“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
–John 8: 32
By ONYEDIKA AGBEDO
“It is man’s job, not God’s, to solve the problems of his own making here. He possesses, within his consciousness, all the power and resources necessary to create a heaven on earth, if he so chooses. It has taken man centuries to learn this one simple fact — and he has still not learned it,” wrote a former American author, lecturer and psychical researcher, Harold Sherman, who lived between 1898 and 1987 in his book, Know Your Own Mind. This statement seemed to be in the mind of the Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum and Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, when he told the world last Monday in Kaduna that the North was the architect of its woes. According to him, the North conspired against itself to be reduced to the laughing stock of the world. And he spoke at a forum that was best suited for such diatribe — the first ever meeting of the Northern elite which was attended by the Northern Governors’ Forum, Northern Traditional Rulers Council, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Elders Forum and others, in search of solutions to the problems of the region.
Shettima had, while presenting his address, said: “There is no gainsaying the North is a poor, pathetic shadow of its former self. A well endowed, promising geographic space which accounts for 70 per cent of Nigeria’s land mass, up to at least 60 per cent of its population, with huge solid minerals resources, with potentials for hydrocarbon resources, a growing mining industry, rich arable land, a blossoming agro-industrial economy, Nigeria’s wealthiest region by GDP and the region with the brightest prospects for accelerated economic growth; in short, arguably Nigeria’s most thriving region, has literally conspired against itself to be reduced to the laughing stock of the world. Northern Nigeria today is blighted by a deadly (albeit retreating) insurgency, rural armed banditry, cattle rustling, ethnic and religious conflicts, the underlying causes of which are poverty, illiteracy, social exclusivity and severely limited economic opportunities. We all, of course, know these issues.”
Shettima’s speech was heart warming because he looked the northern hegemony in the face and spoke the truth without minding the consequences. In doing so, he indicted himself and all past and present leaders of Northern Nigeria. Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson in their book, Why Nations Fail, wrote that, “poor countries are poor because those who have power make choices that create poverty. They get it wrong not by mistake or ignorance but on purpose.” Is that not apposite about today’s Northern Nigeria? Is it not their leaders that made (and still makes) the choices that plunged that section of the country into excruciating poverty, odious insecurity and destructive illiteracy? Where were the leaders when the vices they are crying about today started rearing their ugly heads? Where were the leaders when their people abandoned agriculture, which was at a time the mainstay of the Nigeria’s economy, and became addicted to oil money? Is it not an irony that the region, which has ruled the country for the most part since independence, is still backward in virtually all spheres of human development index?
The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, who was also at the meeting, had expressed worry over “the usage of places of religious worship to preach hatred, violence and other issues that tend to divide us, rather than strengthen our unity as a people created by one God.” But some leaders worship in those places and do nothing about that!
The conspiracy of silence displayed by northern leaders when these things were happening literally destroyed the North. So, Shettima merely spilled the beans before those who should know, and who are in positions to recreate the North from its present state of squalor to an eldorado. To him, it is time for a change of orientation in the North towards addressing its present woes, and they, the elite, should effectively lead the way.
Born on September 2, 1966, Shettima is a native of Nimeri Korongoso, Lamisula, Shehuri North, Borno State. He attended Lamisula Primary School, Maiduguri between 1972 and 1978. He had his secondary education at Government Community Secondary School, Biu (1978–1980) and then Government Science Secondary School Potiskum, Yobe State (1980-1983). He studied Agricultural Economics at the University of Maiduguri, graduating in 1989. For his National Youth Service he worked with the Nigerian Agricultural Cooperative Bank in Calabar (1989–1990). He then attended the University of Ibadan (1990-1991), gaining a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics. From 1991 to 1993 he was a lecturer in Agricultural Economics at the University of Maiduguri.
Shettima later had a successful career in banking between 1993 and 2007. He was appointed as Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development, in Borno State in mid-2007. He later served as Commissioner in the ministries of Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs, Education, Agriculture and Health.
In January 2011, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) elected Modu Fannami Gubio as its candidate for the Borno governorship election, but he was shot dead by suspected Boko Haram gunmen. Shettima was later elected as the candidate of the party in February 2011. He won the April 26, 2011 governorship election and was re-elected for a second term in the 2015 general elections.