Governor Kashim Shettima is the senator-elect for Borno Central. He speaks exclusively to Daily Sun on why he is passionate about primary education, his successor and how he wants to be remembered as governor of the state.
Your mega schools look magnificent. What inspired you to put them up?
Actually the primary school is the key to the future and advancement of every society. It is the fulcrum upon which all our education rests. This is why I’m very particular about primary school education. In Africa, we missed the agricultural age and we missed the industrial age. We are now in the post industrial age and I tell you we have a moral burden to inform our society beyond that challenge and learn in a knowledge driven world. I tell you that if we don’t do that we will end up hurt. This is why we are adamant on repositioning the education sector.
All of us are from diverse background because of our access to western education which made us what we are. I believe posterity will not forgive us if we allow education to collapse in this part of the world because there is direct correlation between poverty and violence. The only way you can fight poverty in this age and time is through education. It has nothing to do with politics but the interest of this nation. It is projected that by 2050 Nigeria will surpass the United States and be the third most populous country in the world with a population of 440 million. It is also projected that by 2050, 70 per cent of Nigerians will live in northern Nigeria. With the desertification, deforestation and rising poverty, there is real danger. So we as the elite have to wear our thinking cap and make efforts towards creating jobs, towards investment in agriculture and towards entrepreneurial skills, because that is what our people lack. We have to initiate these, I think where there is a will, there is always a way. It is not for us to sit down and lament over our situation. Allah has given us the intellect and capacity.
We hear that you are not using real time contractors to execute the projects. Is that true?
The world has become a global village, if you want to leave a lasting legacy in the sands of time you have to close your ears to what people say. I have been accused of using direct labour, but when we gave contracts to politicians, some of the buildings nearly collapsed, we had to demolish some structure in Bulablin primary School. We demolish a structure in the state low cost. In Bama, a one storey building being constructed by a politician collapsed before it was roofed. It is the children of the poor that would stay in these classrooms, so that compelled me to become the chief engineer although I am an economist by training, we were able to drive the process and I believe we have done our modest best and we leave posterity to judge us.
Maintenance of structure is one of our greatest challenges in this country. What mechanisms do you hope to put in place to ensure their maintenance?
We want to put in place very robust governing council encompassing people largely from the private sector and academia to govern these schools. Before I leave office we are going to fund it in such a way that they can sustain themselves for a considerable period of time. We have shopping malls in Maiduguri, we want to dedicate these shopping malls to schools, and most importantly we are going to set up an agency that would take care of these mega schools. These institutions would be headed by technocrats and we are going to insulate them from government interference. Most importantly my successor is head and shoulders above me in terms of intellect, capacity and ability. I’m 52 years old and he is in his 40’s and most importantly he is a Professor of Irrigation Engineering, who is more at home within those setting than I am and I believe he would drive and sustain the process. Another important issue is the aspect of quality teachers; this is why I said they should advertise the positions. If someone is in Nepal and the person is capable of adding value to Borno, they should employ the person, if that person is from a neighbouring state and is willing to add value to Borno it doesn’t bother me, let them employ competent teachers. We want to employ digital technology and you can’t believe it, I personally went to inspect the training of our teachers in India; they trained 70 of our teachers who are now training the other teachers in the use of digital technology. In the fullness of time I believe posterity will be very kind to us. We are building 40 of those schools and we are accessing N2.8 billion by next month. I want to add additional 10 schools before I leave. You have been in the private sector.
Now you are a politician, what are the differences working in the private sector and working for the people as a politician?
As a banker you work within certain guidelines and framework. You pursue a big target but abiding by practical realities of what is achievable, you don’t live in deceit in the bank because you are dealing with finances, how to get the finance and how to grow it for the bank and the person dealing with the bank, so there is no room for double speak. The purview of politics is one that if you are fond of calling a spade by its name you will always have a rocky relationship with a lot of people. They want you to speak from both sides of your mouth, they want you to always tell them lies and engage in deception which I hate to do. That is the main difference between politics and banking. In the banking industry, the sole barometer for assessing you is your level of input, your level of competence, how far and fast you are able to hit a target. In politics, a lot of shenanigans tend to come up. You will be amazed at what politicians would do to one another all in the quest for power, and power is the most ephemeral of what keeps humanity. You cannot be in power beyond the stipulated time frame, eight years at most for the executive arm and even for the legislative arm which has limitless number of times people can aspire for office, electorate tend not to allow one individual to seek the same office for more than 12 years, at most one elected four times and those who get that don’t constitute up to 15 percent of the total number of lawmakers in the whole country when you combine that National and State Assemblies. Coming to terms with reality So, you will spend more years of your life outside power than in power, but it seems we are yet to come to terms with that reality. Many people are desperate; we undermine each other all for vanity.
How do you feel completing Borno central mosque 33 years after it was abandoned?
It gives me great deal of satisfaction to have been the one to complete the project. I believe when you put your mind on something you will achieve it. Prayers, persistence, perseverance and patience are the four ingredients of success. When I saw the mosque, I was determined to complete it. You can’t believe the contractor abandoned the project and went his way. So many ad hoc committees were set up to complete the project and it came to naught. I embraced it as my own personal project, I am from that neighbourhood. It is very embarrassing when Borno, the great citadel of Islamic knowledge doesn’t have a central mosque for 33 years. We put heads together and got creative technocrats and sufficiently funded them and this is the work of God.Alhamdullah.
How would you want to be remembered after you leave the state?
I want to be remembered as someone who came at a very turbulent phase in Borno’s history, made his best efforts against all odds to ameliorate the situation of his people and left with high hopes that In sha Allah the madness would come to an end, someone who made modest effort in the repositioning of the education sector, the agricultural sector, who made a mark in the grassroots social economic empowerment with agriculture education, who made efforts to clean up the society and to strengthen the primary health care centre. In a nutshell, a young man, a green horn that came and strive to change the narrative so as to have a quantum leap in the lives of his people. And I believe posterity would judge us.
What would you say was your greatest regret?
My greatest regret is my inability to do as much as I would have loved to do in the areas of afforestation. Our environment is being abused and made inhabitable for human habitation. I would have loved to plant a billion trees. But I couldn’t because of the security challenges we are facing. I am a politician with a mission and a goal. If Allah gives me the will, I might take girl child education and afforestation as my lifelong projects.