But for what I found out about two weeks ago, this tribute to Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, as he clocks 46 today, Sunday, September 2, 2012, would have waited till 2016, when by the special Grace of God, he would not only have attained the Golden Age of 50, but would have marked his first year in office, in his second term. So, what did I find out?
It was during the just concluded Ramadan, a call came in from Maiduguri, informing me that the governor was doing ‘Bude Baki (Break fast),’ at the Government House, with office messengers, in the State Civil service. If the gesture was extended to this category of people by the Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido, I would not have been surprised. But coming from a man, whom I know, had never had the opportunity to undergo political tutelage under any NEPU/PRP politician, it sure calls for some kind of probing. Although I am aware that he has always asked to be given the “opportunity to prove that leadership under our constitutional democracy can be humane and people-oriented,” his idea about governance and leadership, perfectly fits into Lamido’s understanding of these two concepts. In fact, most times, I see a Lamido in Shettima. Yet Shettima only started politics ‘yesterday’, a thing that made me to probe further.
And in the end, the only striking thing I found out that links both men, is the fact that both belong to the zodiacal sign called Virgo, the only zodiacal sign represented by a female (female are usually humane). Lamido was born on August 30, while Shettima came to the world September 2. Knowing the two men well enough, I can say with certainty that both men possess in great abundance the traditional Virgo traits. Virgo is modest and shy, meticulous and reliable, practical and diligent, intelligent and analytical.Until recently, Lamido remains probably the only governor in the north that is making a conscious and deliberate effort to run a “humane and people-oriented” government. You can now understand my reason for referring to Shettima, as an emerging “Talakawa” governor.
Ali Usman is one of the messengers that dined and wined with the governor. He sees the opportunity as a life time experience, owing to the fact that he had never had the slightest opportunity of going close to the seat of power in the State, let alone a handshake and to eat out with a governor.
Hear him: “It was like a dream when a letter from the Government House given to me indicated a special invitation from the Borno State Governor. The Governor had asked us to have a ‘break of fast’ with him and I could not help laughing when the letter was handed to me. As far as I was concerned, it was like a joke taken too far. Well, I hung on to the letter while anxiously awaiting the six o’clock date with the Governor. Only a few of us had visited the Government House before now and actually we do envy some of our colleagues who work there.” This is even as he sees the Governor’s gesture as a fulfillment of his resolve to ensure his government was closer to the ordinary people.
Another messenger, Muhammed Qassim, who works in the Press Directorate of the Government House, noted that “this has never happened in the history of Borno; even the middle cadre Deputy Directors have never had a breakfast with any governor, whether military or civilian, not to talk of a ‘common messenger.’”
Shettima is one of the few very brilliant, intelligent, easy-going, witty and friendly leaders we have in the north, who understands what individual States in the north, need to do, so as to stop being labeled “parasites.”
To underscore his commitment to restoring the lost glory of Borno State, he has apart from investing heavily in the education sector, resorted to growing the Agriculture sector in the State. Surprisingly, the two experts assisting in that sector are members of the opposition parties. While one of them is an indigene of the State, the other has no affiliation whatsoever with the State. They are: Ibrahim Ali, a former Minister and a Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Governorship candidate during the last election in the State and Chief Audu Ogbeh, a former National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and now a chieftain of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
Already, 420 youths, who hitherto had nothing doing, are today undergoing training on Integrated Poultry Entrepreneurship in the Borno State Ministry of Animal and Fisheries Development, under the supervision of Professor of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Kyari Sandabe, who directly oversees the ministry. It is important to note here that it was Shettima, who revived the Poultry Unit of the Ministry.
Also, 120 women are undergoing training on Integrated Fish and Irrigation Farming in Gamboru and Ngala. 60 ponds, with each requiring 10,000 litres of water are being constructed. Of this lot, 30 have been completed. And two women would be allocated each of the 60 ponds plus 1000 juvenile fish. Additionally, about 60,000 adult fish are expected to be harvested after which the Trainees would be assisted from the proceeds, to become self employed in fish farming, while water from the ponds would serve irrigation purposes, for farming of vegetables under the scheme.
