Former Commissioner of Home Affairs, Information and Culture in Borno State, Inuwa Bwala was a virulent critic of Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima. He speaks on journalism, his criticisms of Governor Kashim Shettima and his new found love for his state.
Part of the expectations from Journalists is to hold leaders accountable for their stewardship. Now that we are approaching the end of a democratic era and the beginning of another, would you say Nigerian journalists have effectively played that role?
Holding leaders accountable is actually the job of every citizen, journalists are merely advocates of the people and the role of holding leaders accountable is part of that advocacy, which the profession thrusts upon them. As to whether Nigerian journalists have effectively played that role, one can say yes and no, depending upon certain circumstances. If you watch Journalists Hangout on TVC for example, which is essentially our own show, you will agree that we are living up to that responsibility. There are however situations when we orchestrate predesigned agenda of certain interests, especially in politics. Mind you, we are also part of this same society, which we are expected to safeguard, and our actions are bound to be affected by the values that govern the society.
To a very large extent, journalists are often seen as fault finders, but that is not the case, certain situations dictate how we take up the job. On a general note, I give thumbs up to Nigerian journalist for being able to thrive even in the situations we often find ourselves. We are at threshold of having new hands in certain positions of leadership, and it is a very delicate period for journalists. While we are determined to professionally mirror this period, one cannot run away from certain vicissitudes that have shaped events at such moments. At times like this people, especially leaders tend to whitewash their outings and churn out lies in names of truth, fiction in places of facts. But some are truthful and factual. Here we have the duty to sift and give Nigerians the correct perspectives.
Could the picture you have just painted be responsible for why you have suddenly gone soft on Governor Kashim Shettima, whom you had hitherto criticised?
It is true that I was a virtual fugitive in Borno at some point. I am happy that I have been visiting regularly and my eyes have opened to certain things I might not have known or chose to ignore before. It is also true that I had criticised the government and the governor at other times. Like I said earlier, journalism is a critique of both good and bad situations. It is not about finding faults alone; neither is it about individuals. I may have had cause to criticise when it mattered. Again I may not have had the right ingredients for my reportage at that time. Remember Governor Shettima is both my friend and my boss, so if we had cause to disagree at a point, we owe our people the duty to reconcile and work in the interest of Borno State. That is what happened. We put aside our differences and agreed to work together as compatriots in the quest to rebuild Borno and give our people a sense of direction. One thing I must add is to the effect that I find him a visionary leader, with a passion to serve, and he has a large heart.
Opinions vary as to whether Kashim Shettima has something to show for his eight years’ stewardship as the governor or not. What is your take?
At the risk of being tagged a sycophant, I hasten to say that with the benefits of having worked with three other governors besides Kashim Shettima, he remains the most outstanding in terms of development. He has a passion for development, and I know as a matter of fact that, in spite of the distortions and challenges, he has given a good account of himself. I was privileged to be amongst those who designed the Borno State Development Agenda at the inception of his first tenure, and I can confess to you that we merely read his lips and acted his body language. He had often told us that, Borno has no cause being too poor given our vast potentials and the people have no business with poverty given the availability of opportunities. When he took some of us outside the country to understudy the technology and mindset behind the educational, agricultural, infrastructure, health and industrial development of some developed countries, I knew that Shettima has a very ambitious plan for Borno State. Nobody gave him the chance initially, until these things started bearing fruits. Now, it dawned on some of us, including his ardent critics that he has a dream for Borno State.
Every governor will tend to make claims of having done so well in every sector. Can you be specific on the areas you think Kashim Shettima has done so well?
Of particular note is the seeming revolution in the education sector, where the governor has declared a state of emergency, to the effect that so many public schools in Borno today, in terms of structures, are a sight to behold. The projects in the education sector were too numerous for me to personally visit, though I had the privilege of visiting some. Facts on ground however indicate that there are 1711 classrooms constructed, which I understand are spread across 156 Primary schools across the state. Also, 44 ultra-modern mega primary schools have been newly constructed, in addition to 27 Senior Secondary Schools overhauled or expanded, with 16 others newly established.
Public schools have outshined the private ones, and with the additional incentives to pupils and students, the public schools alone are enough evidences that Borno is working. Even in the localities, after spending some time without visiting home, I noticed that the only secondary school in my hometown, Marama has a facelift having been fenced, while Pakilama Primary school, also in my home town has been renovated and fenced and our hospital got a face lift.
I had the privilege of personally visiting the Ramat Polytechnic, Kashim Ibrahim College of Education and the Mohammed Goni College of Legal and Islamic Studies, all in Maiduguri. I interacted with staff and students, and they all agree that the transformations going on in each of the schools have never been experienced. You may not have the space to accommodate all, but that is in education alone.
Today we have an area designed as an industrial hub. Here we have agro allied industries, manufacturing industries and plants. We have a PVC making Industry, Animal Food Processing Plant, Fertilizer Blending, Rubber and Plastic Plants, to mention but few. Anybody going into Maiduguri by road cannot fail to see these industries. One cannot also fail to notice the numerous plant nurseries, and Poultry Farms of the ministry of Animal and Forestry.
Those who may not have visited Maiduguri in recent times may definitely find the developments in housing, roads and transport very amusing. Having been away for long, being one of those who fled Borno in the face of the Boko Haram onslaught, I missed my way trying to navigate the city I thought I knew so well. So many structures have sprung up, so many roads newly developed. Old structures are either wearing modified looks with expansions, while newer ones have assumed the character of modern cities. Somebody cracked a joke about Maiduguri having been transformed into Dubai of a sort, and I agreed, given what I knew and what I now see.
Would you say Governor Shettima’s election into the Senate was predicated upon his performance?
It goes without saying that he has endeared himself to the people and they decided to elect him. Others before him tried it and you know the story. I think the incoming governor needs the tutelage of Kashim Shettima, even as a development strategist himself. I recall when former President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Borno State. He told his audience during an inspection tour of projects that Kashim Shettima has the potentials of a future leader. I have that conviction too, but only time will tell.
The problem of most leaders in Nigeria is that they don’t assess the needs of the people in an area and so, try to copy what others are doing in their places. The truth is that no two communities have the same needs. Each one has its basic need and requires that basic touch to help them out of it. But for Governor Shettima, he knows the needs of the people and he has adequately addressed them to a large extent.
If you remember the interview we had before the governor’s inauguration in 2011, that is about eight years ago, I told you that by the time we sit down and analyse Kashim Shettima’s blue print, people will appreciate why he was chosen first as the candidate and subsequently as the governor of Borno State. Looking back, today, I believe that I have been vindicated.
I also told you he did not win that election then because the ANPP campaign structure was overwhelming; but because his personality has impacted so much on his campaign. He is so loved by the people because he has an excellent human relation. In his years in the banking industry, he touched so many lives even outside the government. When he came, he has also touched so many individual and community lives and so, campaigning for APC was made easier. So, his own personality and approach to the issues added to our advantage and that was why APC defeated the PDP overwhelmingly in all the elections again in 2019.