Senator Kashim Shetima was the former Borno State Governor who dominated news coverage after his emergence as Vice Presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
He had sucked all the air out of the media space with the fuelled speculation that he was the benefactor of the dreaded Boko Haram terrorist organization and, of course, what have not gotten lost in the shuffle is the much-heated, yet, controversial ‘Muslim-Muslim Ticket’.
But another one that has received insufficient coverage is that there is still parts of Senator Kashim Shettima that are extraordinarily excellent.
In this interview, the former Enugu State Chairman of the All Progressive Congress, Dr. Ben Nwoye, spoke extensively about the credibility and unannounced humane attributes of Senator Shettima.
He told TimeAfrica Managing Director Chidipeters Okorie that the former Borno State Governor’s path to prominence began nearly half a century ago and was aided by a series of fortuitous events as well as his own ambition. He said despite the Boko Haram insurgency, Borno State enjoyed more economic well being, unity in diversity than at any time in its history.
Dr. Nwoye says Senator Shettima has long valorized comity and respect in the political arena, but the country’s deepest cleavages are party affiliations, ethnical and religious divide.
The interview is edited for clarity.
Your Excellency, in our last conversation you made mention of your relationship with Senator Kashim Shettima, the APC Vice Presidential Candidate who is alleged to be the founder/financier of dreaded Boko Haram in Nigeria. And of course, people imagine with what Image is he coming to the fore to contest for public and political party?
There was really no link that was ever made on His Excellency Distinguished Senator Kashim Shettima. His a true Leader. People who make those types of insinuations don’t know Senator Kashim Shettima. In politics, to them, anything goes. They throw mud which have nothing left in their warfare. I know Senator Kashim Shettima, he was a Governor of Borno State. At the height of Boko Haram insurgency he did not discriminate. He gave equal socour to victims, whether you are a Muslim or a Christian.
Boko Haram attacked Christian brothers and sisters and they attacked Muslim brothers and sisters. But the Senator Kashim Shettima that I know when he goes out, he reached out to everyone, both the Christian victims of the Boko Haram insurgence and the Muslim victims. And in dispensing out the assistance he made sure that everybody received. He is a compassionate man. He goes in and takes his time to take inventory. He visits the places of worship where the carnages occurred. He rebuilt churches that were destroyed by Boko Haram, knowing that some of these churches where it localities/villages where it took the worshippers between 10-15 in some cases 20yrs to build. And in few seconds they blow them up. He rebuilt these worship centres and established IDPs camps even way before the Federal Government and outside agents started coming in. He doesn’t go there and ask are you a Muslim or a Christian.
The Southern Borno is made up of Christians. In Maiduguri there is a very large Igbo Christian population and he works with them. He works with Ohaneze Ndi-Igbo When he was a Governor, this man had an Igbo man, a Christian sitting in his Cabinet who was a Senior Special Adviser. He has one who is from Warri as well. The other Igbo guy is from Anambra State. Those are people who had the time to study him. This man is well-traveled well-read. He knows the four corners of this country. He knows not, just the names of the tribes but the culture. He’s not an ordinary northerner that you might think will see all the South-Easterners or Southerners as Igbos, He understands perfectly well the difference between the Igbo, the Effik, Ijaw, Edo and all the other sub-groups. So, when people come to talk about Boko Haram, I say just co-incidence. This man suffered in his office as a result of insurgency. Instead of empathizing with him despite what was going on he was able to put things together and brought help to his people. He is not just the Federal Government going to assist people Borno State and North East in general, he’s instrumental in bringing about international communities, drawing their attention and giving them the base within which they operate and bringing the soccur that they give to those who are victims of insurgency.
So, it is wickedness that would make anyone to look at Senator Kashim Shettima and link him with Boko Haram when himself is a victim of same insurgency. A lot of ideas and things he has helped to put together were being destroyed by the insurgency.
