BY NDAHI MARAMA
Kashim Shettima is a banker turned politician. He served as commissioner in different ministries under the Governor Ali Modu Sheriff All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP-led Government in Borno State.
He was commissioner for Agriculture, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Health, before he emerged as the ANPP gubernatorial candidate for the April 2011 elections. In this interview he bared his mind on his party’s chances at the polls and his programmes for the state among other issues. Excerpts:
What is your advice to the people of the state as we continue with the general elections?
Let us play politics without bitterness. It is God that gives power to whom he deserves. Let us learn how to live in harmony with one another, see ourselves as our brothers’ keepers because no society can thrive without peace and tolerance. The PDP by God’ grace is going to lose the election again. I want to implore them to take it as the act of God and not to resort to violence, which will not auger well for the peace loving people of Borno.
Goni as a person is a good man. I was in secondary school when he paid a visit to our school, and I can vividly remember the advice he gave us that, “we should desist from violence, as we are
the future of tomorrow”. His age of doing politics is past, he was a governor 32 years ago. Our democracy now needs the younger generation who can face the real challenges of our time, and not people like Goni who is in his 70’s if not 80s.
What are your plans to build on Gov. Modu Sheriff’s accomplishments in office?
To give justice to this government, in the area of agriculture, we have to give a massive support to all its policies and programmes so that we will not only sustain these good legacies but also surpass them because Borno State people are predominantly farmers. About 75% of the population is engaged in farming as an occupation. Therefore, agriculture is going to be a top priority of the next government.
When Sheriff assumed the mantle of leadership, we had less than 132 functional tractors, right now, we have over 1300 tractors purchased by this administration. If you sum up the number of tractors in the whole of this country, it may not be more than 10,000 tractors. Borno alone has 1,300 functional tractors with all their accessories and spare parts.
When we came on board in 2003, Borno was indebted to tune of about N10 billion. Right now, this state and its local government areas are one of the richest in the whole country. Governor Sheriff has not borrowed a Kobo from any financial institution, while some states are neck-deep in financial debt-trap.
I know of a state from the South-West that is indebted to a tune of N75 billion, there is another one with about N45 billion. Borno is in a position to pay the salaries of its workforce for the next four years without collecting a Kobo from the Federal Government.
However, more needs to be done as human needs are insatiable. Nigeria has a population of over 150 million people, and as time goes on, this country will have a population of over 300 million people, which Borno is not an exception. So the question now is how do we handle this increase of unemployed youths?
This is one of the issues that needs to be addressed, which I promise to pursue vigorously. We are going to focus on three areas; one is vocational and skills training. We have these centres in some parts of this state, we are not only going to renovate them but also to build new ones and equip them for training and re-training of our youths, and by doing this, we are going to generate thousands of jobs.
Borno has a large landmass compared to other states of the federation. An average Borno man has no reason being poor. Borno is blessed with very good fertile land for production of cash crops and rearing of animals. There are some places that do not need fertilizer. The Chad Basin for example, has 67,000 hectares of land within the Southern region, and out of this, only 10,000 hectres is being utilized.
So we want to partner with the Chad Basin Development Authority (CBDA) towards revamping the agricultural sector. Borno has the wherewithal and the resources needed in provision of tractors, harvesting machines, and irrigation machines etc for the resuscitation of this sector. We are also going into poultry farming and fish farming. We are also going to train our farmers on the innovation of modern farming techniques, taking into cognizance the locations and localization of our rural communities.
The Baga area and the Dadin-Kowa Irrigation scheme which is jointly owned by Borno and Gombe states will be properly managed. We are going to partner with Gombe State to actualize our dream. The Biu Dam project which was neglected for the past decades will be re-visited,
completed and commissioned in the next two years of our leadership. I schooled in Biu and I know the importance of this project if completed. It will not only serve the water purpose of the area but also the entire neighbouring local government areas of Hawul, Kwaya-Kusar among others.
This government promised to establish a state university but has not done so up till now. What is your take on this project?
Education is key to national development. The state government has set-up a high powered committee for this project. And as far as I am concerned, it is a forgone conclusion, we are going to ensure that we establish a befitting state university to compliment the effort of the existing Federal University, particularly the University of Maiduguri.
