By Saleh Galadima
It is a season of celebrations across the country, as states mark Democracy Day. Many of them are even celebrating fifty years of creation. In the face of the security challenges Borno State has been facing, the state is being seen as having little or nothing to rejoice about. Public opinion paints a people being heavily demoralized by years of fratricidal war. Also plagued by the challenges of rebuilding their lives and communities from the toll Boko Haram has taken on socio economic advancement, Borno People are being seen as being doomed.
I do not envy Borno state Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, who has to preside over the affairs of a people with such a bleak future. He may be the saddest leader in Nigeria, who never had the luxury of sitting in a cozy office, being always on the edge, given the daunting tasks he has to face in the past six years since he assumed office. He may have the best of intentions to reposition Borno state, but fate does not seem to be smiling on him.
The story of Kashim Shettima’s emergence as Governor is now history. At inception, he laid a solid foundation for the re-engineering of governance in the state, with his highly intellectually studded cabinet, which appeared ready to face the tall tasks of maintaining a balance in a skewed national challenge. His dream seems to still be alive, as he forges on, creating the necessary impact even when faced with daunting challenges.
The Governor, besides the security challenges which his administration has to grapple with since inception, appeared more worried by the challenges of development, which has eluded his people due to years of neglect, snowballing into the Boko Haram insurgency; a malady that has taken a heavy casualty from the robust human resources, which he intended to use for the socio economic advancement of Borno state.
Known to be highly emotional on matters that affect the welfare of his people, often personally identifying with the citizenry, Kashim Shettima hardly had time like his counterparts to enjoy like a governor. Boko Haram has taken away all semblance of happiness from his face. While the rest of the world makes progress, Borno seems stagnated in a macabre dance, fighting a war of infatuation with issues that were strange to its norms of co- existence to the effect that the civilization it was reputed to represent more than a hundred years ago, is fast giving way to barbarism.
Above summation found expression in his remarks at a private session with journalists and some of his aides when he took over newly to the effect that, he decried the lack of political drive to harness the vast potentials of the state and utilize them for its socio-economic development. He lamented the poor state of the habitat of especially the rural dwellers, saying “It is lamentable, that our people still live in huts made of thatch and corn stock; not different from what they lived in a hundred years ago”. This is against the background that Borno has all it takes to turn around the living conditions of its citizens.
He is so passionately attached to his development agenda, to the effect that he has vowed to pay the ultimate price if need be, if only to turn around the fortunes of his people. According to Shettima, given the rich human and natural endowments of Borno, its people have no business remaining in the same condition they were more than a hundred years ago. To him, his administration is determined to reverse the fortunes of his people for the best, and that is why he has vowed to succeed, no matter the odds against his Government.
The immediate task, in the face of the prevailing situation, is to rebuild the people’s confidence in governance, by reaching out and making them appreciate the constraints under which the system operates. Without compromising on his promises, to make Borno the new hub of agro industrial technology, he inaugurated a task force saddled with fashioning out a development agenda for the state. This was followed with the composition of yet another task force on agricultural revolution.
Even in the face of obvious encumbrances he emphasized the need for an all inclusive approach to governance, where Shettima strongly holds the view that Borno has the human and material potentials to reclaim its pride of place. To achieve this, he has promised to reposition Borno by first reversing the negative trends recently associated with it.
In acknowledging the role of the media in charting the new path for the development of the state, Shettima said, the people have to take their destiny into their hands, by renewing their faith in each other, and by giving peace a chance, so that Borno can regain its lost days of glory. It is true, he asserted, that Borno used to be the hub of trans Saharan commerce, and centre for Islamic learning, but the story is no longer the same, as it has been made a virtual pariah; no thanks to recent events.
Shettima will often take his audience on an emotional voyage down memory lane, pointing out that he remains an optimist, whose spirit is further rekindled by the opportunity God has offered him to serve his people. Not even the apparent despair in the voices of some people is enough to drown his hopes of a better tomorrow. The question people seem to be asking today is what has happened to all these bright and promising ideals.
It is rather sad, that while others are reeling out their achievements, no one seems to appreciate Governor Kashim Shettima’s modest achievements in the six years that he has been in the saddle. One however still needs to crave for the understanding of his citizens, to the effect that the best may yet be on the way. Perhaps, if only the people will give him the chance to fully manifest his agenda. The collaborative efforts of the Federal and state Governments seems to be paying off and they are overcoming the problems of insurgency, and very soon, the people will start seeing the Promised Land that Kashim promised to make of Borno.
With such a very ambitious beginning where Agriculture, education, health, infrastructural development, poverty eradication and above all security of lives and property were to take the centre stage, Governor Kashim should not have been the one in the firing line today. It is rather unfortunate that the collaborative efforts expected amongst stakeholders, towards making Borno the envy of others, has given way to mischief, blackmail and slander. The world knows the rest of the story. May the Almighty God defend him.
Governor Kashim promises to the effect that his plans for the people would start yielding dividends, and that he will not be slowed down by the antics of an unrepentant opposition, nay Boko Haram, which days according to him are numbered, his lofty ideals have remained uncelebrated. While it may not be charitable to say his managers have kept his achievements from the eyes of the world, it will not also be out of place to say Governor Kashim Shettima’s strides in developing his state even in the face of challenges have not attracted the deserved mention.
On the other hand, a visit to Borno reveals that, some of the issues often reported have most times been exaggerated. Until I was invited to be Part of a team that visited Borno on facility tour last year, one had the impression that Government had been totally grounded. I was surprised when I discovered that Government is not only fully functional, but certain projects embarked upon by government were far ahead of other states which are seen to be more peaceful than Borno.
Galadima, a public Affairs Analyst writes from Kaduna
By Saleh Galadima