It bears repeating, the significance of what Shettima has done: he is a worthy example of good governance when many of his peers have failed us.
At a time when good news from Borno State is rare, and the grim statistics of bloodbath and material losses remind us dishearteningly of the ghosts of wartimes past; when many of our politicians pay little attention to the public service part of the job they were elected to do, one politician has shown us the nice side of democracy, the essence of humanity and the universal acknowledgment of the primacy of education.
He is Kashim Shettima, the governor of Borno, a state ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency. If Shettima is changing the narrative in Borno State, it’s courtesy of a 17-year boy, Israel Zakari Galadima, who has shown diamond brilliance in the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).
According to the authorities of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Master Israel Galadima, an indigene of Biu, Borno State, who lost his father when he was just 3 years old, scored the highest mark, with 364,out of 400 total score. It was not a common feat, considering that 1.6 million candidates took the 2018 UTME. It takes a realist, a genuine lover of education, who carries the kind of cross that 52-year old Shettima since he became governor to still keep his sanity intact and remember that the performance of one student from the state can bring an oxygen of good publicity to a hitherto troubled state where more than half of all schools in Borno state remain closed and scores of teachers have been killed and hundreds of students abducted by Boko Haram.
If you may have forgotten, in spite of the dizzying developments in the political arena, the sunshine amid the storm came from Governor Shettima who paid N5 million scholarship for Israel’s academic pursuit at Covenant University, a private university where the brilliant young boy has gained admission to study Electrical/Electronics Engineering. How many times have we seen our governors do what Shettima has done? Rarely. Indeed, many state governors are owing the West African Examination Council (WAEC) millions of naira of exams fees of their students, yet some of them have reportedly misappropriated states’ funds for themselves and their families.
It bears repeating, the significance of what Shettima has done: he is a worthy example of good governance when many of his peers have failed us. He has shown us that proper education is what our children need to prepare them as ‘leaders of tomorrow’. Deprive a brilliant child good education, be ready to have pretenders to the throne of leaders of tomorrow. Any society that allows its educational institutions to collapse is deliberately preparing a violent revolution with far reaching consequences. Only a progressive leader, a sophisticated politician who doesn’t play to the gallery will do what Shettima has done for Israel Galadima.
For me, Israel is a role model for any young lad who is still searching for a philosophy of life to make his own. He is an inspiration. Many kids who lost their fathers at the age he lost his, perhaps would have given up in life. But, not him. He trusts God firmly, he says, and believes that hard work always pays. It always does. Growing up in Lagos with his two other siblings, their mom, Mrs. Jummai, a Lagos-based bankers, never forgets that education to children is like an oxygen of life. The burden of training children all alone without a father is never easy. But it delights a parent when the children know the cross the mom carries and repays that with excellent performance and good character. Israel’s story captures all these virtues. “I wish my father was alive to see this great feat. I really wish he was here to see this for himself, but I know he would be proud of me in heaven”, he sobbed in an interview with The Punch newspaper. His academic record was also outstanding at his secondary school level, at Faith Academy, Ota, Ogun state.
A good Christian, but Isreal says he recognises that being just a Christian is not enough, just as “faith without work is dead”. Hard work matters. Inside his locker, he reveals, is where he writes down his “To-do list”, a guide to what he sets out to accomplish in life. This is why success doesn’t happen by accident. He has promised to make Gov Shettima, and the people of Borno proud. “I assure the Governor and everyone… that by the grace of God, in years to come, I will give back to the people of my state”. What a humble lad. Keep an eye on this young man. And don’t forget to track where Shettima goes after serving out two terms as Governor next year. I met Shettima for the first time at the Government House, Owerri, Imo state on September 18, 2017. He had visited the state governor, Rochas Okorocha, in company of four other governors from the North, that of Kebbi, Katsina, Plateau and Sokoto.
They came with one purpose: To assure the Southeast of the unity of the country. It was at the time some rough necks in the North had served south easterners living in the Northern states notice to quit or face reprisals. Shettima spoke on behalf of his colleagues. He spoke with clarity of purpose. He exuded a combination of dignity, uncommon emotional intelligence, humility and compassion.
There was no airs around him. He spoke like a lecturer that he once was. Listening to him that late evening was like taking a lecture on contemporary Nigerian history and leadership. When they departed, everyone that was there, including tens of journalists agreed this is a good man, not your conventional politician who speaks from the head, not from the heart. We need more of such men, especially now that our politics is lacking men of solid character, who can speak basic moral truths when the situation looks hopeless.
I was not really surprised at Shettima’s tremendous strength and love for education. A Master’s degree holder in Agricultural Economics from the University of Ibadan, and BSc in the same field at the University of Maiduguri in 1989, serving in different capacities as lecturer, Commissioner, including that of Education, Finance, Health, etc, no one should doubt what he has achieved for the state and done for people like Israel Galadima. He’s a courteous and cerebral man who deserves giving credit.
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Borno needs a successor like him who can speak truth to power and broaden the frontiers of education. Four years ago when Boko Haram was almost in complete control of Borno state, Shettima was a man in deep sorrow. He had seen the worst of times more than any Governor in the country.
State of Emergency had been imposed on the state by the Jonathan administration. He didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. He maintained his cool. He told the gritty truth to the then President, Goodluck Jonathan. He didn’t embellish the story. He put the ugly situation in his state in context, that the insurgents had more “sophisticated weapons and better motivated” than the military. The government of the day maligned him. Events that unfolded later vindicated him.
Only if the government had listened to him, maybe, Boko Haram would have been history by now, not “technically defeated”. Wherever he goes, and whatever endeavour he chooses after his tenure next year, history will be kind to Kashim Shettima, especially in education. A man who didn’t allow the dreams of the less privileged and brilliant students from his state to die will be rewarded by God. It is only education that can make positive change possible. Other governors should borrow a leaf from him. Well done, Shettima.