Vanguard awards

April 8, 2016

This is my record – Shettima

This is my record – Shettima

*Gov Kashim Shettima

By Ochereome Nnanna & Emmanuel Aziken

SIR, can we know your background?

I should call myself an accidental politician just to  borrow from my brother and friend, His Excellency, Malam Nasir El-Rufai who creatively described himself as an accidental public servant in his insightful book.

I am an agricultural economist by training, a banker by profession and now a politician by calling. I was born in Maiduguri on September 2, 1966. I attended my primary school in Maiduguri between 1972 and 1978 and thereafter went to Government Community Secondary School, Biu between 1978 and 1980 and finished my secondary education in Government Science School, Potiskhum in present day Yobe State in 1983. Between 1983 and 1989 I was in the University of Maiduguri where I read Agricultural Economics.

I did my National Youth Service Corps in Nigeria Agricultural and Cooperative Bank, in Calabar, Cross River State and between 1990 to 1991, I was in the University of Ibadan where I did my masters in Agricultural Economics. From Ibadan I came straight to Maiduguri and I was offered lecturer II in the department of Agricultural Economics and I was there for two years before I got a job with the defunct Commercial Bank of Africa, CBA in Lagos.

*Gov Kashim Shettima

*Gov Kashim Shettima

Pinnacle of career

I was the head of accounts in Lagos and we were the pioneer staff that opened the Abuja branch of the bank in 1994. I joined the defunct African International Bank, AIB in 1997 and I rose to the position of Manager 1 and I left AIB and subsequently joined Zenith Bank Plc. I started as a deputy manager and I progressively rose to the pinnacle of my career in the year 2007 as a General Manager.

So, up till 2007 you were still not in politics?

Yes. I was in Zenith Bank and I was in charge of the Northeast and supervising the branches in that region. And it was at that point in 2007 that I became a commissioner. I was variously a commissioner in the ministries of finance, local government and chieftancy affairs, agriculture, health and education. So, I was opportuned to serve in five different ministries which gave me an aerial a view of the activities of government and the key sectors of the local economy.

In the year 2011, my good brother, Modu Fannami Gubio, a highly disciplined and respectable man was chosen as the gubernatorial candidate of the defunct  ANPP unfortunately he was murdered by the viciously evil Boko Haram and I was thrown up by circumstances. I became the flag bearer and we won the election in 2011 and by the grace of God we succeeded in getting a second term in the last election. This is a brief synopsis of the man Kashim Shettima.

What are the differences working in the private sector and working for the people as a politician?

As a banker you work within certain guidelines and framework. You pursue a big target but abiding by practical realities of what is achievable, you don’t live in deceit in the bank because you are dealing with finances, how to get the finance and how to grow it for the bank and the person dealing with the bank, so there is no room for double speak. The purview of politics is one that if you are fond of calling a spade by its name you will always have a rocky relationship with a lot of people. They want you to speak from both sides of your mouth, they want you to always tell them lies and engage in deception which I hate to do. That is the main difference between politics and banking.

In the banking industry, the sole barometer for assessing you is your level of input, your level of competence, how far and fast you are able to hit a target. In politics, a lot of shenanigans tend to come up. You will be amazed at what politicians would do to one another all in the quest for power, and power is the most ephemeral of what keeps humanity.

You cannot be in power beyond the stipulated time frame, eight years at most for the executive arm and even for the legislative arm which has limitless number of times people can aspire for office, electorate tend not to allow one individual to seek the same office for more than 12 years, at most one elected four times and those who get that don’t constitute up to 15 percent of the total number of lawmakers in the whole country when you combine that National and State Assemblies.

Coming to terms with reality

So, you will spend more years of your life outside power than in power, but it seems we are yet to come to terms with that reality. Many people are desperate, we undermine each other all for vanity.  It was claimed that the Modu Sheriff government bequeathed N67 billion cash and near cash to you. Is it true?

It is partly true, but it was equally partly tragic in the context that there is more to leadership than stockpiling funds in the banks. If Ali Sheriff had invested half of the funds he stockpiled in banks in agriculture, believe me this madness would not have happened. Leadership is about development, the funds are meant for the development of the people, not to be kept in banks earning interest. But he also left behind liabilities, contractual liabilities were about N25 billion or so.