But they said that Boko Haram was his brain-child and of course it was a monster breastfed and nurtured by him and they grown of hand.
Those are falsehood; those are people who never understood the concept behind Boko Haram. They could as well say that he’s also the one that created Al-Qa’ida or ISWAP. They would have also said that he’s the one that created the Bandits in North-West the Unknown Gummen in the South-East or the Kidnappers and Armed Robbers in North-West and South- South
The issue of blaming someone who himself is a victim; victim by all stretch of your own imagination and my put together. If as the Chief Security of the State made up of 21 local governments with vast land, with multi-dimensional tribes and religious groups and he has to go from place to place to ensure that those who were hurt and didn’t die received free medical care; to ensure that those who were displaced were provided with basic sustainable amenities. And he spent majority of his time while in office doing that. Then, was able to put things together to fight back the Boko Haram and push them away from Maiduguri or back into the Sambisa Forest with the help of the Nigerian Military. He brought the idea of recruiting the local hunters and vigilante group which they call now the Civilian JTF which has now been institutionalized.
When I go to Maiduguri, some people were worried saying “Ben why are you there’? where they are killing people.” And I came out during the night; took pictures and videos of myself drive around but if it were a Monday in the South East, you can’t do that and nobody is blaming the Governors or accusing the Governors of the South East of financing Unknown Gunmen. You can’t even go out at night in Warri (South-South) Nobody is blaming Governor Okowa that he is the creator of kidnapping or hostage taking or bunkery going on in the South South. Nobody is blaming him.
But there are wicked people who have no issues to discuss and the focus on things that would prey on people’s emotion. It would interest you to know that this man called Kashim Shettima walked into an electronics store and while he was there, he saw a young man who came to help him. And in talking with the young man he figured that this young man appears to be brilliant and he asked him ‘what was he doing here? And he answered saying “he is a Sales man.” He asked the young man “did you take your WAEC?” and the young man said, Yes, he did. ‘Can I see it?” And he gave his number. When the young man brought the result of his WAEC, Shettima said this young man’s WAEC was better them his own but he just could not go to school because he could not afford it. And this young man is an Igbo man from Anambra State and he gave him a Free Scholarship. He finished his first Degree in a high ranking private institution in Nigeria.
He took this young man out to the UK where he did his ICT Master’s Degree. The young man today is like his adopted son. The young man is a Christian and an lgbo man. And he doesn’t go about telling people this story or bragging about it. This is the person that some wicked individuals would ascribe to be the sponsor of Boko Haram.
When Churches were burnt, he went ground and assisted every church in rebuilding the churches. For a man that have done all these, not on one occasion but very many occasion and people still have the temerity to ascribe to him as a or sponsor of Boko Haram; when you look at other states where you have all these issues of insecurity why don’t we say that those Governors are the ones that put them together? How come it’s just him when himself is affected daily by the impact of the Boko Haram carnage?
But in all that you have said I still insist that people not only in the South East are not comfortable with his Vice Presidential Candidature. Why?
I can understand that. When you talk not from the South you can talk of P.D. Lawal, the former SGF, you can talk about the former speaker and a few others. When you don’t have any good argument to lay out, its easier to go on the emotion. What those people are doing is to explore people’s emotion. If people who are Christians are living Christian lives and those who are Muslims are also living the Muslim lives as prescribed by the Bible for the Christians and Quran for the Muslims we would have had a real great nation; Nigeria would have been better. But we just chose religion for our personal advancement, be it financial advancement or political advancement, even in some cases employment advancement. When we’re not qualified we use religion. When we don’t have money we use religion; When our political basket is empty we use religion.