We are going to do our homework, by looking at where to site the university, the infrastructures needed for its take-off, staff, etc. We don’t want to establish a university like some that are now under “lock and key” due to one reason or the other.
How the would you handle the issue of insecurity in Borno and the Boko Haram question?
Boko Haram is a very complex situation and it is not applicable to Borno alone. Bauchi, Yobe and some Northern states of the Federation have one way or the other witnessed the crisis. The state government is doing a lot in curtailing the menace of Boko Haram and by the special grace of God, it will soon become thing of the past. The bottom line is to eradicate poverty in the land and provide jobs for our youths. When our youths are engaged, they will not have time to carry guns and kill people.
I want to urge all and sundry to stop politicising Boko Haram, it has nothing to do with Ali Sheriff. If any group want to accuse directly or indirectly those behind this deadly sect, it should be the PDP because at a point in time when the late leader of the Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf and his followers were insulting the government of Ali Sheriff through their preaching’s or public statement, calling Sheriff a thief, the PDP were hailing him.
When he was arrested by the security operatives, it was a PDP chieftain that went and bailed him. If you look at those killed by Boko Haram, they were our members including our ANPP Gubernatorial Candidate, Alhaji Fannami Gubio, and the brother to governor Sheriff, late Goni Sheriff. No PDP member was touched by the Boko Haramists.
Borno had a number of industries in the past, but most them are now moribund. How do you intend to bring them back to live?
The fulcrum of industrial development is power. Almost all our industries in the state are in comatose basically because of lack of power, Maiduguri gets only 5 megawatts of electricity from the National Grid, and out of these 2 is dedicated to the Republic of Niger which is our neighbour, so only 3 mega watts is left to the detriment of Borno with a population of more than two million who reside in the metropolis.
The 3 megawatts is not given to us on regular basis. Without addressing the problem of electricity, Borno cannot make head way. What we intend to do by revamping the power plant of the CBDA in New -Marte, which has the capacity to generate 30 megawatts.
All we need to do is to construct a transmission line from New-Marte to Maiduguri. This is more than enough and can be exported some parts of our neigbouring states of Yobe, Adamawa etc. The CBDA power plant requires only 15 to 20,000 litres of diesel per day. How do we intend to fund this? We are going to use the advantage of Jatrofer, trees that produce biogas. One tree of Jatrofer produces several standard cubit feet of biogas.
Jatrofer can be used to checkmate the problem of desert encroachment and soil erosion. 1000 seedlings of Jatropher cost about 5US Dollars or N750.
Another area to explore is the Dadin-Kowa power project. It has the capacity to generate 38 mega watts of electricity, out of the 38; Ashaka Cement Company has promised to take up the financing of 15 megawatts of the electricity to be generated. In partnering with sister states like Yobe, Gombe, Taraba and others, we would be able to achieve that. We have huge coal deposits in Gombe State. The bottom line for us is where the project would be sited.
But its location whether in Gombe or Borno State, as far as I am concerned, is immaterial, as long as our purpose will be achieved. The bottom line is to generate enough energy needs for our industrial growth. So we can jointly build and fund a befitting power plant in Gombe. We are going to pursue it vigorously to ensure that we revive our moribund industries to provide job opportunities and boost revenue generation in the state.
It seems there is crack in the ANPP, especially with the recent defection of former Minority leader of the House Representatives, Hon. Mohammed Ali Ndume to the PDP, don’t you think, this will affect the fortunes of your party at the polls?
Absolutely not. The ANPP is working as a family and we are intact. The Deputy Governor, Alhaji Adamu Shettima Dibal is seriously campaigning for ANPP in Southern Borno, which has about nine local government areas. Apart from Ndume who left our party, no one else has left our fold. It is pertinent to note that the entrance of Alhaji Kashim Imam who was the sole financier of PDP into ANPP has really re-energised and strengthened our party.
For the past 12 years, Kashim Imam was the soul of PDP in Borno, the entire PDP supporters in the state depend on Kashim Imam, but because he was mysteriously short-changed during the gubernatorial primaries by Mohammed Goni, my father whose political career has expired in the 80’s, his entire supporters have shifted their loyalty to ANPP.