By Lawan Bukar Maigana
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste death but once.”
When arguably the all-time world’s greatest playwright, Williams Shakespeare, penned the above immortal lines in Act 2 Scene 2 of Julius Caesar, he must have had a long peep into the future of one of his country’s colonies. Moreover, he must have envisioned a special kind of man who exudes rare courage and sound, consistent principles in all he does and at all times.
He is a man who abandons the bandwagon and chooses to remain on the side of truth, fairness and justice even if that stance is unpopular and can cost him his safety and freedom.
Why do some people have sleeplessness over the courage and audacity of Senator Kashim Shettima, a former Governor of Borno State, over his recent opinions on democracy, politics and good governance in Nigeria? Surprisingly, subtle threats are being expressed to warn him to thread softly in some quarters and platforms.
Kashim Shettima is not your kind of everyday politician. His inspirational life story has been that of courage, conviction and consistency and remaining on the right path, on the side of the oppressed and the vulnerable, through thick and thin.
Charismatic, sound, brilliant and masses-oriented, the qualified agricultural economist has dedicated the better part of his adult life to the service of his beloved people of Borno state.
The above outstanding qualities earned him the highest office in the state in 2011 after he served with distinction in at least four different ministries as Commissioner.
After a brilliant career as a first-rate banker, he was Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs (2008), Education (2009), Agriculture and Natural Resources, and finally, Health. He then contested the Governorship election in 2011 and defeated Muhammad Goni of the PDP.
His first term in office endeared him to the hearts of the people. He further proved himself to be a compassionate, responsible and responsive leader who was always there to meet Borno people at the point of their need. His emphasis was on youth and women empowerment and infrastructural upliftment of the state.
In one of his most quoted quotes, American civil rights icon, Martin Luther King Jr said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
The Boko Haram menace brought the rare leadership skills out of Shettima. He stood his ground to protect his people; he never ran away from the battle. Instead, he put his life on the line and confronted the monsters. He mobilized the police, rallied soldiers and established the Civilian JTF, which helped to stem the tide of the insurgency.
In September 2014, Maiduguri, the seat of government, became very vulnerable to being attacked and overran by insurgents. The fear was so intense that notable residents relocated their families to Abuja. However, Governor Shettima, who was out of the country for an official assignment, abandoned everything and returned to Maiduguri in a show of courage and patriotism. On his return, he mobilized residents towards rising in defence of their ancestry, and they succeeded in pushing the enemies back.
Based on the sleepless nights he endured in the latter part of his first tenure – moving from one shooting or bombing scene to the other with countless bodies and a river flowing with blood and all the back and forth he did with Presidential Villa actors over whose responsibility it was to protect Borno people – most observers thought he would chicken out and not bother to seek the second term in office
He sought and won reelection in 2015 under the All Progressives Congress, APC, and was unanimously chosen as Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum, an umbrella body of Governors in the 19 States in northern Nigeria.
Alongside sincere peacebuilding, Governor Shettima championed the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement of victims of insurgency. He focused so much attention on the expansion and remodelling of existing schools and building new boarding primary and junior secondary schools to cater for over 50000 unaccompanied orphans whose parents were killed by insurgents across the 27 local government areas of the state.
Shettima also identified and supported a fine, fantastic gentleman as successor so that the journey of good governance he started would not perish on the way. Since coming to power, Professor Babagana Zulum has elevated good governance to world-class. Zulum’s excellence is a massive credit to Shettima. Unlike others, the two great men complement each other a lot and have not been involved in any fight.
In February 2019, Shettima’s glittering political career entered a new chapter when he won the election to represent the people of Borno Central at the Senate. Since then, his voice has been one of the most audible and laudable in the fight for justice and rights for all Nigerians in the Senate.
Speaking truth to power is part of Shettima’s DNA, and no level of elite conspiracy or underhand, high-wire, discreet manipulations, schemings or threats would take that away.
A popular adage in street parlance says: “Something must kill a man.” It is often said to justify some risk-taking that could end a man’s life. But the good people of Borno and other Nigerians of good conscience will not sit by and watch any harm come to Shettima on account of his principled stand on justice, equity and fairness as we move towards 2023.
His political choices and comments are his entitlements. However, if some powerful, vested interests are so uncomfortable with the truth that they want to unleash ‘undesirable elements’ on him, the people are watching with keen eyes and vigilance.
The people of Borno and their allies outside the state will employ all legally permissible and legitimate means to protect Shettima from any form of harassment and intimidation. They will continue to support and protect him till he accomplishes his mission of doing what is just and fair to all and sundry in the polity, not only in Borno, North-East but Nigeria at large.
Lawan Bukar Maigana wrote from Wuye District Abuja and sent the article via Lawanbukarmaigana@gmail.com.