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Kashim Shettima, turning challenge to opportunity

Former Borno state Governor, Kashim Shettima.
Former Borno state Governor, Kashim Shettima.

Crisis in any nation’s life throws up villains and heroes. The villains cause the crisis, and make villains of leaders who either respond wrongly, or fail completely to respond. Heroes are the resistant citizenry first, but more so, the leader that emerges and grapples with the crisis to provide the sustainable solution.

Take Borno State in 2011 with all of 23 but two local governments were annexed violently by Boko Haram. In their rule of terror, they killed and maimed for sport. They raided villages and took custody of women and children who they subjected to sexual ordeals of rape and sodomy. They rendered no service for drinking water, health care, and food. Theirs was a fatalistic life of mayhem and villainy of the most unimaginable primitive brutality. They did not even dispose of bodies of people they killed.

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In the Recovery and Peace Building Assessment Report co-authored by Government and the global stakeholders, the Boko Haram was discovered to have caused damages worth $9 billion U.S dollars across the northeast. Of that figure, Borno State, which was worst affected, accounted for destructions worth about $6 billion.

The report on Borno State reveals specifically, that a total of 956,453 private houses representing 30% of the total number of houses in the state, were destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgents across more than 20 local government areas. Apart from private houses, a total of 665 municipal buildings comprising ministries, local government secretarial buildings, prisons, police stations and electric offices were also destroyed by the insurgents.  A total of 5,335 classrooms and other school buildings were destroyed in 512 primary schools, 38 secondary schools and two tertiary institutions in the State. Also destroyed by the insurgents were 201 health centres, mostly primary healthcare clinics, dispensaries and some General Hospitals were all destroyed. The insurgents also destroyed 726 power substations and distribution lines just like they destroyed 1,630 water sources including motorized boreholes, hand pumps, solar powered boreholes and facilities for piped water schemes in Borno State. In addition, they bombed parks, gardens, orchards, game reserves, Green wall projects and poisoned ponds, Rivers, Lakes across 16 local government areas in addition to stealing over 500,000 heads of cattle.

Consider being saddled with the task of governing Borno State in 2011, when on the day of your being sworn in, you could hear bombs and gun shots in the distance while on the streets, literally millions of displaced citizenry, mostly the elderly, women and children, are seen sleeping in the open. This was the lot Kashim Shettima, a trained agricultural economist and an accomplished banker, found, suddenly stepping into the shoes of Ali Modu Sheriff under whose rule, the sceptre of Boko Haram metamorphosed into an insurgency that has engaged the world, these past 8 years. It is a wonder what went into Shettima’s as he took the oath of office on that day, and to think that hardly was he prepared for the onerous task of leading Borno through the crisis and stabilising the polity.

Fast forward to today, Maiduguri town has seen development through the last 8 years that does makes a mirage of the spectre of Boko Haram. The daunting crisis instead provided opportunity for Kashim Shettima to excel, in creating safe heavens in the State Capital, Bama, and Biu, which in time has been replicated in recovered local governments. Because construction companies would not accept work in Borno, Government equipped the Ministry of Works and engaged all available local expertise. They have built standard urban roads in the different metropolis, scores of secured housing estates for the migrant populace, and mega schools to absorb the thousands of displaced children. There are notable achievements in education, healthcare and housing. In effect, as he rounds up his tenure of 8 years as Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima has distinguished himself as a statesman who would face critical challenges head on.

Kashim from the onset, stepped up support to the Military, the Police, the Department of State Security, and the Civil Defence to hold back the insurgents, then operating within the State Capital Maiduguri. The insurgents were unrelenting because they were embedded within the local population. Their crude recruitment methods were effective given their brainwashing techniques and the attraction of the youth to sudden barrel-of-a-gun power with which to exhibit brutal force and with that access money, women, and unfettered freedom. After all, were these not the cravings of the political class!

Then in 2013, the Civillian JTF, bands of volunteer youth literally with mere sticks elected to confront the terror groups on the streets of Maiduguri. Shettima urgently formed the Borno State Youth Empowerment Scheme, BOYES and secured collaboration with the Military, the State Security Service. The phenomenon of “Kato da Gora” thus emerged to engage the terrorists, an “army” that is 26,000 men strong according to 2019 State records.

Through them, hundreds and thousands of Boko Haram insurgents were identified, arrested. In time scores were driven out of the metropolis. This was a vital achievement that enabled the Armed Forces to face the ordeal of Boko Haram by conventional military means. To them is owed the remarkable success of the degradation of Boko Haram.

Shettima had reasoned that poverty was a vital link between Boko Haram and the society. It made youth susceptible to being recruited, and for as little as N5000, Boko Haram was recruiting its agents statewide. This link had to be broken.

As the 2019 pre-election political rallies heated up, Kashim Shetima had taken Borno Elders before President Muhammadu Buhari, to intimate him of the resurgence of Boko Haram, specifically to say in bold terms, why the insurgents were suddenly getting the upper hand in the age long conflict. There he wept, when he remembered the painstaking sacrifices made by the people of Borno State, and the firm hand of President Buhari, to achieve the semblance of stability that the government has been getting accolade for.

Today, no one doubts that circumstances, have created a hero in Shettima, who had to apply homegrown strategies to deal with the homegrown insurgency, leaving a remarkable legacy of all round infrastructure development. If I place garlands of heroic honour on anyone at all, the pleasure would be mine, to place them on Kashim Shettima, currently rounding up his 8 years’ 2 term tenure as Governor of Borno State. He was no quitter.

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