Kashim Shettima: Portrait Of A Detribalized Leader

The 56th birthday anniversary of Kashim Shettima, the former governor of Borno State and Vice-Presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) presents this opportunity to celebrate the life of an unrepentant democrat, quintessential public servant, and a patriot who is passionate about our country’s place in the 21st century. Though this is a personal tribute, highlighted by personal encounters, it honours a Nigerian who has continued to work for national cohesion and integration through his official and private capacities.

Our paths crossed about twelve years ago in the course of a media tour organised by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) under the leadership of Ndagene Aku of blessed memory. The tour was in collaboration with Red Carpet Protocol during the tenure of Ali Modu Sherrif as Governor of Borno State. Then, an ebullient Kashim Shettima had left his lucrative job as the North East Regional Manager of Zenith Bank to serve his State as a commissioner in the cabinet of Ali Modu Sherrif. During the course of this visit, I would have the opportunity to give a vote of thanks, after which, the then Commissioner Shettima would introduce himself to me and exchange pleasantries. From atop senior functionary of government, I considered his demeanor and approach rare, especially in this part of the world. I was humbled by the simplicity of this Politician and respected his request that we keep in contact.

Now it has been said in different ways that the future is not predictable and there was nothing at that moment to suggest that Shettima would later become a two-term governor of the State, a Senator, and now the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC.

In the course of my professional work and interactions with public servants and politicians from various parts of the country, I have had the privilege of reporting on their attempts to make a mark in their own right. But my association with Kashim Shettima has left an indelible imprint, especially with his efforts to harness the transformative capacity of our abundant human and natural resources to build a prosperous and inclusive society. His approach has further enriched my understanding of the intrinsic qualities of national integration in diversity. In him, I have seen and experienced an exemplary persona of what we hope for in a ‘detribalized citizen’ of this great country.

In my line of sight, thinking back to the young Igbo boy, raised in the bountiful serene Jos Plateau, growing into a determined Nigerian, his belief in the promise of this country of many ethnicities and his preference for competence over a tribe or primordial sentiments marks him out as a strong face of the promise for Nigeria. Although we are of different faiths, it was he who sponsored my pilgrimage to Jerusalem. So, while I do not wish to undermine the concerns of some over his emergence as a running mate to Ahmed Tinubu, I do however strongly believe that those who impute it to an Islamisation agenda are speaking from the standpoint of ignorance. As a journalist, I would lean primarily on the available evidence based on the actions of Shettima the former governor, which supports an ambition laced with love for humanity. His global or national worldview as a necessity has always rejected clannishness in all ramifications.

While some may consider this a simple contribution, consider that during his tenure as governor, Kashim Shettima had a retinue of aides that were not from his state. For instance, Isa Gusau, whom he introduced me to as his special adviser on communications and strategy, is from Zamfara State. Kester Ogualili, his then Special Adviser on Community Relations hails from Anambra State, Christopher Godwin Akaba from Delta State who served as a Senior Special Assistant, Lanre Obadah from Kwara State was also a Special Assistant; Victor Izekor from Edo state worked as a Special Assistant among several others. To my knowledge, to date, these gentlemen remain close to him.

Many may not know or have chosen to forget that at the height of tensions occasioned by the quit notice handed down to Igbos to vacate the North by the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Kashim Shettima personally intervened and persuaded the Forum to withdraw that request. As a follow-up to this intervention, he travelled to all the States in the South East to reassure the governors and the people that there was no need for panic because the situation was under control. As governor, he demonstrated that he is a unifier and a bridge builder. He handled inter-religious and ethnic issues with the utmost caution, maturity, fairness, and even-handedness. He stood firmly against discrimination against Igbos, other ethnic groups, and Christians in Borno State. In schools, he made sure that there were no discriminatory policies in school fees, levies, and benefits against non-indigenes. His devotion to the war against terror in Borno State where he resisted Boko Haram stands him in good stead. His personal and total commitment to the war against terror even in those anxious days when the forces of evil appeared to be making inroads ensured that Borno remained intact and never fell under the control of Boko Haram.

As such, when recently, Shettima adorned the traditional Igbo red cap with the full costumes, he was neither playing politics nor playing to the gallery; he was merely expressing himself as a ‘Nigerian’. One who sincerely believes that for our country to flourish and live up to the dreams of our founding fathers, the interest of every part of the Nigerian federation should be factored into the decision-making processes of government.

Next year’s election will be significant and consequential. It will determine if our country will continue to move forward or regress to our old decadent ways which almost plunged us into an irredeemable abyss. The vile campaign of reactionary opposition forces notwithstanding, I invite you to critically look at the unimpeachable public service record of Kashim Shettima and his intentional service. In this season of heightened ethnic saliency, we need to continue with democratic consolidation.

The famous American Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr, once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” Thus, it is instructive to note that Shettima has often chosen the path that promotes peace and good governance.

This is the Kashim Shettima that I have had the privilege to know and have come to appreciate as a mentor. He is a leader with profound vision and enormous capacity; and above all, he loves this country and its people immeasurably. Felicitations to him on his 56th birthday anniversary.

– Nkwocha, a media consultant and entrepreneur, is based in Abuja.

Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.

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