Shettima, Zulum: Pleasant Shock From The Northeast
Even with the Boko Haram insurgents activities that have rendered many hopeless and homeless, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State has remained focused on delivering education as a dividend of democracy to his people.
In fact, in February, when Boko Haram insurgents attacked his convoy, he refused to show any sign of weakness, which obviously would have emboldened the insurgent. He will soon go, after eight years in the saddle.
But to carry on with the task of providing quality education in that troubled Northeast state, he has head-hunted Professor Babagana Umara Zulum. Zulum’s destiny has become uniquely entwined in life’s struggles, and in five years, he has grown far richer in value than anyone else in the Northeast. From May 29, the 49-year-old academic’s life would have come full circle, as he assumes office as the Governor of Borno State.
From his peasant, humble beginning to an academic and now a governor-elect, it can never be under-estimated as a will of God. His fortune has grown at warp speed. With the advantage of support by incumbent Governor Kashim Shettima, and sharp divisions in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which produced governorship candidates in parallel primaries, the Professor of Irrigation Engineering from the University of Maiduguri was a sure electoral success in the 2019 Governorship election in Borno State.
In 2015, Zulum was appointed pioneer Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement by Shettima. Despite being in control of billions of naira for the reconstruction of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals, he neither bought a personal house nor a personal car for himself. He also came under attack from Boko Haram twice but didn’t stop in his efforts to rebuild substantial parts of Borno.
It is also interesting to note that, as a don, Zulum had more than enough family challenges that he couldn’t even afford to build a personal house and lived in rented apartments with his families even when he was appointed Rector, Ramat Polytechnic Maiduguri and subsequently, Commissioner of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RRR), one of the newly created State Ministries by Governor Kashim Shettima in his second tenure in office.
“Governor Shettima told me in September 2015 that he was trusting me with so much funds for the rebuilding of hundreds of communities destroyed by Boko Haram, and he was worried about the displacement of more than two million people of the state. That appointment was one major challenge, and I took it up ready to die doing it or trying. Yes, at some point, there was the issue of safety since insurgents can spring surprises, but we had the overwhelming support of the military and the police in particular, as well as other security agencies, and volunteers. The rebuilding was something that needed to be done. As the governor said, we couldn’t wait forever. I’m happy that he succeeded in his determination to rebuild many communities, particularly places like Bama. Today, the government has resettled victims in most of the LGAs, including Bama, Kaga, Dikwa, Gwoza, Askira Uba and others.”
The ministry rebuilt more than 10,000 houses in Bama, schools and hospitals in that local government area and most others. The ministry is still working, “I am sure in few months the governor will complete the rebuilding, and this is major history for the administration and the people of Borno,” Zulum said.
Early in life, Zulum had to join his father in tilling the ground at a tender age in Loskuri village, Mafa Council of Borno State. “Every day, I trekked for seven kilometres to reach my father’s farm from our home,” he recalled. He combined farming with his primary and school in Mafa and Monguno from 1975 to 1980 and 1980 to 85, respectively.”
When Zulum was in class five in a secondary school in Monguno, he began to fully cater to his education. “I became a commercial driver of taxis, particularly Peugeot 404. At some point, I also drove buses carrying passengers to different villages and neighbouring states. At a later time, I drove commercial pickup trucks carrying firewood from forests. While working as a commercial driver, I learned how to fix any vehicle I drove,” he said.
In 1986, Zulum gained admission into Ramat Polytechnic in Maiduguri, owned by the state government, to study for a National Diploma in Irrigation Engineering, and lived with relatives off-campus in Kofa Biyu, a densely populated area.
“I trekked for eight kilometres from Kofa Biyu to Ramat Polytechnic and back whenever I had lectures. But I was already used to long walk all my life, as I couldn’t afford transport to school. Whenever I drove taxis and returned the vehicles to owners, I used what I got for my basic school needs. I later also became a commercial operator of grinding machine, and I owned one in Mafa, and during weekends I went there to serve customers,” he added.
Then, from 1990 to 1994, he studied at the University of Maiduguri, where he obtained a degree in Agriculture Engineering, after which he served as a youth corps member with Katsina State Polytechnic. He proceeded to the University of Ibadan from 1997 to 1998, where he obtained a Master’s degree in Agriculture Engineering. In 2005, he enrolled for a PhD in Soil and Water Engineering with the University of Maiduguri, which he completed in 2009.
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