Governor Kashim Shettima and Borno’s renaissance

February 7, 2009
2 mins read

WHEN Vice President Namadi Sambo visited Maiduguri a few days ago, it was the first official visit to Borno, by any of the leading members of the federal administration, since the beginning of the Boko Haram insurgency.

The only federal presence which Borno felt over the past two years, was the activity of JTF troops, who were doing a very difficult counter-insurgency work, but whose scorched earth tactics increasingly alienated the mass of the people and turned the JTF, unwittingly, into recruiting sergeants for the insurgency.

As the insurgency deepened and life became nastier and brutish in Borno, Kashim Shettima’s leadership acumen underwent severe stress and strain. And because I kept in touch with him  regularly, I knew that he went through very difficult moments.

But what was incredible was his incurable optimism that Borno like the phoenix, would rise from the torment of the insurgency.

Despite everything, he continued to dream lofty thoughts about agricultural development as a basis of employment for the teeming youth and an income generating possibility and to translate ideas into reality, he built a formidable team of Nigerian patriots who have helped to work an engaging agricultural turn around in Borno.

His constant refrain was that the insurgency had a root in poverty, underdevelopment and years of neglect of a very young population that became embittered and sought a way out in Boko Haram’s radical Islam and insurgency.

It is no wonder that youth empowerment projects are very central to development and the reconciliation processes in Borno, just as much as there are efforts in education, urban renewal and infrastructure. For me, the welcome aspect of the turn around we are beginning to witness in Borno, is the modesty of the governor himself.

Kashim Shettima will disarm you with his modesty and yet can be engaging with a most refreshing intellect about his views of Borno and its future in the context of national and international developments.

The last time we spoke, he was effusive that the insurgency had reached a tipping point and  Borno was gradually moving towards reconciliation that can open the route of development.

It was within that context that a faction of Boko Haram allegedly accepted to ceasefire and find a way forward from bloodshed.

There is still too much that is hazy about the ceasefire offer and no one can tell precisely if Imam  Shekau has anything to do with the offer.

But all Nigerians must hope that Borno eventually arrives at peace sooner than later, so that that historically very rich corner of Nigeria can re-connect with its antecedents as a highway of civilization dating back to over 1000 years.

I once told Governor Kashim Shettima that he had a date with history; he needed to study the work of one of the greatest rulers of Kanem-Borno, Mai Idris Alooma, to find inspiration on governance and state building, even in a context of crisis.

I don’t know if he heeded my advice, but there are significant green shoots of growth that Borno’s embattled people must carefully nurture along with all other Nigerians. In recent weeks, hope has become a central motif of existence in Borno and it is really most welcome.

Namadi Sambo’s visit was a grudging acceptance in Abuja of the guilt of having neglected Borno to its fate in the past couple of years!

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