Former Borno Governor, sitting senator and Vice Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Kashim Shettima, came into politics from the private sector. While Governor of Borno, Senator Shettima was one of the most talked about politicians in Nigeria. In the still unfolding run-up to the 2023 elections, he has not disappointed and is easily the most newsworthy of all the presidential running mates. But why did Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu pick Senator Kashim Shettima as running mate? I will not pretend to know the exact reasons or precise criteria for Tinubu’s choice but there are many, not only glaring but quite difficult to ignore, factors that might account for his preference for Shettima.
For one, there are actually many striking similarities between Tinubu and Shettima. Both men are widely, credibly and creditably adjudged to have performed excellently well as Governors of their respective states. But they didn’t just perform; they managed to do so with the most daunting odds stacked, sky high, against them!
In Tinubu’s case, he had to strive for eight years against a particularly and most virulently hostile President who saw capturing Lagos State from the opposition Alliance For Democracy, AD, and bringing it into the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, fold, as one of his famous “do-or-die” affairs. The same President Olusegun Obasanjo also illegally withheld funding for the entire local government setup of Lagos, furious at Tinubu and the Lagos State House of Assembly for daring to create local council development areas.
To the absolute shock of all, Tinubu somehow managed to keep the local government councils going without any noticeable dent to governance at state level! I do not think any state Governor has been as harangued and harassed by a President as Bola Tinubu was by Obasanjo and co. Indeed, from a steady barrage of subterfuges to naked hostility and open subversion, the Obasanjo presidency, in cahoots with the Lagos state PDP, spared no pettiness or shenanigan in trying to make Lagos ungovernable for Tinubu.
In spite of it all, Tinubu did not only emerge unscathed, he successfully retrieved the remaining South-west states that Obasanjo had taken by sleight of hand for PDP in 2007. Indeed, despite being the number one target of the center throughout his eight years as Governor, he still succeeded in emerging the very best Governor we’ve had thus far, while leaving a legacy that has established Lagos as the reference point and pacesetter for good governance in this country till date!
Kashim Shettima, on his part, ran Borno for eight years with Boko Haram and later, ISWAP, constantly aiming for his jugular, determined to render government nonexistent in the state. It is simply astounding that in the midst of conditions in which it is extremely difficult, if not quite impossible, to imagine any possibility of governance, Shettima still kept delivering project after project while sustaining public services with war constantly raging around him!
Not only is Kashim Shettima most eminently qualified to be Vice President, if truth be told, Shettima is arguably even more qualified to be President than Peter Obi for it is difficult to see how Obi performed better as Governor of Anambra, even with the Ubas and their cohorts after him, than Shettima performed as Governor of Borno with Boko Haram and ISIS, its global terror partner, to contend with.
What’s more, Shettima is also more qualified than Atiku Abubarkar to be President. Atiku won election to be Governor – the one and only election he has ever won – but never served as Governor, has no real executive or similar experience and frittered away his entire eight years as Vice President scheming against his boss and plotting to take his job!
Tinubu’s choice of Shettima is, of course, also clearly geared at the goal of maintaining regional balance and achieving geopolitical equilibrium in a country in which each choice a politician makes must come with its pluses and minuses. Unfortunately, while way too much baseless and utterly unfounded attention has been focused on the fact that Tinubu and Shettima happen to be both Muslims, far too little focus has been invested into assessing the duo regarding their core values, worldview, approach to life, in general, and, approach to religion, in particular.
Even ordinarily, otherwise, intelligent people would seem to be rather fixated on mere labels and surface categorizations instead of interrogating the character of these two well-known personalities. Are they ethnic jingoists or religious irredentists, for instance? Do these two gentlemen wear their faith on their sleeves? If, indeed, we are truly exercised by the welfare of our country and the future of our children in it, these are the questions we should be raising and seeking answers to!
Is it Tinubu who ran the governorship of Lagos with neither reference to, or, preference for religion that anyone is supposed to be bothered about with respect to the faith he happens to profess? The same Tinubu who had more Christians than his fellow Muslims in the front row of his much-talked about cabinet of tested technocrats? Is it the Tinubu that returned mission schools to their original owners, the overwhelming majority of whom are Christian?
Which Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu are we even really talking about, for God’s sake? The same Tinubu that would always attend mass with Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas on the latter’s birthday? These were usually masses celebrated by His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Okogie, someone who relates with Tinubu as a fellow Lagosian from the same neighborhood! Is it really this same Tinubu that any Christian who truly knows his onions as a Christian would be able to discriminate against?
While it is clear to me that Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima are essentially two of a kind who showcased uncommon openmindedness in governance while studiously running their administrations in accordance with an unyielding cosmopolitan outlook on public affairs, it is also clear to me that we are quite ignorant about one another in this country. Northerners barely understand their Southern countrymen and Southerners hardly really know their Northern compatriots. We then tend to fill in the blank spaces with the wildest conjurations and most hideous confabulations.
I happen to have had dinner on several occasions with His Eminence, Saad Abubarkar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, who, as far as I’m concerned, is the number one Islamic leader, globally, given that he has more subjects than any other Islamic ruler I can think of, world over (and, lawyer though I am, I certainly know my geography and demography well enough to say this)! Dinner was served by a chef who turned out to be a fellow Southerner, who was also a student at the University of Abuja under a scholarship from the Sultan! Can anyone claim to be more Islamic than His Eminence, himself, or, what are we trying to make of one another in this country that we all share and yet refuse to get along with one another in?
Is it really someone like Kashim Shettima, who as Governor of Borno, built several churches for Christians in the state at a time it was being relentlessly hounded by Biko Haram whose sole objective was full islamisation of the North-northeast, that any Christian would, in good conscience, suppose should ever pose any danger to his or her religion? Kashim Shettima the city banker? Kashim Shettima who adopted a Christian into his family? Kashim Shettima who has Christian relations right there in his native Borno?
Why are we letting anyone wield religion as a knife to now pry us apart and sever us from one another, all in a clear bid to deceive and then divide us like a nation eager to be taken for a ride? Why is anyone even listening to these political desperados, whose one and only mission is to score even the very cheapest political points obtainable?
Is it the same religion that wasn’t an issue during the Yakubu Gowon administration nor in1979 when the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Phillip Umeadi, both Christians, ran on the ticket of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, as presidential candidate and running mate that is now supposed to be the main issue for the 2023 elections and the destiny of our country, going forward? Religion didn’t matter when late Bashorun MKO Abiola, a Muslim, and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, another Muslim, won with a landslide in the 1993 presidential election yet we are expected to be willfully such an utter basket case of a nation so pathologically incapable of making progress that religion must be on the front burner, 30 years later! What do we even really want for this country?
I cannot imagine how bad Tinubu must feel that anyone could possibly see him as capable of posing any danger to Christians or Christianity. The very closest and dearest people to him – his very flesh and blood – are Christians! I think religion was the farthest thing from Tinubu’s mind when he picked Shettima as running mate. He simply saw a man, much like himself, who had similarly excelled as Governor, stood through thick and thin with him in prosecuting his vision, and, one still clearly with much to offer to a nation desperately in need of able and tested leadership.
If my Lord Jesus, were to be taken out of my life, I most probably would become suicidal, seeing not much point in continuing with a life without my Saviour and Redeemer. Yet, as a Christian, I am very, very comfortable with the Tinubu/Shettima ticket. Perhaps, since I’m not a Muslim, I will not pretend to know who a good Muslim necessarily is but I certainly know who a good human being is and I would most probably feel far safer, and more at ease, in the company of either a Tinubu or a Shettima than I would feel beside quite a few of my fellow Christians – well-known and quite close to me – who are usually the very first to be in church on Sunday morning!
Indeed, if I had never heard of either Tinubu or Shettima before, and someone where to describe them, based on their antecedents and disposition, to me, without mentioning their names or their religion, and, then asked me what religion I thought they belonged to, I would, in all likelihood, conclude they were both Christians! Kashim Shettima is very possibly the most qualified person to run for Vice President in this country. While that is profound, in and of itself, it makes perfect sense that he would end up as the preferred choice of Tinubu, on his part, and without a doubt, the most qualified man to run for President in Nigeria. In the Tinubu/Shettima ticket Nigerians easily have the most evidentially and unassailably qualified duo to run for President and Vice President in our entire history. That should be good enough for any country. It is certainly more than good enough for me.