Senator Kashim Shettima, at the recently concluded signing ceremony organised by the National Peace Committee, for presidential aspirants and political parties, brimmed with camaraderie and was in fine spirit, as he exchanged pleasantries with a cross-section of participants like Bishop Isaac Idahosa whom he referred to as his brother, as well as Prof. Rufa’i Ahmed Alkali. Shettima is an embodiment of whom you would refer to as a oan-Nigerian, drawing friends from all across the different geo-political zones of the country. Having served at Calabar, Cross River state in the South-south, and obtaining an MSc from the University of Ibadan, Oyo state, of South-west, and then putting in over a decade and a half of a banking career, mostly in Lagos state, Shettima is a northerner by birth, and a Nigerian in nature, experience and service to nationhood. This explains why he associates with ease, everyone he relates with, whether they are Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba. He is friendly and jovial with the native Fulani man, just as he is cordial and humorous with the Igbo spare parts dealer. He is your consummate politician and an ambassador for all.
Shettima was picked by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as their vice-presidential candidate, primarily, to contend with the fact that the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had picked Atiku Abubakar as its flagbearer, who is a colossal politician of northern extraction. He has been in the political terrain since the MKO days, just like Asiwaju, and has built a very vibrant and dynamic presidential ambition. From what has become of Nigerian politics, wandering not too far from what it has been from time immemorial, voting is hugely polarised along tribal and religious sentiments. The North has a massive voting population which does not fail to show up and deliver on voting day.
It largely sways elections in favour of whichever party or candidate it decides to vote in. This must have been the core reason PDP picked a northern candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to appeal to the millions of committed voters in the North, who come out religiously. This is the PDP’s number one game plan, and the most formidable trick up its sleeve, in securing electoral victory in next month’s presidential elections. The northern oligarchy is inclined to think that power shouldn’t leave the North just yet, and may buy into the Atiku project. This is where Shettima comes in.
Kashim Shettima has been brilliant in traversing the length and breadth of the North, seeking the blessings of Nlnorthern political leaders, monarchs, religious leaders, business moguls, and political juggernauts, who are massively influential in swaying the northern voting pattern, that is surely the joker in the forthcoming elections. Shettima represents the North in the Asiwaju/Shettima project, and is assiduously living up to the bidding, of why he was Asiwaju’s number one choice for VP. He is warming up to any second thoughts that there may be among northern leaders, as to why it is a prudent decision to let go of power, for reasons of national interest and equity. He has laboured well in partaking in the very demanding and literally breathtaking campaign schedules of Asiwaju, with all the townhall meetings and summits; and at the same time run an equally tasking and separate itinerary of networking with very important decision makers of northern politics.
Shettima was in Sokoto, where he payed homage to the Sultan of Sokoto, and Islamic leader of the North, His Royal Highness Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar CFR. He was also in Kebbi state, where he payed homage to the Emir of Yauri His Royal Highness Dr. Muhammad Zayyanu Abdullahi, at his palace. He was lately in Jigawa state, where he visited the Emir of Hadejia and Chairman of the State’s Council of Chiefs, His Royal Highness Dr. Adamu Abubakar Maje, in Hadejia Jigawa state. He proceeded to Bauchi, was there a day before the Bauchi rally and spent a lot of time parleying with Bauchi Business Stakeholders, party chieftains and other political leaders. He did the same with religious scholars in Kano, before the Kano campaign event.
He is promptly running a second slide of campaign activities in the North, complementing the efforts of the Asiwaju Presidential Campaign Council, and the Independent Campaign Council. He is sharing reason, knowledge and wisdom with northern political heavyweights, over the prudence of their joint ticket with Asiwaju. He is effectively cajoling them and consolidating their confidence in buying into the project.
It is pertinent to note that the Asiwaju project is not a tribal or religious endeavour where certain regions or religions are to benefit, to the detriment of other national stakeholders. It is a nationalistic endeavour that Nigeria needs right now, and is just shy of begging for it. It has a partnership of tested and trusted administrators who have the most marvelous records from their time as chief executives in their respective domains. The Asiwaju IGR magic in Lagos is what the federal government is in desperate need of. So are the massive and transformational infrastructural developments that Lagos has witnessed, and continues to benefit from; utilising a well developed blueprint that has had tunnel vision for decades. The Eko Atlantic city and the city light rail are fantastic milestones of the Asiwaju developmental strides.
Meanwhile, Shettima’s calm in the most thunderous storm is what Arewa needs, to reposition itself, and reclaim it from a terroristic encroachment, that is fast depleting its agricultural, and other natural resources. If you visit Maiduguri today, you’d call the tales of terrorism that once rocked the state capital as folktales. It is my belief that it is in Nigeria’s interest to have the Asiwaju Lagos project spread across the federation, to get Nigeria back to its feet in the races of the 21st century.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi.