By Zaidu Zaidu
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Senator Kashim Shettima is one of the most vilified Nigerian politicians since the country’s return to democratic government in 1999. The calumny campaigns o poju, as the Yoruba people would say. If he is not linked to a rag-tag terrorist group today, he is branded as a religious fanatic and hater of Christianity tomorrow. From the way things are going, I am afraid some people may petition the CIA of the United States to reinvestigate the infamous 9/11 attacks and bring its actual mastermind—Senator Kashim Shettima, to book. One begins to wonder exactly what these children of hate and vengeance stand to gain by painting an esteemed man black? Who are they? What do they want and who is bankrolling them? Do they even care about sheathing their swords in order to find out about the man whose destruction they seek?
On the other hand, how Shettima has found the thick skin to repel the myriads of attacks on his personality will most likely remain a story for another day.
That brings us to the topic proper. Who is this man that continues to wax stronger in spite of the cacophony of voices denouncing him? Who is this man that walks with the lion as a power animal? Is he really from this planet? In Plato’s allegory of the metals, the philosopher classifies men into groups of gold, silver and lead. Senator Kashim Shettima is pure gold: there is gold laid into his determination to change the status quo; gold in his sense of humour, intelligence and searing brilliance; gold in his oratorical prowess and voracious appetite for books; and gold in his ability to think outside of the box. On September 2, 1966, Kashim Shettima was born in Maiduguri, Borno State, to the family of Shettima Mustafa Kuttayibe.
Apparently, he was named after Sir Ibrahim Kashim Shettima—a prominent politician of Old Northern Nigeria. Now married to Nana Shettima with three children, the APC Vice Presidential candidate’s rise in politics has been nothing short of meteoric.
Shettima did not become a national figure by chance, but by dint of sheer hard work and determination to succeed. Initially, he started as a lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Maiduguri in 1993. If Senator Kashim Shettima had remained in the field of academics, he would no doubt have reached the zenith of that sphere.
However, his bravery and insatiable vision meant that he often wielded a propensity to try new things. After a brief stint in the classroom, he delved into the banking sector and served in different capacities that allowed him to make a trace of indelible marks. Following his resignation from the service of Zenith Bank as a Zonal Head, he was appointed as Commissioner of Finance by then Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff. Shettimaʼs performance was nothing short of excellent. He would go on to serve in five ministries as commissioner before eventually succeeding Ali Modu Sheriff as Governor of Borno State.
His tenure as Governor was riddled by the onslaught of Boko Haram insurgents, and he did his best to rein in the group’s bloodletting orgies. When faced with the task to choose his successor, Shettima promptly settled for Professor Babagana Umara Zulum. The choice of Zulum as his successor was due largely to the latter’s outstanding performance as his Commissioner of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement. Zulum notably discharged his assigned duties with all good intent and purpose, causing Shettima to be convinced there was no better person to handle the affairs of the state than him. And presently, the former don has been by all ramifications, outstanding. He has been working round the clock with zero interference from Senator Kashim Shettima. We have not heard of the sort of bickering which often defines strained relationships between political godfathers and their godsons in Nigeria’s governing terrains. As such, when we praise Zulum for his excellent performance in office, we should also commend Senator Shettima for prioritising the interests of the good people of Borno State.
As the Governor of Borno State from 2011 to 2019, Senator Kashim Shettima proved beyond reasonable doubt that he is a detribalized Nigerian. He did this by surrounding himself with people of diverse ethnic nationalities from the country’s six geo-political zones. An Igbo man, Chief Kester Ogualili was his Special Adviser on Community Relations. His traducers know about Shettimaʼs track record as an advocate of the One Nigeria Project, but are conveniently blinded by parochial interests. The allegation that he is one of the brains behind terrorism in North-eastern Nigeria is not something that can even stand in a competent court of law. And even if it’s remotely true, Shettima would have been a clog in the wheel of Profesor Babagana Umara Zulum’s spirited fight against Boko Haram in Borno State. Zulum has been a thorn in the flesh of terrorist and insurgent elements. Not only has he gone into the remotest areas within the Borno to give his subjects a sense of belonging, but he has escaped death by the barest of whiskers on several occasions. All through this, Zulum has never comes out to accuse his predecessor of sabotaging his efforts to ensure that insurgency is a thing of the past in Borno State. At this point, a reasonable person cannot be faulted for wondering: Where, then, are these puerile allegations of terrorism sponsorship against this consummate leader and astute politician coming from?
Senator Kashim Shettima’s appointment as running mate to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a simple case of the proverbial birds of a feather that flock together. Both men share the same ideologies and have eyes for talent. As former Governor of Lagos State, Tinubuʼs appointed successors have worked well enough to advance the progress of Nigeria’s biggest economic zone. The same can also be said of Shettima with Professor Umara Zulum. Clearly, there is no better working partnership for the project of a better Nigeria.
Unsurprisingly, the choice of Shettima as running mate to Tinubu stirred up more than just a hornet’s nest. The controversies this choice has generated (and is still generating) were to be expected after all. At this moment, Nigeria is a country divided. The two major religions live in mutual distrust and never-ending suspicions fuelled by the sort of conspiracy theories which resurfaced once the ruling party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket became official. As if such a ticket has ever been an alien occurrence to Nigerians. Perhaps, people only choose to forget that it has happened before in 1993 with the candidacy of the late great M.K.O Abiola and Kingibe—and heaven did not fall then. In fact, MKO got more votes from Christian faithfuls than the Muslim populace.
Perhaps one of the most asinine theories this candidacy has had to constantly endure and refute is that of a sinister Islamisation agenda. I have been forced to tell my Christian friends who express this fear of Islamisation that a camel would literally have to go through the eye of a needle before this country can ever be Islamised fully. And that even if such a thing was possible, Tinubu and Shettima are the least expected to lead such a charge.
Ultimately, Shettima’s traducers are playing a losing game. They obviously cannot beat Shettima to any level of submission, so why not just sheath their swords and embrace the man for who he really is: a consummate financial expert, a politician of repute and a detribalized Nigerian par excellence. As a man of peerless esteem, courageous and unassuming, Senator Kashim Shettima is out to rewrite history with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. These capable leaders deserve our unalloyed support for a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria, a country where our dreams do not have to be darkened by irrational fears.
And yes, they can take us there.
Zaidu Zaidu writes from Lagos.