What factors would you attribute to your staying power against Boko Haram?

Once there is a will there is always a way. As I said earlier, there is no politics greater than contentment with the masses and those of us from the north we have no option than to invest in the people. This is a country of two nations. The south is much more educationally advanced, while the north is much more lower in indices compared to our brothers in the south.

At the rate of our population growth, Nigeria’s population in 2020 is projected by population experts to become 210 million, by 2030 it is expected to be 270 million and by 2050 Nigeria is expected to be the third most populous nation in the world and would be 410 million and 70% of these Nigerians are likely to live in the north mainly because procreation is stabilizing in the south due to elitism.

Most families have three to five or seven children but in the north there is massive procreation without responsibility.

Without being disrespectful to their line of duty, in the north a clerk, cook or driver who earns N25,000 per month will marry four wives and have 30 children, he doesn’t care where the next meal comes from. With desertification, deforestation, illiteracy, unemployment, et cetera, these are the recipe for disaster.

Enlightened self interest

This is why I have always been an advocate for us to work for the people in our enlightened self interest because the masses are visibly angry.

Our only outlets are to provide quality and affordable education to our citizens and to invest massively in intermediate agriculture which by the way, we have to see as the business that should make profit not just developmental intervention like President Olusegun Obasanjo said to me when he came to Maiduguri.

Entrepreneurial capitalism is embedded in the body psyche of the average Nigerian, even in the years of the cold war, we were capitalists, Nigeria was never a socialist nation. So, our people lack the wherewithal to climb the access ladder of development and this is where I owe no apology to anybody, we are on the driver’s seat, we have acquired more than enough agricultural equipment, tractors, irrigation equipment, harvesters, planters.

So, how do you intend to put the people to work once the insurgency is finally ended?

All we need is for us to get the peace and going by the trend of events, we might get an enduring peace in the next three months. We are already prepared, the moment we secure the peace we will move in spite of whatever challenges, we will definitely restart the development of our communities. We have acquired agricultural equipment that will shock you. We bought them when the exchange rate was fair and thank God we did. We have virtually every tool needed for modern commercial agriculture. We are even building a seed production center in Maiduguri where we will be developing improved seeds for our farmers to multiply their harvest. We have combined harvesters, planters, rice mills, vegetable and groundnut oil mills, tractors.

Mobility of  agro produce

Water is the number one component of Land in Agriculture. We have Dando super rigs manufactured in the UK which can drill water in any desert up to 1,500 meters.

All we want is a peaceful atmosphere to start deploying these heavy machinery. We are building roads for mobility of agro produce, we are currently building a new industrial layout for about 10 industries including agro processing factories for value chain of produce like tomatoes and corn etcetera.

You were in Borno, you saw our Agricultural machinery, you saw the seed production center, you saw that we are building over 2,500 houses and storey building apartments in 6 estates despite the security problems, you saw the roads, you saw jobs we are creating through skills acquisition, you saw what we are doing in education. Believe me, you will see more when you come again,  we will change Borno for good Insha Allah.  

There is one question we have to ask, what is your political ambition after being a governor, would aspire for the Presidency by say 2019 like second term Governors often do at their exit?

If I have to be brutally frank I will tell you that given our political dynamics that have been with us from time immemorial, only a fool aspires for the presidency of Nigeria. The presidency of this country is one that you don’t aspire to become if you have regard for our history and if you know what you are doing.

President Muhammadu Buhari aspired to be president in 2003, 2007 and 2011, he didn’t succeed because he was the one seeking the office. But ahead of the 2015 elections,  Nigerians unanimously wanted him, not him seeking for the Presidency from onset that time around, he had to be convinced or perhaps begged to re-contest and those who begged him read the body language of Nigerians, majority of Nigerians were fed up with the PDP and because the main issue was about corruption the person Nigerians needed was one that his integrity was absolutely certain; Nigerians wanted a man with capacity to fight corrupt public officials with insanity for corruption and Buhari was that man.

