What is today Boko Haram started sometime in the build-up to the 2003 general elections as an assemblage of a small clan of political thugs? Desperate Nigerian politicians and power grabbers imported the clan of banditti into Borno State from the Niger Republic; armed and unleashed them on the people for partisan reasons.

The main assignment handed down to Boko Haram members by their political patrons or mentors was to violently eliminate and assassinate tenacious political rivals. Boko Haram performed the hatched job creditably by assisting their paymasters to win elections by all crooked means.

On election day, Boko Haram political thugs led the squad of ballot box snatchers and perpetrated all the electoral malfeasances in favor of sponsors. By 2011, Boko Haram became deeply entrenched in Borno, upgraded in status, and morphed from mere armed political thugs to armed insurgents; freely expanded its antennae to other states of the Northeast on the same agenda.

Some Nigerian politicians have the penchant to quickly embrace evil insofar as it brings personal benefits. So, Boko Haram gained unimaginable popularity and patronage from some political elites, especially in Borno. Those seeking political offices mooned them as worthy buddies.

Former two-tenured governor of Borno State and now a serving senator representing Borno Central, Alhaji Kashim Shettima plotted a major political dive for the plum position of Borno governor to succeed Senator Ali Modu Sherrif in 2011. Senator Shettima served in the state cabinet of Senator Sherrif for years and in five different ministries.

Shettima served the administration under which Boko Haram was birthed, nourished, and flowered. It is mild to say Shettima had a good bond with the insurgents in the state. But the people of Borno, particularly delegates in the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, which governed Borno at that time, rejected the choice of Shettima to fly the party’s flag for the 2011 guber ballot.

Therefore, ANPP party delegates handed over the ticket to a popular, focused, and visionary leader, Engr. Modu Fannami Gubio. It was a loud statement from the ANPP to severe ties with any politician who had links with the Sherrif government which conspicuously courted and patronized Boko Haram.

Eccentrically, Shettima refused to accept his defeat silently and Gubio’s choice in good faith. He instigated crisis, created deep divisions and fractions in the party.

Gubio did not live long enough to run for the governorship polls in April 2011. He was assassinated! The unfortunate incident happened at a time Boko Haram gained notoriety as hired mercenaries to eliminate political opponents. So, the assassination of Gubio was dramatic. Gubio had left his father’s house in Maiduguri city after the Friday Jamaat prayers but was buttonholed by excited supporters who gathered outside the gate.

Gubio started addressing them and sooner, the unexpected happened. Gunmen on two motorcycles approached the scene and instantly opened fire into the crowd in the direction where Gubio stood. He was instantly felled by the assassins’ bullets; gruesomely murdered by gunmen on motorbikes believed to be Boko Haram mercenaries.

BBC correspondent, Bilkisu Babangida in Maiduguri succinctly reported that “…politicians and the police believe this killing was politically motivated. Borno’s police boss at that time, Mohammed Jinjiri Abubakar also endorsed this view; “Obviously it’s a political assassination.”

An African adage says “if an owl howls dreadfully in the night over a roof and a child dies the next morning; need not search far for the harbinger of the bad news.” Gubio was brutally and prematurely sent to his grave by suspected political adversaries.

But who was the strongest rival stoutly against Gubio as ANPP’s guber flag-bearer? It was Kashim Shettima. Who inherited the guber ticket? It was the same Shettima. Is it plausibly deducible by circumstantial inferences that Shettima probably sponsored the assassination of the genuine owner of the ANPP governorship candidate in Borno State to inherit his ticket and become the governor of Borno?

Shettima with an overtly active backing of Boko Haram won the guber polls both in 2011 and 2015 and today he is in the Senate. That’s the new normal in Nigeria today. The worse performing state governors retire or transit to the national parliament after the expiration of their infamous tenures.

But another African proverb says “the axe forgets what the tree remembers.” The people of Borno have not forgotten the destructions, ruinations, and retardations of the state under the leadership of Shettima.

When Shettima governed the state and under a complacent president of Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgency festered in Borno to its acme. The atrocities and horrendous crimes by Boko Haram insurgents stunned the world. Shettima did nothing or very little to take the primary responsibility of protecting lives and property of the people of Borno.

Rather, he used the Boko Haram scourge to further his political nests to the detriment of his people. Apparently, Boko Haram brought Senator Shettima to the limelight and in the consummation of political niceties. He has benefited from the Boko Haram insurgency immensely more than any other politician in Borno.

When the tempo and momentum of Boko Haram atrocities accentuated dangerously and became too loud, it diverted the attention of everyone from the stewardship and accountability obligations of Shettima. All concentration of good-spirited Nigerians within and outside Borno was how to extricate the people from the torments, pains, agonies, and gores inflicted on them by Boko Haram terrorists.

It was much fun and excitement for Shettima as Borno governor. Albeit a democratic leader, Shettima governed the state on the template of a sole administrator. He administered all funds accruing to Borno from FAAC for the local government councils based on his dubious discretion.

For the eight years of his leadership, Shettima never contemplated to conduct any council elections, not even in the dreamy world of fantasy. He handpicked political surrogates and cronies, appointed them overseers of the 27 councils in the state, and allegedly shared council funds with the “chairmen” in Maiduguri. He was autocratic and his directives on finances of the state were held sacrosanct.

Shettima allegedly had an unbeatable appetite for diversion of public funds. Borno netted such much funds from FAAC and other statutory interventions. A financial firm, ‘Dataphyte’ Analytics released a report in March 2019, explaining how states of the federation shared the sum of N25.03 trillion from FAAC between 2007 and 2018.

Borno ranked “…among the top 10 beneficiaries from the FAAC allocation.” It netted N601.66 billion within the period of the analysis. Shettima was Borno governor for the greater number of years captured by the report. It means he netted funds above N300 billion for the state from 2011 to 2018.

But the same Shettima never constructed a single primary school outside Maiduguri throughout his tenure. He cleverly used the veil of Boko Haram as a cover against probity. Meanwhile, the federal government and international organizations took over almost the entire financial burden of the Boko Haram insurgency in Borno, but Shettima could not deliver on capital projects from the billions earned from allocations.

Shettima knows he has disappointed himself and the people of Borno gravely in leadership. He was unwittingly speaking to a troubled conscience at a public lecture organized by a Coalition of Youths Groups in Birnin Kebbi, with the innocuous confessional statement that his successor, Babagana Zulum is “better than me in all ramifications.”

He is haunted by the guilt of failing to bring any seed of development to his people, but generously sowed the fruits of Boko Haram insurgency, with its multiple splinter sects now. He has no moral probity to voice out today in faults of others over resurgent Boko Haram terrorism. To the people of Borno, an African idiom again cautions: “When there is an enemy within, the enemies outside can’t hurt you.”

Jibrin wrote from Federal University Kashere


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