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Kashim: A War Time Master Builder

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A few people in the North are conversant with the legend of the master builder – Muhammadu Durugu, known as Babban Gwani, who was the greatest builder and sculptor in the north. He built virtually all the Emirs’ palaces in the north, with their artistic designs that adorned the entrance and the main Emir’s palace. In fact, he was killed because of his art, so that he would not replicate the beauties he produced in other lands. Today, the same family has carried on with the trade and when the present day Emir’s palace in Bauchi was ravaged by rain two years ago, it was the Babban Gwani family that rebuilt and redesigned the Emir’s palace, maintaining its traditional design and aesthetics. Last year, the Alkali Aminu compound, which was formerly the Bauchi Emir’s guest yard, was also destroyed by thunderstorm that hit the North East. It was designed just like the Emir’s palace and looks like one. The destruction was repaired and redesigned by the same Muhammadu Durugu family.

It is impossible to align Kashim Shettima’s lineage to that of Muhammadu Durugu, Kashim being from Borno, and Durugu from Zaria, with Zaria belonging to the Sokoto Caliphate, while Borno belongs to the Kanem Borno empire; both locations from the 18th century Northern Nigeria. But surely, Kashim has proved to be a modern day master builder, a Babban Gwani of our time, this time, hailing from Borno State. The Boko Haram menace had brought Borno to its knees, and for a span of 10 years now, the war has continued to eat out the life of the state, with a record 20,000 deaths and more. At a point, the sect was in control of 14 local governments, hoisting its flags and claiming the areas as part of the new Boko Haram caliphate. Every Nigerian is conversant with the vile and monstrosity visited upon Borno state by the sect. It was as if the state was written off of the Nigerian state, and the only news from Borno was of death and more deaths.

The Burutai led army has done a lot in the recovery of Borno land from the sect, and peace has fast returned to the state, with the sect presently only making a few isolated attempts on soft targets in some localities. I was in Borno in December of 2018 and the state capital is safe with an unprecedented beehive of activities. The greatest achievement to record in Borno state, with a 100 percent pass mark, would be the restoration of peace and order in the state; putting a stop to the insurgency. But Kashim had other plans.

He was focused on the industrialisation of the state. Even if Borno was on its knees, its heart, ambition and determination was not. He was not going to allow the war to waste the years that would have seen to the development of the state. The war and the losses inflicted on the state became formidable inspiration for the emancipation of Borno. Kashim had appeared twice on TV, in tears when Borno was most hit by the Boko Haram crises. Firstly, during the Jonathan administration when he had challenges with governments efforts in tackling Boko Haram and secondly, during the Buhari administration, when there was a huge hit in Borno, due to some laxity on the part of the security operatives.

Kashim was determined to recover from the losses incurred from the war, and build a new Borno state. He was focused on not letting Borno become a Baghdad or Tripoli. He set out to rebuild, and rebuild quickly. Sometime in 2017, APC national leader, Bola Asiwaju Tinubu was in Borno to commission 432 resettlement houses in 13 villages in the state built by the Borno state Governor. He also commissioned 13 Primary and Junior secondary schools, a general hospital, and 5 Primary healthcare centres. He was on hand to also commission 26 luxury apartments in five detached 3-storey buildings to serve as residence for medical doctors working in government hospitals in the state. It was named Tinubu Court in honour of the APC leader. Later on, Maryam Abacha commissioned a 250 bed Ultra-modern hospital, named in her honour. The hospital is a women and children’s hospital in the heart of Maiduguri. All these developments were spread over different locations and villages including Ngamdi, Benisheikh, Mainta Kururi, Tamsukawu, Mainok and Auno.

On Thursday, the 25th of April, 2019, President Buhari was to be overwhelmed and overjoyed by what Kashim was to invite him to Maiduguri to commission. If Buhari had felt jealous, as to why his Kanuri boy (Fulanis call Kanuris their boys and vice versa) had not honoured him with projects all the while, Kashim had saved the best for last. Kashim had built the largest solar panel plant in Africa which now produces 40MW of solar power, with a capacity to build up to 150MW in 2022. He also built an asphalt plant along the notorious Baga road in Maiduguri along with a primary and junior secondary school. There is also the Zannah Umar legacy gardens with a whopping 246 apartments built for workers in the state. It is planned to have over 300 houses in its second phase. The Kashim Shettima housing legacy in Borno boasts of about 31,747 houses altogether, in both the state capital and war ravaged communities.

The most masterful of all the projects built by Shettima is the industrial hub, which is the most productive and self-subsistent project. President Buhari was filled with amazement and was all smiles. He was proud of the achieving Kanuri man. The industrial park consists of several factories with some plants under the same factory. The plants include: Solar panel production plant, Waste recycling plant, Tomatoes processing plant, Onions and ginger dehydrating plant, Cassava processing plant and Table water line plant. Others are: Pilot juice processing plant, Lines of corn chips processing plant, Biscuit production plant, Drip irrigation pipes production plants, Plastic mats production plant, Elementary school desk and chairs production plant, PVC pipes production plant, Grains and cement sacks production plant; frankly, the list is endless. The beauty of it all is that the park is to be powered by the solar power plant and is therefore not envisaged to lack power. His ideas and projects have the common man in mind, as they will surely provide jobs for the masses. The creative minds of the average borno man will find ready industry to support their creativity and businesses.

What if Borno was not war torn? As it is, from 2015-2019, I have not seen such class and delivery from any of Kashim’s contemporaries. Some states boast of treasuries that are seven times larger than Borno’s, and to top it, without any security challenges to be occupied with. In fact, some say it’s a pity that Kashim is going to the Senate and not Buhari’s next level cabinet; considering what he has achieved despite the security challenges of Borno. Kashim will definitely be under-utilised in the senate. The Kanuri man would be very instrumental in bringing the next level to the north, especially if he is to handle infrastructure in the north for Buhari; notably with roads or perhaps with similar industrial parks on a larger scale, as he has done in Borno. The south west has enjoyed most of the Infrastructure works from 2015 to 2019. Kashim or his like, should be the type to handle the works ministry, allowing Fashola to concentrate on power. For me as a fulani man, hailing a kanuri man publicly is indeed something to behold. No doubt, Kashim is the Babban Gwani of Borno state.

– Tahir is the Talban Bauchi


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