.
But the arguments he advanced shocked me. He said, among other things, “Mallam Samaila, it is better for me to be killed, serving my people, than for Maiduguri, with several internally-displaced persons, to fall to Boko Haram, while I am away. That will amount to cowardice.” How can such a man be accused of sponsoring Boko Haram?
Seeing his courage and determination to return, I prayed with him, and wished him well. By the next day, September 5, a day after he returned to Maiduguri, he addressed the citizens of the state through a state-wide broadcast and thereafter, moved round the city, the same way our security operatives carry out Show of Force, just to keep the spirit of the citizens alive, and to let them know he was not a runaway governor.
A visit to the state under him will make one wonder how he managed to build all the infrastructure on the ground — roads, housing, agric, name them — despite the insurgency. Just imagine what he would have achieved if he had a peaceful environment devoid of Boko Haram to operate. Thankfully, his successor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, is building on the structures he inherited to the delight of all Nigerians. If Shettima were to be the overbearing kind of predecessor, you probably won’t see or hear about his enigmatic, energetic and workaholic successor, Prof. Zulum.
When elections were over in 2015, and some APC members were accusing the Igbo of not contributing anything to Buhari’s victory, Shettima again came in defence of the Igbo, declaring that the mere fact that the PDP could not post the figures it posted in 2011, in 2015, from the South- East , was enough contribution to APC’s victory by the people of the region.
Shettima led the struggle to ensure that the Quit Notice issued in 2017 to the Igbo residing in the North by some northern youths over secession agitation was withdrawn.
I am aware that he has always asked to be given the “opportunity to prove that leadership under our constitutional democracy can be humane and people-oriented.” His idea about governance and leadership so far perfectly fits into the understanding of these two concepts.
Interestingly, Shettima belongs to the zodiacal sign called Virgo, the only zodiacal sign represented by a female (females are usually adjudged to be more humane). Knowing him well enough, I can say with certainty that he possesses in great abundance, the traditional Virgo traits. Virgo is modest and shy, meticulous and reliable, practical and diligent, intelligent and analytical.
Shettima is one of the few very brilliant, intelligent, easy-going, witty and friendly leaders we have in the north who is very cosmopolitan and who enjoys tremendous acceptability from majority of Nigerians, including the Christian community.
In the build-up to the 2015 presidential election, a frontline politician in the State who had defected to then ruling party at the centre, the PDP, had boasted to then President Goodluck Jonathan, “Mr. President, hold me responsible if Borno is not delivered to the PDP, ” adding that the APC was not going to get up to 30 percent of the total votes.
Rather than make any boast, Shettima quietly went to work and by the time that election was won and lost, the PDP could not even secure the required 25 percent votes for the party’s presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan, as Kashim Shettima delivered 473, 543 votes to the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, representing about 97 percent of the total valid votes cast, leaving Jonathan with just 25, 640 votes.
Again, in 2019, in the entire States in the north, Borno is the only state that improved on its 2015 performance at the presidential election. For instance, while President Muhammadu Buhari‘s votes dropped significantly in most of the northern states where he won, in Borno, the votes increased by about 400,000, as Buhari polled 836, 496 votes to defeat former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the PDP’s candidate who garnered 71, 788 votes.
Political observers attribute the above feat to the governor’s disposition towards perceived political enemies. They waged intense political war against him, but God came to his rescue.
This is the Kashim Shettima that I know, not the one Oga Steve Osuji ventured into the mind in his latest piece: “A shuttle around Shettima’s mind.”
Kashim Shettima, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s running mate has not changed. He is a fit and proper person to be Nigeria’s Vice President. People, they say, change, once they have access to power and money. But for Senator Kashim Shettima, the story appears different. He has continued to remain humble inspite of what God has done for him and used him to do for others.
Omipidan, a journalist and a Public Affairs analyst writes from Ile Olorisa Compound, Eyindi, Ila Orangun.