INSIGHT: Pedagogy of a leader: tribute to Shettima at 53, by Inuwa Bwala

I left his government in fury, but returned to him like the prodigal son and benefitted immensely from his benevolence, to the contestation and disbelief of those who were beating the drums of war to which I dance. Above statement sums up the story of my relationship with former Borno State Governor, now Senator, Kashim Shettima. So many people never believe that we could come together again following the bitter verbal I fought with him and his government following my rather unceremonious exit from his cabinet. That is perhaps history now.

Shortly after I left his government as Commissioner for Home Affairs, Information and Culture, Shettima invited me to the Government House in Maiduguri and later to another place in Abuja; all in a bid for the two of us to reconcile and remain the compatriots that we were. By then, I had been made to believe that I have all along been working with a devil incarnate. My eyes were blinded to everything positive about him and his government. It is also part of history now, how I fought him using every available space and instrument at my disposal.

Then I received a call one day from a number I was not too familiar with. On picking the call, the person at the other end identified himself as Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State. I was virtually inaudible in my response because I least expected any  call for the good from him, and answering the call in the presence of my boss at that time could translate into an offence. I expressed my appreciation for the call, when he said he decided to check up on me since we have not spoken for long.

When my boss inquired about who I was talking to and I told him it was his godson, Kashim Shettima, he was livid with anger, but because he needed me so much at the time as his Canon fodder, he hid his feelings in silence. But that call, coupled with the two previous meetings I had with Kashim Shettima, after the quarrel which saw me exit his government, changed my perceptions. I never wanted the disagreement with Sheriff in the first place and I thought these events may open the window for an all round reconciliation. I did not do anything immediately but I pondered over Kashim Shettima’s disposition towards me and towards our boss, Ali Modu Sheriff. He often referred to Sheriff as his boss and mentor. He had repeated that in secret and in the open.

But Kashim Shettima eventually captured my heart when he came forward for the umpteenth time and offered to help me out of my predicaments, at a time everybody, including my boss, Ali Modu Sheriff had abandoned me to my fate. So many things happened in quick succession and surprisingly I found Shettima there for me at every turn if event.

At a point, a friend confided in me saying, “Shettima has a large heart and he easily forgives, even those who hurt him like you have done. You may not be aware but he is very fond of you and respects you for so many things, especially your fidelity to the late Mala Kachallah. He told me that with what he sees of you  you are not likely to betray others, especially your leaders”. I was flattered by that remark and I secretly vowed to confirm this summation. When I reached out to him, he quickly picked and inquired about my health and general wellbeing. I met him several times after and I can confirm what that friend told me to be true. I thence resolved not to disappoint him again in our new relationship.

My personal testimony about him may sound personal, but his actions in recent times to the effect that all those who at one time or the other have returned to him. Some have benefitted from him even more than those who claim to be very close associated. One if such persons, Alhaji Yusuf Adamu once opined that Kashim Shettima has a magnetic personality for good, such that those who injure him often end up being his friends. I can  confirm that he truly values relationships.

At 53, he may be a bit younger than me, but he towers above me in stature, intellectual candour, eloquence, wealth, morals, connections and even spirituality.

It was not surprising to me that, even amongst his colleague governors, Kashim Shettima’s delivery in leadership lessons had always been a reference point. His emergence as the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum is a further confirmation, that Shettima is perhaps Nigeria’s youngest statesman.  Whatever Kashim Shettima may be to others, he is to me a boss, a friend, soulmate  and compass in life. I celebrate him and wish him the best in future endeavours.

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