Shettima’s years of war and work
By Yakubu Ahmed-BK
His eight years in power were, in recent times, Nigeria’s most turbulent for any governor. No governor has had his entire two terms of governance mired in sustained and unbroken period of mindless bloodletting and unprecedented destruction of lives, livelihood and property on a scale unknown in the history of modern Nigeria. Is it, therefore not simply mindboggling that despite the absolute absence of peace, Borno was able to go through a senseless war for ten years and is today being pointed to, as one of the most developed states in Nigeria? Is it not curious that a state that had no tangible and reliable internally generated revenue system due to war, competes with Nigeria’s most peaceful and most economically viable states in terms of addressing key and critical areas of development? Is it also not surprising that while war was intense and un-abating, a Governor could summon the courage to, not just stay put in the face of clear danger to his life, but churn out such an unbelievable and unprecedented record of performance which every Nigerian celebrates and acknowledges as purely out of this world?
We are talking about a situation where some neighboring Governors where the insurgency and scale of atrocities were minimal were on record to have taken refuge in comfort zones and districts far away from their states in fear of falling victims of daring gun attacks, blood-spilling street fights and relentless suicide bombing missions wildly embarked upon by the insurgents through which thousands of people were known to have been killed while millions are today internally displaced persons around the globe. The point here, for me, was Kashim Shettima’s courage to stay put, his ability to provide leadership when the chicken-hearted had taken flight, the unity he was able to achieve throughout the state even with its innate religious and colossal ethnic diversity and still be able to manage and channel resources to help out in the prosecution of the war and still spare some, to churn out an excellent record of performance, thus making his period as Borno’s all-time most incredible and Nigeria’s most unbelievably action parked period in history.
It is unheard of, in modern Nigeria and in democratic governance for a governor to simultaneously combine war and work and do well in both. The mantra is either ‘’there should be peace for development to take place or ‘’no development takes place in an atmosphere of war.’’ Kashim Shettima has, through dint of hard work, sheer competence, eagle-eyed vision and pure courage proved, to the consternation of his opponents, that with the right mixture of transparent leadership and sound policies, development can, indeed be achieved in an atmosphere of absolute lockdown, inexorable destruction and mindless killings. Borno has indeed paid the supreme price and has received a battery that has ruined many nations and communities. But it soothes the mind that despite all that, Borno has today risen from the ashes of an insurgency that has made peace and development to elude communities in Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan and in many other flashpoints that have suffered similar onslaught.
We have seen states in Nigeria where crisis that was nowhere near the level of mindlessness as Borno citing resource constraints for their inability to do as little as pay salaries. In fact, in the many states where workers are being owed months of their salaries, peace has never been disturbed to any level compared to the madness in Borno. Yet, Kashim Shettima has never ever owed workers in salaries and is known to have done quite excellently in the payment of pension and leave grants. For him to also superintend the provision of world-class infrastructure in health, education, industries, housing, security, roads and even sports is to say the least, very unusual and amazing. To cap all these achievements with the establishment of an industrial hub, housing nine different industries – all of them tied to improving the economic base of the state, improving peoples’ lot and kick-starting an industrial revolution, makes Kashim Shettima’s era, Borno’s most memorable in history. It has also opened the eyes of Nigerians to the fact that crisis of any magnitude cannot become an absolute impediment to development.
Tied to this extraordinary Kashim Shettima’s selflessness and courageous leadership acumen was his nobility in the selfless manner he worked out the emergence of Northern Nigeria’s first Professor Governor ever. It has been in the character of leaders to choreograph the emergence of stooges as successors in order to cover their tracks, continue to rule by proxy and call the shots. It is important to emphasize that the same Kashim Shettima who wrestled and defeated the politics of god fatherism by refusing to be anybody’s lackey, is the same man that will hand over to an independent-minded Professor, who is very unlikely to become a side kick. We should be mindful of the fact that Kashim had a choice to anoint anyone of the many of his close boys who have equally proved their mettle, if indeed his desire was to continue to rule through surrogates. Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, the Governor-elect is urban, self made, unpretentious and serious minded scholar who has carved a niche for himself as a straight shooter and an unrepentant stickler for hard work. He will never be anybody’s proxy and Kashim Shettima was never in any doubt of the qualities he went looking for while job-hunting. The Professor was just a square peg and the man for the onerous and tasking responsibility of taking Borno to the next level and out of the quagmire of an ebbing insurgency.
Those of us who have made it our job to watchdog over a long period of modern Borno history can thus attest that Kashim Shettima has paid his dues and has left his footprints in the sands of time at a period not many would have sufficed.
Ahmed-BK wrote in from Gesse III, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State.