People, they say, change, once they have access to power and money. But for Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, the story appears different. He has continued to remain humble, even in the face of unprovoked attacks from returnees to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
His mien is expected to come handy as he leads the APC battle tomorrow against its familiar foe, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He perhaps may have brought it to bear in the just concluded presidential election.
For instance, in the North, Borno is the only state that improved from its 2015 performance at the presidential election. While President Muhammadu Buhari‘s votes dropped significantly in most of the northern states where he won, in Borno, the votes increased by about 400,000.
Political observers attribute the feat to the governor’s disposition towards perceived political enemies. Those who hold this view are quick to recall the political turbulence that heralded the 2015 governorship contest when the governor was seeking a re-election.
In the build-up to that contest, his political godfather, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who defected to the PDP at the time, had vowed to uproot Shettima from the state’s political landscape.
Explaining why he defected to the PDP at the time, shortly after his visit to then President Goodluck Jonathan at the presidential villa, Abuja, Sheriff said: “My being in the PDP is a personal sacrifice for my people. I am in PDP so as to make the necessary intervention for my people. If it takes me to be sleeping 24 hours in the presidency for my people, I will do just that.”
By Sheriff’s own estimation at the time, one way to deal decisively with the insurgency ravaging the state, which started during his first tenure as governor, was for the people to align with the government at the centre, by voting for the PDP. According to him, his movement to the PDP was to actualise that ambition and dream of making Borno a PDP state.
And because of his previous political antecedents, especially, from 1992, when against all odds, he defeated the highly rated wife of Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, in a contest for Borno Central Senatorial District, to 1999, when repeated the same feat against highly rated and highly educated Ibrahim Bunu; former FCT minister, for the same seat, to 2003, when he came from Abuja, as a sitting senator to dislodge an incumbent governor, to 2007, when he broke a second term jinx in the state, many had thought, he could again repeat the same magic, in 2015.
He even went as far as boasting to Jonathan during the party’s presidential rally in Maiduguri shortly before the 2015 elections that he should be held responsible should PDP in the state, fail to deliver the state, to the PDP, during the presidential and governorship polls.
He also boasted that the APC would not get up to 30 percent of the total votes in the state, for the two elections. But by the time election was won and lost, Sheriff not only fail to deliver his council to the PDP, but also failed to redeem his promise to Jonathan, as Buhari beat Jonathan 473, 543 to 25, 640 votes, just as Shettima won the governorship, polling 649,913 votes, to PDP’s Gambo Lawan’s 34,701 votes, thereby shattering Sheriff’s dream and ambition of remaining relevant in Borno politics.
While campaigning in 2001, preparatory to his ousting of the then Governor Mala Kachallah out of office in 2003, Sheriff had said that no governor in the history of Borno State has ever gotten a second term. And true to his word, he became the first to record that feat, in 2007. But what many did not know was that, votes were still being collated in Maiduguri, when he was announced as the winner of the election from Abuja.
Again, historically speaking too, until 2011, Sheriff has never lost any election before in Borno since his foray into politics in the 90’s. But in 2011, he not only lost the election, he was roundly defeated by a relatively unknown politician, thereby shattering his dream of returning to the Senate, after eight years as governor. Today, Shettima is a senator-elect.
Delivering his victory in 2015, after he got his mandate renewed for a second term, Shettima, among other things pledged never to play God: “For me as leader of the APC and re-elected governor of Borno State, this victory will not change me from being the Kashim Shettima you all know.
“I am very much in constant minder that power can be very dangerous to the soul of its beneficiary. From my experience, when one is in power and things go his way in highly competitive elections, his first task is to fight his own mentality and resist the slightest element of negative pride.
“Pride can be positive when one protects and preserves his own honour and integrity. But negative pride is when someone thinks he is all in all; he is the Almighty and sole fixer within his environment. It is that kind of pride that grows to a level where someone in power begins to equate himself with God, he begins to think he is the one who determines the destiny of others and who makes decision as to who is poor, who is rich and who ascends to power.
“I know and believe that whoever assumes the powers of God always crashes sooner than he expects or later on, along the ladder. Only God has the power to determine the fate of others. That power is absolute to Him and this is why God fights and destroys whoever assumes His powers. I am very excited with the overwhelming victory of the APC in Borno. God in His graciousness gave us this victory.”
Will APC re-enact victory tomorrow?
After the defunct ANPP, which was part of legacy parties that formed the APC in 2013 won Borno State in 1999, at the turn of every governorship election in the state, two major things are usually used as campaign tools by the opposition PDP at the time. One is the need for Borno people to join the government at the centre.
Two, is usually to complete the Borno State Central Mosque, which until recently had been abandoned since 1986. The mosque was completed by the Shettima’s administration and commissioned last month by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saád Abubakar 111.
With these two major campaign issues out of the way, one thing the opposition would have used effectively against the APC, observers say, is the security challenge in the state. But that too may not fly, if the experience of the people pre-2015 elections is to be compared to their condition pre-2019 elections.
Historically, until 2015, Borno State has never been in the same party with the government at the centre. Therefore, any time election was approaching the need for Borno to be brought into the mainstream politics was usually the campaign thrust of the opposition party in the state.
Like the defunct opposition National Party of Nigeria (NPN) did in 1983, in the build-up to the 2015 electioneering, the PDP, the major opposition party in the state since 1999, rallied most Borno elites together and impressed it on them to see reason to kick out the APC’s government and support the PDP so that the party could form government at the state level.
The PDP promoters at the time said it was only when the party was allowed to form the government in Borno State that the state could enjoy the type of federal presence it deserves, and it was the only time it could get the full backing of the Federal Government in its fight against insurgency in the state.
But by the time the presidential election was won and lost in March 2015, the PDP’s quest to govern the state made little or no meaning to an average Borno person, as the few coverts it had gotten saw no further need to continue to support the PDP, since the APC which they intend send packing, had won the presidential election.
Also, Shettima who was then a governorship candidate of the APC, seeking a re-election had expressed confidence that the APC-led Federal Government would not forsake the state. And true to his word, he did not spend one year under the Buhari’s administration before showing him gratitude for bringing succour to the people of the state.
He began thanking the president as early as June 2015, apparently judging from what he got under the immediate past administration at the centre. With all the major issues been appeared settled in favour of the APC, PDP’s quest of winning the state may appear a tall order.
Besides, the PDP in the state is going into the contest a divided house, with all its prominent members, including its 2011 and 2015 governorship candidates, Goni and Lawan respectively, in the APC.
But the APC too is not without internal squabble. Like PDP, the emergence of the APC’s candidate, Professor Babagana Zullum, is being challenged in court by one of the aspirants, Alhaji Idris Durkwa. Ironically, Durkwa was the preferred choice of Sheriff during the primary election. He, however, lost to Professor Zullum, who was the choice of Shettima and other party leaders.