By Joseph Y. Chibok
Ever since former Borno governor, Kashim Shettima, was selected as the vice-presidential running mate to the APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for the 2023 election, he has faced a barrage of criticism not on account of any known crime he has committed, or any serious act of omission or commission he is found culpable of.
First, his antagonists said he is a Muslim and his being asked to pair with Tinubu who is also a Muslim, is what they find so objectionable. Shettima’s party and other knowledgeable persons took pains to explain that his selection was not intended to slight Christians or undermine that faith; that it was a purely political move to win the 2023 presidential election based on a solid political calculation.
Despite the sensible explanation for his selection, his critics have remained unyielding. It seems as if there is a conspiracy somewhere that Shettima must be dropped at all costs whatever the explanation is. All manner of dirt has been thrown at him. But a man with a Teflon personality, no dirt seems capable of sticking on him.
During the recent Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) conference held in Ikeja, Lagos, where he represented his principal, Shettima gained the plaudits of reasonable Nigerians across the political and religious divides for his brilliant speech at the event. Some of us his supporters and admirers expected that his revelation of the quality he is made of will gain him some respite and earn him acceptance from those who seem so poised against him. But no.
His “very presidential” performance at the Bar Conference rather alarmed his traducers and seems to have revved up their bile against him. The fact that the APC does not seem ready to drop him from the presidential ticket may have added fuel to their new determination to rain an onslaught against him.
This brings us to what looks like the second tactical deployment against Shettima namely, to knock his head against that of his principal. The first plank in this next stage of the war is to recruit influencers and opinion moulders to invent all forms of outlandish arguments to paint Shettima as an unsuitable partner who will even be subversive to his principal if he goes ahead with his plan to run with him; and that Shettima will be a danger to the peace and stability of the nation.
The execution of this plan is what we see in Olu Fasan, a columnist with the Vanguard newspaper, who in his column of Thursday, 22nd September 2022, in a piece entitled “2023: Shettima unfit to be Nigeria’s vice-president” argues, quite unconvincingly and illogically, that Tinubu running with Shettima will bring all sorts of woes and calamities against Tinubu and the nation.
In fact, he began his argument with an assertion that is so fallacious that you know from the onset that he is filled with malice, nothing but malice, against Shettima. He declared: “no previous presidential candidate in Nigeria did what Tinubu has done. I’m not referring to the devilry of his Muslim-Muslim ticket. Rather, I’m talking about his deliberate decision to pick a long-standing political ally and close associate as his running mate’’.
In which political setting is there a rule or a norm or a convention that picking a close political associate or ally is a mistake or crime fraught with all known or unknown dangers to a candidate or a polity? Fasan did not provide a single example of a man who picked a close ally and associate and who came to harm as a result of such a decision. Olu Fasan and his confederates are simply prejudiced against Shettima.
For some of us who know Shettima, having him and Tinubu on the same ticket is like buying two presidents for the price of one. Lucky, and not unfortunate, is a nation that is blessed with such a pair. That is why our response to Fasan is “No, Shettima is not unfit to be Nigeria’s vice-president. He is more than fit to be our vice-president”. As a person, Shettima is humble, accommodating and level-headed and not arrogant, ambitious and vainglorious as portrayed by his enemies. These, certainly, are good presidential qualities.
About his abilities and solid achievements on the ground, no one can say he was a failure. His performance was topnotch. Under Shettima’s superintendence of Borno, he commissioned the design and building of 40 mega schools with boarding facilities to cater to children orphaned by insurgency. This is vision and concern. The international TV news station Aljazeera was so impressed by this initiative, that it featured it in a two-part series on its station only a week ago.
On this initiative, Shettima has this say: “Education is the greatest tool for change. If we do not take these orphans by educating them and giving them a good home, they will take care of us 10 to 15 years down the line.”
When the military dislodged Boko Haram fighters from all 27 LGAs of the state they were occupying, Shettima, a banker and agriculturist by training and practice, immediately gave agriculture a boost. He brought in tractors, mills, threshers, planters, harvesters and other agric implements and made them available to farmers. Rice farmers were required to have access to at least one hectare of land and fairly sufficient land and modern farming tools for farmers made Borno one of the unheralded champions of rice production in the country.
The tale of Shettima’s success in the health sector dwarfs those in education and agriculture. New hospitals and healthcare facilities were built across the state as well as healthcare providers were trained to man the hospitals and the new equipment in them.
As governor, Shettima was a blessing and not a curse to Borno. And when he left, he installed a successor who has continued to be a blessing to the people of Borno and Nigeria, making Shettima an example of a success story. It looks like this is what some killjoys do not want to hear. But hear it they will hear one day given the determination of patriots to ensure that Tinubu and Shettima run and win the 2023 presidential election.
Joseph Y. Chibok writes from Abuja