By Hussain Hayatu
“The true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis.” – Brian Tracy
How time flies! It’s little over one year now when a certain man with a lion heart proved right, the above quotation on true test of leadership despite the odds against him.
Enter Senator Kashim Shettima!
Senator Shettima is a Muslim from the Kanuri tribe from Borno State and is generally seeing as extremely hospitable to other faith and ethnic groups. In his eight years as governor, Shettima has maintained amongst his closest aides, an Igbo Christian from Anambra State in the Southeast, an Urhobo Christian from Delta State in the South-South, a Christian from Edo State in the South-South, a Yoruba Christian from the Southwest, a Fulani man from Gombe in the Northeast and a Hausa man from Zamfara State in the Northwest. Sen. Shettima speaks very fluent English and Hausa language. Local and International listeners of his public presentations regularly describe Shettima as being very articulate and intelligent.
The Senator is leftist with an incredible hand-writing. His number one hobby is reading books. He has read hundreds of books and maintains personal libraries. A good book he hasn’t read is one gift that excites him the most. He is a good table tennis player and watches football.
Daring the Boko Haram Siege
Boko Haram remains a huge problem to the Nigerian government and its people but former Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima had ignored their threat and returned to Gambaru Ngala in a non-bulletproof vehicle to campaign for his senatorial bid in what proved to be a very dangerous act by a high class personality since the independence of Nigeria in 1960.
Recalled when he was sworn into office on 29th May 2011, the Boko Haram insurgency had thrown Borno into a state of war. Beginning from 2009 when the group started an armed rebellion against the government of Nigeria, using Borno State as its base, governing Borno was a herculean task. His journey of 8 years was not that of roses. The journey was full of trials even though in the midst of unimaginable perseverance and indomitable courage. These perseverance and courage have come to define how the world now sees the people of Borno State.
But he came into office as governor, well equipped for that task. Indeed he was not a stranger to happenings in Borno and the challenges of governance in the State given his background. From 2007 to 2011, he served as Commissioner in 5 Ministries.
These include Commissioner for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs (2008), Education (2009), Agriculture and Natural Resources and finally to the Ministry of Health from where he contested the Governorship seat in 2011 which he won under the platform of the now defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP and was inaugurated on May 29, 2011. He won re-election in 2015 under the All Progressives Congress, APC and was unambiguously chosen as Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, an umbrella body of Governors in the 19 northern states.
Even with such glamorous and intimidating profile, it was not a thing of envy because of the problems that the insurgency thrust upon in 2011. Nobody adequately prepares for war, especially for an insurgency in which the government is pitched against the very people it has sworn to defend and protect. Therefore, he won the support of the broad spectrum of the Borno and Nigerian populace.
In 2013, the youths of Borno mobilized themselves to defend his government and their ancestry. The National Security Adviser and Nigerian Army, for the first time in the history of Nigeria formalized this effort by establishing the volunteer effort known as the JTF. The volunteers played a very significant role in supporting the military in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents.
In order to encourage them, Shettima approved salaries, kits and patrol vehicles for the civilian JTF while at the same time gave so much support to the Nigerian Armed Forces. He led in mobilization of community-based intelligence gathering and the provision of hundreds of patrol vehicles and logistics to the military in particular and to all other security agencies in general.
Despite all these commendable efforts by his government, in September, 2014, Maiduguri, the seat of Government, became very vulnerable to insurgents. The fear was so deep that notable residents relocated their families out of the state. However, in the midst of such fright while he was out of the country for an official assignment he quickly returned to Maiduguri in a show of courage and patriotism.
On his return, he mobilized residents towards rising up in defense of their ancestry. Although Maiduguri didn’t fall, the insurgents succeeded in occupying 20 out of the 27 local government areas of the State before the Nigerian Armed Forces liberated them between 2015 and 2016.
With the peoples’ support, his government was able to build seven new General Hospitals, overhaul 18 General Hospitals, and establish diagnostic and kidney dialysis centres. They were also able to increase the number of nurses and midwives from 980 to 1,850. Similarly, 60 doctors were sent to study medicine and surgery in Sudan with the hope that sooner or later, Borno may have the highest number of female medical doctors in northern Nigeria. His government also upgraded School of Health to Colleges as well as improved access to healthcare system in Borno State.
The Kashim’s administration also started an accelerated revolution in Borno’s public education. It constructed 1,711 classrooms and other school buildings in 256 primary and junior secondary schools. It established 16 new secondary schools, renovated more than half of our over 80 secondary schools and built 44 Mega primary schools of world class infrastructure. These schools are to cater for more than 50,000 orphans whose parents were killed by Boko Haram. It also deliberately located half of the schools in Maiduguri so that a sitting governor can personally ensure the welfare of these orphans, many of whom have neither mothers nor relatives. Majority of them have no one at all. In spite the paucity of funds amidst other competing demands, his administration was able to establish Borno’s first state University since it was created in 1976. His government really made huge impact in all the tertiary institutions made up of the Ramat Polytechnic and Colleges.
According to the Senator, the philosophy of their revolution in public education does not end with the beautiful structures and facilities but with the hearts and minds that we save. It is about the generations that they hope to renew. Education is the light with the strength to banish the darkness of insurgency and the destruction of the young. To him, the best legacy a generation can leave behind is a realistic hope for bright and audacious minds.