We were all working for the success of Bola Ahmed Tinubu way before the primaries. We were holding meetings with some other big men. For some reasons it becomes clear now. These are people who are hovering around believing that they would be made Vice Presidential Candidate once Tinubu emerges Presidential Candidate, not on the basis of qualification but on the basis of their religious affiliation Those are the people. They’ve not said why they are more qualified. Let’s religion aside, Senator Kashim Shetima was once a Lecturer, a Senior Lectures; in the US he’s an Associate Professor. He was a Banker who understands the Economy. So let those people bring their credentials let’s throw religion aside. Anyone that knows Kashim Shetima would tell you that he reads a lot. He seeks knowledge for knowledge sake aside for his own personal benefits and that of others he wants to know for knowing sake. This is a man you can’t give any bull crap. because he knows it. And so, when Tinubu saw clearly and as a smart man, he does not just want somebody to pair with the Vice President is a habit away from being a President. It should not be a position chosen on the basis of religion. It should be based on qualification. Religion is co-incidence in many cases. I’m an example of it and also most Nigerians very few Nigerians go through change of their faith; that’s when they leave their faith and join others. Most people remain where they are born into. If you are born into a Christian family you’re a Christian. If you are born into a Muslim family you become a Muslim because that’s how we were raise up.
We are talking about Muslim – Muslim Ticket, where is it written in our constitution? In the entire democracy where is that written? Go to modern day UK who is the Prime Minister of UK? Do you think that the people of United Kingdom care about the faith of their political leader? Of course, no. If we want a Christian and I’m talking about Dogara and Lawal now and their likes; if they think that who needs to fix this country is based on religion, then its not one of them or either of them. We should then look for Pope to pick for us. Not even the CAN people which is a political arm of the PDP. So, if they need a religious leader, either you look for the Bishop of Canterbury for the Anglican or you look for the Pope for the Catholic and some other bigger Religious Fathers out there; but not when it comes to our political faith, it should be done by those who are qualified, who have the experience and the Judicious temperament.
We’re just few days to the Presidential Election in Nigeria. What are your expectations?
You recall that the last time you asked this question and i told you that there’s going to be surprises. And one of those surprises I said was that the turnout people are thinking is going to be high will be low. Because I was measuring from the number of people who have failed to pick up their PVCs. That number still stands. People are not picking their PVCs as we expected. They registered and they don’t care. But then another thing has happened! When I talk to you, nobody knew what would happen when the Emeficle’s Policy come play. Today, it’s a disaster. We’re not only talking about the lack of fuel for car, we’re now talking about “there’s no money. And some people think it’s an APC thing. It’s not an APC It is a leadership issue. Its is a cabal issue. At the end of the day the bulk stops at Mr. President. Mr. President has made his mark but those advising him want him to leave at very low light. When you say few days to election, we also have few days to the last day of Mr. President in office. This is not good for Mr. President. It is a bad thing for Mr. President to leave the stage on low light. All his achievements and legacies is about to be thrown away on one single policy. Whether it’s the cabal or whoever is advising him or Emefiele part of the cabal, whatever reason it is that monetary policy would affect the election. It would affect the ability to fight security; it would affect the ability to secure the people going for the election, it would affect people even going to vote.
People are worried that politicians would bribe people but the security agencies are paid off the table. The same thing with those workers with INEC. We don’t have the infrastructure, the necessary systematic things we’re planning to do. It’s a failure failure failure all the way. And so, for me being who campaigned for and voted twice for President Muhammadu I am disappointed at his government for this policy. Because no one should leave the stage like this; not after all he had done.
Today I’m finding it difficult. I came back to go to the grassroots to talk to them, I’m finding difficult because people around me see me as if “I’m part of the Government. They come to me for an answer. Do you have money? I don’t have money. My relative in the village don’t have money. And this is a self-inflicted injury. Nigerian people do not deserve this type of situation. You talk about election all these things would affect the election. Whether the outcome of the election I don’t know. Because Nigerian people are very smart. They know who is doing this, is Emefiele. Under what Government is Emefiele? Is Buhari’s government. So, I’m calling on Mr. President to reverse this policy. It doesn’t work, it will not work. There is no time for trial and error. We don’t have all it takes for the so called Cashless Policy. Even America does not operate Cashless. If you don’t want all your money in the Bank you can go to the Bank and withdraw all your money. In all other civilized countries there’s no country that would force you to use Cashless. Cashless is another arm or method of payment. It doesn’t mean that you deposit in the Bank and you don’t get your money. What is the Civil Society doing about this? All the Labour Unions? How come they’re not talking about this thing? Some might be thinking they would have advantage that if this thing goes on it would affect APC. It’s not true. It’s not about who it affects. It’s about Nigerian people.