Furthermore, 50 able-bodied young men have been deployed to Sabore Farms in Adamawa State to learn Integrated Farming Techniques. This is apart from those dispatched to Songhai Farms, in Porto-Novo, Benin Republic, to understudy Mechanized farming. Interestingly, the first batch of 25, from the 50 sent to Adamawa has since graduated. This is even as another 100 university graduates, who majored in Agriculture have completed the processing of necessary document, preparatory to being dispatched to Thailand, for the purpose of acquiring train-the-trainers skills on rice farming, milling, processing and marketing as well as modern aquaculture. Each trainee is expected to not only be self-employed, on return but also to be employer of labour.
At the last count, over 3, 000 youths have so far been trained on various skills under the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation and Youth Empowerment. Presently, about 500 youths are undergoing training in brick making and assembling, roofing tile making and assembling as well as interlocking tile making and assembling, etc. And as a way of motivating them, all of these trainees are given allowances, to ensure nothing hinders them from making themselves available for the training.
In one of his recent interviews, the governor said: “the whole focus of our administration is towards socio-economic empowerment program with agriculture at the centre of all our developmental drives. We have to embrace modernity, and we have to embrace modern agriculture because the whole mantra is on the increase in yield. A cow in Nigeria is producing one liter of milk per day whereas a goat in Pakistan produces 15 liters of milk per day. We produce two to five tons of onions per hectre. In Yemen, a farmer produces 100 tons of onions per hectre , even of better quality. The Israeli farmer produces 55 to 100 tons of tomatoes per hectre, but we produce two to five tons per hectre and of poor quality. So the whole mantra is on increase in yield. We have to embrace modernity; we have to embrace the latest technology, high yield seeds.“One hundred years ago, our forefathers were using hoes and cutlasses, and a hundred years on, our people are still using hoes and cutlasses. We cannot afford not to embrace the modern agriculture that is being practiced in the advanced world. Our main focus now is how to assist our farmers to have access to modern tools of agriculture, high breed seeds and, most importantly, post-harvest storage and processing facilities because we have to look at the whole value change of the agricultural production. We want to set up about 500 rice mills which we are going to buy from Thailand. The Federal Government is importing about 100 Chinese-made rice processing mills that can process 100 tons per day but we are getting only five megawatts of electricity per day in Maiduguri. So where is the power to drive these machines? For Nigeria to really utilize those 100 machines, we need to put 1.6m hectres of land under cultivation.
“In the Chad Basin for instance, we have 76,000 hectres of land. The last time we were there for the winter season, the Chad Basin produced about 20,000 bags of wheat but the land under cultivation was a paltry 786 hectares. We are partnering with the Chad Basin to see that we cultivate 20,000 hectares in the next cropping season. In partnership with Chad Basin we have bought high breed rice seed to give free to our farmers for cultivation on 10,000 hectres. We have procured adequate quantity of fertilizers. So definitely these are things that we will give them: the rice mills, the agric processing machines and combating desertification by planting ten million gum Arabic tress in this cropping season.
“Insha –Allah, in the next couple of years,we will make deliberate efforts towards reclaiming our lost glory in the agricultural sector. We bought improved seeds worth over N100m and we are distributing it free to the people, with tractors, too. Nigeria has only 26,000 tractors nationwide, Borno has over a thousand tractors and these tractors are largely tilling the soil of our farmers freely. Boko Haram has really pauperized our people, so we have to make deliberate efforts to empower them.”
So, Borno is not only about Boko Haram and sound of bombs and explosions. Silent revolution is going on, even in the face of the security challenge, to ensure the State bounces back, once again. And there is no better time to appreciate the effort of the man behind the revolution than now that he is marking his birthday. Happy 46th birthday to a friend and a brother, and a worthy successor of the ‘Talakawa’ philosophy.
Omipidan, is staff of The Sun.