If you cast your mind back to previous years, President Shehu Shagari wanted to become a Senator, he didn’t aspire for the Presidency, Nigerians choose him through evaluators in the NPN who made him the party’s flag bearer; when we returned to democracy in 1999, President Obasanjo was in prison so the issue of aspiring for the Presidency didn’t even arise, he was chosen to come and be President and Nigerians accepted him.

When Obasanjo was leaving in 2007, we all know how some outgoing Governors scrambled for the Presidency. The late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was not an aspirant; in fact, someone told me that when he was to be chosen, most Governors who were his colleagues didn’t have his phone number because he was reserved. His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was a Deputy Governor and didn’t even aspire to be Governor but he ended up becoming President of this country.

So, Nigeria has its peculiar political dynamics. It is good that we get to a level people can aspire based on their convictions and readiness but the reality is that for now, you will be foolish to aspire for the Nigerian Presidency.   

Sir can we now say that Boko Haram has been defeated?

They have been defeated for now. We have won the battle but winning the war requires long term planning and execution. For now, they have been defeated as a fighting force, they don’t have the capacity to hold on to territory in this country as they used to, they have been truly, truly degraded in their capability to inflict pain.

It will not be accurate to say that there is no Boko Haram in Borno, but by and large, they have been sufficiently decimated that they no longer pose any serious threat to the territorial integrity of this country. But note that in November 2008, ten terrorists held, Mumbai, a city of 20 million for three days and these guys dwell on the oxygen of publicity because in their campaign to burn, maim, loot and what they are craving for is a higher ranking in the Jihadist world.

Investing massively in education

I think that era has to end in our enlightened self interest. My mission in the next three years is to invest massively in education.

Is it free?

Free and compulsory up till the secondary school level. Without it the picture will be terrible. Go to the interiors of the cities of Kano, Maiduguri, Sokoto and you will hear what they are saying and you will not need a soothsayer to tell you that they hate us as leaders.

And that will reach a boiling point very soon and they are the sons of the poorest of the poor who have been neglected over the years. So, it is in our enlightened self interest to invest in the education of our people.

The south is much more prosperous largely because of the investments in education. The son of a certified pauper can become an icon within a generation and it is only through education that you can achieve that.

I am not speaking now as a politician, I am speaking as a Nigerian. All the secondary schools in Borno and Yobe States are not up to the number of secondary schools in Ibadan metropolis alone. So, do we have any reason why we should not provide free education?

So we need to wake up from our slumber especially us in the north and live up to our obligations. There is more to politics than stealing public resources and at the rate of population growth by 2050, Nigeria will be the third most populous nation on earth, more than the United States.

In fact after China and India, Nigeria will be the next most populous nation and by 2050, 70% of Nigerians will live in the North because the family size in the South is largely stabilised. Very few people have eight  kids in the south nowadays. But in the north, the population is burgeoning, population without responsibility is how I put it.

One man will tell you he has four wives and 40 children. So definitely we will invest in education, job creation, agriculture and the whole value chain in agriculture, the one meal per day programme for students and also on primary health care, empower our women, this is because we may have had up to 500,000 orphans of Boko Haram violence in Borno and Yobe alone.

So we have to make sure that these ones grow up as contented citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If they grow up to be frustrated without any visible hope for tomorrow, anything can happen.

What are the challenges your administration is facing on account of the large number of IDPs and how can you be helped?

The Federal Government has been helping us with regards to the feeding of the IDPs through NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency), but for the past couple of weeks I think they have been experiencing some financial challenges so the state government for the past two or three months has been bearing the burden alone.

It is enormous because we have nearly 276,000 persons in camps in Maiduguri alone while over one million live in host communities. In Dikwa we have 120,000 persons, in Bama we have nearly 40,000 persons and they are increasing every day, in Ngala we have quite a substantial number and if I tell you that we are not overwhelmed, I will be lying.

We are at our wits end, we are overstretched and this is why my focus is on how we can rebuild these communities and villages so that people can go back to their homes. ICRC is actively helping, UNICEF is there on ground, Doctors Without Borders, is also there.