I’m thinking about where are the Civil Right Lawyers? Human Right Lawyer, where are they? Nobody is suing anybody to say that someone put his money in the Bank and can’t get it? Everywhere you go to the ATM people are gathered there for their own money, not free money. The money they worked hard to earn. And in few days from now, you tell them to go and vote. It doesn’t matter who they go to vote for. The issue is must the President leave in this low tone? I think he has done well but have received bad advice, terrible advice and he has approved it and being the president of this country the bulk stops on his table. He need to listen to the cry of those he leads and put something together immediately.
Recently, yourself and few other members of the APC in Enugu State officially endorsed the Governorship candidate of the PDP. Isn’t that anti-party?
It’s not anti-party. We have every Fundamental Constitutional Rights to vote for anyone we want to vote for. You don’t follow anybody to the polling booth to ascertain where they cast their ballot. They vote for the Party of their choice. What we did is a mark of good citizenship and good leadership. Our Partyy, APC Enugu State failed their members by the process of nomination. You can go and check it out with the INEC. The person whose name is on INEC as Deputy Gubernatorial Candidate is one Robert Ngwu. Robert Ngwu hails from Ibagwa Nike community in Enugu East Local Government which also is Enugu East Senatorial District, the same Senatorial District that Uche Nnaji, the APC Gubernatorial Candidate came from. It is not done! When the entire Party leadership sat down, Governorship was Zoned to Enugu East, Deputy zoned to Enugu North. The issue is not just that they did that but going about fraudulently parading one George Ogara as the Deputy Candidate. So, endorsing the person of Peter Mbah is dissociating ourselves nfrom the fraud going on in Enugu State.
But they would have preferred you as a stakeholder in APC Enugu State to have remain silent…
No, it’s not. You would be aiding and abating fraud. Yes I’m a member of APC as a citizen. It is my own civic responsibility to blow the whistle that my party, Enugu State chapter is performing fraud on the people of Enugu State. Barr. George Ogara is not the Deputy Candidate of Enugu APC. Who is the last published name? Is Robert Ngwu. But they’re going about printing billboards and posters with Barr. George Ogara image and name. That is a fraud of highest level which I cannot bear myself. And it behooves me and other leaders to tell the people of Enugu state that this is fraud. The APC Governorship ticket as it is today is performing fraud under the leadership of Ugo Agbala. He’s going about campaigning with a wrong person because they did the wrong thing. If tomorrow he wins Robert Ngwu becomes the Deputy for the first time in Enugu state, people from the same senatorial district would be parading the Governor and the Deputy: How do you explain it? If I just maintain silence as a statesman; eight years chairman of APC; I built strong opposition in Enugu State with honesty, dignity and hardwork; we earn the respect of great leaders; we attracted His Excellency Sullivan Chime, the immediate past Governor; we attracted His Excellency Senator Ken Nnamani, former Senate President; we attracted even the former Governor of old Anambra State, he once joined our party before he left. That’s, His Excellency, Chief Jim Nwobodo, the former Speaker. We decimated PDP; getting for a day like this only for an outsider to come in and took over, made a mess of everything we built. Instead of building on the good foundation we laid, he destroyed the foundation with fraud. So, when you say anti-party, what we’re doing is consistent with our Constitutional Provisions of doing right to all manners of people without fear or favour at all times.