By Lawan Bukar Maigana
The emergence of Senator Kashim Shettima as the running mate to the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential aspirant, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, has continued to generate reactions from all corners of Nigeria.
Most worrisome is the puerile attempt by some ill-intentioned social media influencers to link the former governor of Borno State to Boko Haram terrorism.
What could have influenced the attempt to link Shettima with Boko Haram?
While the paid and unpaid agents behind this vile propaganda have not provided any evidence to link the Senator to terrorism, it is necessary to examine some facts from the apparent fallacies of the opposition and separate the wheat from the chaff.
For instance, while travelling to Gamboru Ngala for a rally ahead of the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections, Shettima’s convoy was attacked by Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) members and three of his loyalists were killed. Many others sustained various degrees of injuries.
Characteristically, ISWAP claimed responsibility for the attack the following day. However, the then Special Adviser on Communications and Strategy, Malam Isa Gusau, confirmed the identities of the deceased, including a brave soldier and two staunch politicians.
According to Gusau, the attack aimed to attract global media attention to sustain the terrorists’ agenda of instilling fear in citizens and reducing the morale of the gallant troops.
The leader of the Boko Haram terrorists, Abubakar Shekau, who was later killed in an alleged suicide bombing, had threatened Shettima and top government officials in a 56-minute video where he ordered his members and foot-soldiers to kill them wherever and whenever they found them. Could Shettima have a link with Boko Haram, yet he would be the number one on their hit list?
In the video, Shekau boasted as follows: “You, former governor Kashim [Shettima], you present governor [Babagana] Zulum, listen – do not be deceived by your walking without shoes – be careful! If you sing these things we mentioned [Nigeria’s national anthem, national pledge, and the NYSC anthem], you are a disbeliever even if you recite them jokingly.”
It was not surprising that Shettima and Zulum were mentioned in the video because both personalities have consistently spoken against the evil of Boko Haram and worked assiduously with security agents and other stakeholders to decimate them. They have also been supporting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to recover from the damage the terrorists had done in their lives and relocate them to their respective, original communities.
It should also be noted that Shettima didn’t just stop at appealing to the Federal Government to intensify efforts aimed at eradicating terrorism. He committed enormous resources to support the military with security equipment and dozens of vehicles to ease mobility during operations. Is that a governor that has a link with Boko Haram terrorists?
Born and brought up in Maiduguri, I can authoritatively confirm that Shettima adequately funded the Volunteer Vigilante Youth Groups, popularly known as Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in 2013, who were later trained in counter-terrorism operations, to strengthen the fight against Boko Haram terrorists.
He also provided adequate welfare and logistic support to over 20,000 CJTFs to strengthen the fight against Boko Haram elements. The motivation enhanced the crucial role of CJTF in intelligence gathering, easy identification, and arrest of suspected insurgents, among others. Could Shettima have a link with Boko Haram fighters and yet fund their tormentors?
Before the expiration of Shettima’s tenure as governor of Borno State, he was relentlessly calling for the deployment of military personnel and equipment to curb the threat of the terrorist group in the Northeast. Considering the cost of the war on terror, Shettima was among the few personalities who persuaded state governors of the necessity of approving the sum of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account for the counter-insurgency campaigns. He also defended the Federal Government’s plan to ensure the judicious utilization of the fund for the intended purpose.
Could Shettima have a connection with terrorists yet support counter-terrorism financing?
When Boko Haram terrorists destroyed churches in Borno, Shettima provided funds to reconstruct the places of worship and ensured adequate security protection of the areas.
In his testimony to this, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Borno Chapter, Bishop Mohammed Naga, said: “During Shettima’s visit to these areas, he released N100 million for the rebuilding of some of these churches. A committee was set up for that purpose. I was a member of the committee headed by a permanent secretary, Mr Justus Zare, as Chairman, and I am happy to inform you that presently we have used that money to rebuild 11 key churches which our people are now using. I am surprised to hear some people saying why don’t we rebuild all the churches. We cannot do that because there are many places that are still unsafe.”
Would church leaders praise Shettima if he had a link with Boko Haram fighters!?
In a nutshell, Shettima is neither an ethnocentric leader nor a religious bigot. On the contrary, he is a charismatic personality who believes in equity, justice, and fairness. Moreover, from his engagements and pronouncements, he has consistently advocated peaceful and harmonious relationships among different tribes and religions.
Therefore, it is unfair and unreasonable to link him with Boko Haram terrorism when he, in reality, has been their number one enemy and a prime target for years.
Lawan Bukar Maigana writes from Wuye District, Abuja. He can be reached via Lawanbukarmaigana@gmail.com.