With modesty, he said the job of rebuilding the state and the people had just begun. His words “I have done my modest part, and I am bowing out. I am happy that the stage is shifting to a great and worthy son of Borno. The stage is shifting to a man who made himself out of a low estate, a man who drove a taxi and sold firewood to pay his school fees, a man with an uncommon touch, a dynamo of a worker. Babagana Umara Zulum is very well prepared for the task ahead. He showed it expertly as a commissioner. Insha’Allah, he will excel as the chief shepherd of the state. He is very energetic and very brilliant. My prayer is for Professor Babagana Umara Zulum to surpass my achievements by a wide margin”.
With the insurgents on the defensive, yet he made commendable efforts at peace building. He championed Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement of victims. He also focused attention on expansion and remodeling of existing schools and building new boarding primary and junior secondary schools to cater for over 50, 000 unaccompanied orphans whose parents were killed by insurgents across the 27 local government areas of the State.
These he did, beside his other responsibilities to the Northern Governors Forum where he drove key changes in the affairs of the forum with focus on promoting northern unity and reviving ailing industries belonging to northern States.
These efforts have been appreciated by the Nigerian public and have also attracted positive recognition within and outside Nigeria. He emerged the 2014 Governor of the Year (Leadership Newspapers), Governor of the Year, 2015, (Nigeria Union of Journalists, national body); Governor of the Year, 2015 (NewsWatchTimes Newspapers); Governor of the Year, 2015 (Vanguard Newspapers); Governor of the Year, 2016 (Tell Magazine); 2017 Zik Prize for Leadership; Kaduna NUJ Award for courage and exceptional leadership (2017), FCT NUJ Merit Award for exceptional Leadership, 2017.
Little or no surprise, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had no choice but to commend Kashim Shettima for recording numerous achievements in office in spite of the prevailing Boko Haram insurgency in the state. The former People’s Democratic Party, PDP Presidential candidate in 2019 general election, said that it was commendable to state that Shettima had striven hard to develop Borno State despite the security challenges bedevilling the state.
2019 General Election.
Shettima really prepared for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari even in the face of Boko Haram insurgents who attacked his convoy at Maiduguri-Gamboru road while travelling for campaigns for his senatorial bid on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
According to report, Islamic State, (ISIS), which appears to be working in collaboration with the Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attack on the convoy. ISIS, in a statement, claimed that 42 people were killed in the attack on the governor’s motorcade.
The attack was confirmed by the then Special Adviser to the governor on Communications and Strategy, Malam Isa Gusau, claimed that only three persons were killed. Shettima later told State House correspondents after a security meeting by the President Buhari and attended by heads of security agencies at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said the attacks will not deter him from meeting with the people even if it would cost his life.
He said: “Leadership requires courage. I will go back to Gamboru Ngala next week and ready to pay the supreme price if need be and I will not be going in a bulletproof car.
“I will go in a normal car like any other members of my convoy and expose myself to all the risk that they are bearing for me to be protected. But believe me, no matter how long the night is, darkness must give away to the light of the dawn. No matter how stormy the weather may well be, it won’t rain forever.
“This madness will come to an end because it is a fight between light and darkness. It is a fight between cause and justice.”
He added: “Be that as it may, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. I am the chief security officer of the state, I should have the courage and believe me not that I am not petrified, no!
“As the chief security officer of the state, the day I say I cannot go to a certain part of the state because of the insecurity, and then what sort of confidence are you inspiring on the common man?
“The Boko Haram basks in the oxygen of publicity, by attacking my convoy, by targeting my person. They have gotten the much-needed boost. But then as they say if you cannot withstand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
As Governor of Borno State, he efficiently managed the challenges that arose from the Boko Haram insurgency which he inherited in 2011. With the approval of the National Security Adviser and the Nigerian Army in 2013, his government formalized establishment of youth volunteers called the Civilian JTF (Civilian Joint Task Force).
The volunteers played very significant role in supporting the military in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents. He approved salaries, kits and patrol vehicles for the civilian JTF while at the same time gave so much support to the Nigerian Armed Forces. He led in mobilization of community based intelligence gathering and the provision of hundreds of patrol vehicles and material logistics to the military in particular and to all other security agencies. In September, 2014, Maiduguri, the seat of Government, became very vulnerable to being occupied by insurgents.
The fear was so intense that notable residents relocated their families to Abuja. However, it the midst of such fright, Senator Shettima who was out of the country for an official assignment, returned to Maiduguri in a show of courage and patriotism. On his return, the Kanuri-born banker-turned politician mobilized residents towards rising up in defense of their ancestry. Although Maiduguri didn’t fall, the insurgents succeeded in occupying 20 out of the 27 local government areas of the state before the Nigerian Armed Forces liberated them between 2015 and 2016.
In spite the siege, Kashim Shettima abandoned the use of bullet proof cars as an act of sympathy with the suffering masses that had no means of self protection from terrorists. He said that the action was also aimed at showing that the terrorists had no super natural powers. “We have to dare the terrorists; I have bullet proof cars, but I do not use them; I want to be exposed to the elements as the ordinary people do,” Shettima said.
He said the bullet proof cars were only kept for the use of visitors who might be afraid to use ordinary cars. “We have so many bullet proof cars but we only use them for our guests. “Sometimes I drive myself round the town to see things for myself,” Shettima said.
Indeed, Brian Tracy was right, the true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis.