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The rarity of Kashim Shettima’s selflessness

By
Yakubu Ahmed-BK

The rarest selflessness in the Nigerian political clime is that gift to look at the bigger picture even if it conflicts with the temptation to self-preserve. The normal thing when an executive political office holder is leaving office in Nigeria is for him to foist his lackey into office with the sole intent to still call the shots, dispense favors and decides who gets what contract or what appointment,

Only one or two politicians in Nigeria, since 1999, be it a President or a Governor ever looked away and allowed the democratic ethos to, within the doctrine of fairness, produce successors in an atmosphere of rigid competitive processes. What they do, is to look out for docile, lame and soft successors who will play along, protect their legacies no matter how selfish and take orders from a very self centered, corrupt and blatantly incompetent predecessor.

That was the mindset, the norm and the temptation which the immediate past Governor of Borno state Senator Kashim Shettima fought when the time came for him , in 2015, to call it a day. Borno was one of the states with the highest number of governorship aspirants in the APC in the 2015 elections. Among the over 20 persons who signaled their aspiration, there were Kashim Shettima’s childhood friends some of them members of his cabinet, blood relatives, confidants and long term associates – each and every one of who would have satisfied the quest to maintain hold on power and dispense favors , if that was the overriding intent.

But because he had been a victim of unsuccessful attempts to use him to achieve those self centered objectives by a predecessor, an attempt he vehemently and in very clear terms resisted, he pushed for level playing grounds for all the contestants, but kept his preferences to himself until such a time it was expedient to let the cat out of the bag.

Meanwhile, Kashim Shettima had, over the years, closely observed the activities of most of his close associates, including Commissioners and other top office holders and had equipped himself with first hand understanding of their handling of official matters, resources and manpower. He knew everyone’s loyalty, capacity, commitment, selflessness and incorruptibility. He knew therefore, who among them was best suited for the job of serving a state that had battled and was still battling a mindless insurgency.

He knew that if he allowed his own sentiments of anointing a compromising, incompetent and corrupt successor in a state that needed a selfless, educated, courageous and committed person to lead it out of the dark alley, Borno was likely going to go under the weight of the forces arrayed against it.

He therefore had two choices. Either to anoint a successor who will take orders from him and maintain his hold on the state or support a Professor, as uncontrollable, as educated and as independent-minded as Babagana Umara Zulum, who as his Commissioner in his cabinet, had demonstrated unprecedented capacity and commitment for the job. The former class of aspirants will satisfy his personal objective while the latter will not take orders from him, but will surely provide the sterling leadership qualities required to take the state out of its security challenges and bring about development.

As we all know, he went for the Professor and provided the support under which he eventually won the election. I once asked him, shortly after it became known that Zulum was his preferred man, why on earth should he stake it all with a man he couldn’t control. He smiled and said the two choices before him, were to become selfish and protect his legacy at the detriment of peace in Borno state or support a highly competent person who will serve Borno and make it better. He said he decided to chose the latter.

Today, the choice he made has turned out to be gold. He got it right and Professor Babagana Umara Zulum is Nigeria’s talk of the town, just under three years in office. Even Governors who are serving their second term in office have buckled down under the weight of Zulum’s popularity on account of his courage, capacity, selflessness and achievements that are legion, in a nation that has never witnessed such a feat.

The fact is that if leaders in Nigeria have been as selfless as Kashim Shettima in the choice of successors, the implication is that every state would have been produced countless Zulums since 1999. We can only imagined what this country will have attained and what developments would have been achieved both at the state and federal levels.

It therefore goes that there has never been any executive political office holder in Nigeria, especially in this dispensation that has elevated and promoted the levers of democracy, promoted competence and built a legacy of selfless service as Kashim Shettima has done.

Kashim Shettima has many pluses to his credit. Look at his passion and what he has done for education in Borno in his eight year reign, look at what he did in roads infrastructure, look at his legacies in health, agriculture, shelter, security and human development. His achievements were just unheard of and unparalleled in the history of this country. The foundation he has laid in the service of Borno state and Nigeria as a whole and the standards he has set, which have since become a benchmark across the country, will continue to vibrate as long as democracy takes roots in this country and beyond.

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