The Day Kashim Shettima Requested For Book On Governance, By Olayinka Olusegun
Until the emergence of Senator Kashim Shettima as the running mate to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu a few months ago, now president-elect, not much was known or talked about the former two-time governor as an Individual. Most of the conversation was on the tough time he had governing the state or how he was using his position as a Senator chairing a strategic committee to canvass a better working environment for security agencies working in Borno.
This was because his resolve to end the Boko Haram conflict in Borno state took center stage. It was either he was meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari to get more support for his war-ravaged Borno state, travelling dangerous roads in Northern Borno to see Internally Displaced Persons to boost their morale, meeting with soldiers serving in the hotspots to see things for himself or calling for more assistance from the International community to bring succour to his people or weeping over the nearly hopeless situation his people have found themselves, no thanks to bloodthirsty Boko Haram.
On two occasions, his convoy was attacked by Late Abubakar Shekau`s faction of Jamaatu Ahlul Sunnah Lidawati Jihad. His crime was rebuilding schools destroyed by the terrorists. It got to the extent that Shekau in two separate videos declared that he deserves to die because he was relocating students from destroyed schools to Maiduguri so that there is no much disruption in the academic calendar and science subjects were taught in Borno schools which according to him will make the children become infidels.
I have known him for twenty- two years, and I can conveniently say he has remained consistent all these years. As Kashim Shettima is sworn in as Vice-President in a few days, he would be the first Borno man to attain such a feat, having had a stint as governor and senator making him a round peg in a round hole.
It is important to dissect the man as a father, husband, and Nigerian with a humble beginning. This is because it is providence at work. In August 2004, I sauntered into his office at Zenith Bank Maiduguri where he was having a discussion with a close friend of his, Mai Ahmed Sheriff. On seeing me through the transparent glass door, he came out and ushered me in saying he was about to call me on the phone.
He said he wanted two copies of Late Sam Nda Isaiah`s book, “ Selected Writings on Governance, Democracy and Statecraft” and wanted to know if I can get them for him. I asked him why he wanted the books so urgently, and he said “ I believe in the Nigerian project and we can make this country work someday.” But unknown to him and myself, he will be saddled with the responsibility of repositioning Nigeria with the president nineteen years later.
A day later, I came with the books at about 12 noon and handed them to him in a jiffy because I had another appointment at the hospital. As I was leaving, he asked me to return and collect the money for the books. I said I will come back, but he said no. He said in Hausa “ Kai Mai karamin karfi ne,banaso in takura maka” meaning,” i do not want to inconvenience you as an average Nigerian probably you need the money for something else”. This episode underscores him as a man who connects well with the challenges of everyday life of an ordinary Nigerian struggling and smiling. In reality, I did not have more than five hundred naira left after paying for the books. This further endeared him to me. With this kind of mindset, I see him doing well in supporting the President as someone who understands the yearning and aspirations of the average Nigerian because he has not forgotten where he is coming from.
Secondly, they are taking over the mantle of leadership at a time when Nigeria is facing difficult challenges from security, epileptic power supply, feeding from hand to mouth due to inflation rate of twenty-two percent and the collapse of Nigeria`s educational/ health systems and recurrent strike by poorly paid resident doctors. Shettima does well during difficult times because of his patience and knack for details.
Furthermore, not many know about his humble beginning as the son of Late Ba Shettima, a man who sells religious books at Monday Market in Maiduguri. He was taught at a young age that hard work, humility and dedication were the only legacies he was bequeathing to him and his siblings. It was said that during secondary school days, he had the heart of sharing his provisions with friends despite having little. This to him was because his parents were not the poorest, but he met classmates whose parents were less fortunate. This inculcated in him the desire to always support people to climb the economic ladder.
During his days at Zenith Bank, many of those recruited were people who never dreamt of working in a bank because of their family background. There was this unwritten law in Borno then, that good private sector and government jobs were for connected families. This is why if you go looking for something, you are confronted with this question “ In du baa zo”” or “ She tada ndube” meaning who is your father?.
This is another reason why the establishment in Borno was angry with Senator Ali Sheriff for anointing him as his successor in 2011 because it was against the political status quo for a” son of nobody to become somebody”. Fortunately for him, the nay sayers were disappointed because he excelled despite the security challenges that took the state backward by forty years.
Another pointer to Shettima`s philosophy as a person who never forgets where the rains started beating him is his relationship with his former landlord during his graduate school days at the University of Ibadan. Despite his busy schedule as a banker, governor and later Senator, he stayed in touch and still visits him anytime he is in the southwest. This is because the man treated him like his son despite coming from a minority group in Northern Nigeria.
Today, not many of us can say we have gone back to places we stayed as students or where we had the National Youth Service due to a relationship that we built. Shettima is a bridge builder who has friends across all ethnic, religious and professional leanings regardless of their economic status. Therefore, his trajectory as a banker cum politician did not come to us as a surprise. He was chosen for greatness by Allah due to his commitment to hard work, loyalty, and determination and most importantly he never forgets those who have supported him during his rise from grass to grace.
His disagreement with Ali Sheriff as governor of Borno State towards the end of his first term in office also underscores him as someone who always sees the good in other people. This is contrary to usual pattern that we see today like that of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano and his benefactor, Rabiu Musa Kwankaso or Godwin Obaseki versus Adams Oshiomole. Some key players in the political circle in Borno had urged him to fight Senator Ali Sheriff to a standstill and make it a “rofo rofo” fight. However, in private and public, he will always remind one that he will remain grateful to Sheriff for changing his career trajectory. Hence, he will not insult him nor have his supporters insult him because he is a river that never forget his source.
This accounts for why the disagreement was never a thing of discussion on the pages of newspapers till the duo came back together in the All Progressives Congress (APC).
At home, you find in him an unassuming father and husband who pays special attention to the education of his children, which is one thing that is not common with people from the successful class in Borno. I believe this is part of his motivation to shatter the glass ceiling in a conservative society like Borno. Shettima knows the importance of good education and loyalty.
Thus, Nigeria and Tinubu will be lucky to have him as Vice president from May 29 because of his strong belief in Nigeria and as someone who never thinks of hurting a fly.
– Olusegun, a former journalist and public commentator, is now a farmer in Shaki, Oyo state.
Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.