2023: Two Political Juggernauts on the Cusp of History
By Lawan Bukar Maigana
“ Leadership is not about titles. It is not about seniority. It is not about status, and it is not about management. Leadership is about power and the ability to know when and how to use it to influence the people around you to do and become more! Transformational leadership is about using your actions to elevate others and put them on their path to greatness.”
– Terina R. Allen
If there is one man that has been standing tall, leading from the front and speaking very clearly and loudly in support of the ambition of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it is Senator Kashim Shettima. He was the first powerful voice from the North to declare support for Tinubu and he was the one who made a powerful statement that if anything the All Progressives Congress (APC) was supposed to give him the option of first refusal. He didn’t say that just because of the pivotal role Tinubu played in the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari but also because of his capacity and competence and the experience he brings into governance.
A man of strong convictions who put in everything legitimate into any cause he believies in, Shettima has been round the country meeting delegates, talking to people and party leaders and also addressing audiences and speaking to the press on the viability of the Tinubu option.
Shetiima leads the campaign team to tour all parts of the country where he makes moving speeches that wet the appetite of the audience for the address of the aspirant himself.
In his recent engagements with different audiences, Shettima has been talking a lot about capacity as the major thing the electorate, both at the party and national level, need to consider before choosing the most suited person for the position. He has been arguing robustly that the biggest selling point of Tinubu is his capacity to turn things around in all sectors.
Talking about capacity, it is difficult if not impossible not to recall the kind of capacity Shettima himself has displayed in his political career which makes him authoritative when he is estimating the capacity of someone else.
The impressive capacity he displayed and the distinction with which he served in at least four different ministries as Commissioner earned him the highest office in the state in the year 2011.
After a brilliant career as a first-rate banker, he was Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs (2008), Education (2009), Agriculture and Natural Resources, and finally, Health, from where he contested the Governorship election in 2011 and defeated Muhammad Goni of the PDP.
The then Governor focused on remodeling existing schools and building new boarding primary and junior secondary schools to cater for over 50,000 orphans whose parents were killed by insurgents across the 27 Local Government Areas of the state.
The state government under Shettima also sponsored thousand s of indigenes to the best universities across the world to study the best science courses.
Shettima’s obsession with education was designed to be a symbolic middle finger to the Boko Haram criminals whose aim was, and is still, to destroy education and derail the state.
Shettima endured sleepless nights in his first term visiting scenes of attacks and victims in the hospital within and outside Maiduguri. He didn’t relent in his untiring efforts to give maximum support and protection to the people despite the audacity of the insurgents.
On hearing that the terrorists had taken over a strategic town or about to hit Maiduguri, Shettima would cut short his trip and return from anywhere he is around the world and storm Borno to engage and dislodge the insurgents. Even at the risk of his life, Shettima would go to anywhere to confront the criminals in a bid to save his people from their mass murder. The fact that Borno is still standing today is credit to Shettima.
Everyone thought he would either resign as governor or decline to seek a second term because the pressure was unbearable. But his uncompromising courage, conviction and patience overwhelmed the fear of his colleagues, friends, and loved ones. He sought a second term in office in 2015 and won.
After four years of consolidation on previous successes, Shettima also identified and supported a hardworking gentleman as successor so that quality leadership would continue in the state. And up till now he refers to Governor Babagana Zulum as his boss and leader. He gives him the free hand to operate and move the state forward without rancour. This is not the case in other states.
One of the greatest attributes of a brilliant leader is the ability to identify other brilliant men and make efforts to catapult them into positions of authority.
As a senator representing Borno Central, he contributed greatly to the passage of the bills for the establishment of new Law schools in the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria which will boost enrollment of law graduates thereby strengthening the capacity and workforce of lawyers in the country.
He was also one of those behind the Peace Corps Bills which will equally boost security across the country and create job opportunities for graduates and non-graduates.
So when Shettima talks about capacity, he knows what he is saying. If Shettima recommends any presidential aspirant on the basis of capacity, Nigerians need to listen to him.
According to Shettima, Tinubu is the best option availabile to the APC if capacity is the yardstick to measure performance because he is the person behind the transformation of Lagos, and all the governors who came after him have been using the foundation he laid to advance the development of the state.
Meeting with Abuja and Kogi delegates recently ahead of the presidential primary election scheduled to start in a matter of hours, Shettima said what Tinubu did in Lagos was the best display of his capacity and since Lagos is a mini Nigeria, he is the best man for the highest office in the land.
Also speaking on Journalist Hangout on TVC last Friday, Shettima said Tinubu transformed Lagos from the most insecure and unsafe place in Africa to be safest and third largest economy on the continent.
He reminded Nigerians in another forum that Lagos State Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) was about 600 million naira monthly in 1999 but shortly after Tinubu assumed office, he began to put measures in place to jerk it up.
Even when President Olusegun Obasanjo seized the allocations meant for Lagos to frustrate his strides, the state governor moved on well and was doing well economically. Before he left office, he succeeded in increasing the IGR to 20 billion naira monthly. Now with the array and successors Tinubu put in line working hard to sustain his legacy, the IGR has now been increased to 51 billion naira.
That is the kind of President Nigeria needs. A president who can develop the economy of the country without making life difficult for Nigerians.
According to Shettima, the above points also prove the fact that Tinubu has the competence to tackle the complex problems of the country like insecurity, ethnic tension and disunity, adding that the fact that Tinubu has gone round the country in weeks and spoken to delegates confirm the fact that he is physically fit and mentally alert to withstand the rigours of office.
A man of such capacity is the one Shettima is selling to Nigeria. So far so good, his message is reverberating around the country and people are buying into it. Shettima seems to be a great marketer and his product a fantastic one.
As the APC goes into its much-talked-about presidential primary election in a matter of hours, it is looking like Shettima is about to make history as Tinubu looks good for the ticket especially with the happenings on Saturday night.
For months now, Shettima has transversed the length and breadth of the country to preach the Tinubu gospel. A smooth operator, when he is in the South, he tells his audience that Tinubu’s record in Lagos makes him the best man for the job. When he’s in the North, he emphasises the need for power to go South after staying in the North for eight years.
Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has told the aspirants to choose the best among themselves and the Northern Governors have magnanimously conceded it to the South, Shettima’s intelligent advocacy is paying off and since Tinubu is the strongest of them all, the latter looks set to emerge.
And if Tinubu eventually becomes the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, his Man-Friday, Shettima, is set to play a key part in an administration that will surely take Nigeria to Eldorado.
Lawan Bukar Maigana writes from Wuye District Abuja and can be reached via: [email protected]