Recently former President Olusegun Obasanjo was the guest of the Borno state State Governor Kashim Shettima. Before him, National Leader of the All Progressives Congress and former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu had visited Borno State, where he commissioned so many projects. Before the two separate visits, the media space was covered with all sorts of obscenities, amongst which series of propaganda were that Governor Kashim Shettima does not have anything to show for his six years as Governor of Borno state. Permutations were rife that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in particular will take the Governor to the cleaners, in solidarity with his estranged political godson, and former Governor of the state, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
It is an open secret that the elder statesman is regarded as Sheriff’s political godfather. While it is common knowledge that Sheriff has sworn to undo Shettima whom he regards as a political neophyte and an ungrateful benefactor, facts available to me indicate that, Shettima actually fought to free Borno from the rapacious political hold of one man, who may never allow any other person to excel. Ali Sheriff may have discussed his quarrel with Shettima during his last visit to Obasanjo, and the former President’s visit Borno, may not be unconnected with Obasajo’s desire to verify some of the claims and to justify Sheriff’s diatribes against his political godson.
Not until I listened to what former President Olusegun Obasanjo had to say on the efforts being made by the Borno state Government to give succor to her citizens through agriculture, did I guess where sheriff’s anger draws from. Sheriff whom Shettima has always acknowledged as his political godfather seems petrified that Shettima will rubbish his records as Governor, hence the resort to dismantle him. Shettima was to steal Obasanjo’s heart however when he put on display all the blueprints and equipment that will drive his policies, especially his new agricultural policy.
Known for his blunt and often frank opinions about issues in governance, I thought Governor Shettima took a great risk by inviting the elder statesman down to Maiduguri as part of activities lined up to showcase what the administration has achieved in the last six years. I was on the edge of my seat when the state commissioner for agriculture, Mai Madu Dilli was reeling out what has been put on ground for Borno’s launch into agricultural bliss. Obasanjo himself confessed that he was overwhelmed with what was put on display, even in the face of the distractions by Boko Haram.
Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, seems to know what he has to show; that was why he allowed the world through Obasanjo to peep into his odessy of transformation. No wonder, he has always insisted that even with the devastation caused by Boko Haram to the socio economic wellbeing of the people, there is abundant resources and potentials that could be tapped to make Borno Nigeria’s next agricultural hub. Many people thought he was just playing to the gallery. Not even when he inaugurated the Borno Agricultural Transformation Team under the tutelage of two foremost farmers, Engineer Ibrahim Ali and the current Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe.
Shettima has lead several delegations to under study the agricultural models of several countries, including, Israel, China, Germany and the United States of America, all of which are the world’s reference destinations in agriculture today. Yet, even those who were part of the Government did not share the dreams of Governor Shettima, which he has remained passionate about, as being possible. I have interacted with some of them, and they do not seem to understand what was going on. Variety of equipment have been imported, and are being put to use, yet so many people remain baffled as to what their uses are.
During my last visit to Borno, I noticed several pilot plant nursery projects, established as feeders to the larger project scattered across the state, but as usual, I had the impression that they were mere facades. I have visited several sites where equipment for the establishment of mechanized farms, poultry houses, cattle ranches and irrigation projects. I have read several literatures on the planned agricultural revolution in Borno, but like many others, I choose to accept it as a dystopia.
While other Governor are being accused of remodeling and refurbishing old projects and celebrating them as the initiatives of their various administrations, Governor Shettima did not seem to enjoy such a luxury, as all that were put on display are not only brand new, but far in excess of what his predecessor could ever claim to have left behind. Former President Obasanjo confirmed this to the effect that, he said, except perhaps in the factory where they are manufactured; he has never seen so many tractors, more than one thousand of them and an avalanche of equipment displayed at a time by any government for a single purpose as he saw in Borno.
No wonder, the former President believes that, Governor Kashim Shettima is a role model for other upcoming leaders, having demonstrated uncommon passion in the development of his state in the face of the challenges of Boko Haram. By virtue of what he has done for his people so far, Shettima was further endeared to the august visitor to Borno, who could not conceal his admiration for the young governor, despite what others may have said to him about the Governor.
Before former President olusegun Obasanjo and Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s separate visits to Borno state, during which the Government seized the opportunity to showcase her achievements of the last six years, the impression created by critics of Governor Kashim Shettima was that of a dystopian enclave, which Government adds little or no value to the already devastated populace.
There is no doubt that the Boko Haram insurgency has tended to take off the shine from the good works the Borno State Government has done. It is also true that Governor Shettima may have kept a low profile on his achievements because of the tendency for his critics to misinterpret or even stand the facts of such activities however lofty on their heads. Recent events however point to the fact that, it is no longer charitable for him to hide his footmarks, especially in agriculture. It is time the narrative changes; from being in perpetual lamentation to a state with a lot of promise to lead other in agriculture. Even Shettima’s critics will admit that his agricultural initiatives are second to none, and they deserve the necessary mention.
Handlers of Governor Kashim Shettima’s programmes may have done their best in exposing the hidden potentials of the fifty year old Governor, but may not have brought out the historicity of certain of hi actions, one of which was the invitation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to bear witness to the enviable strides the young man has made on agriculture.
SGaladima contributes from Kaduna.