Curious succession politics that produced Zulum
At the end of my article titled, ‘Zulum as a spring of hope’ here on January 12, 2020, (https://guardian.ng/opinion/governor-zulum-as-a-spring-of-hope/
I asked you to “wait for the beauty of the succession strategy Zulum’s predecessor organised. I see hope”. Here is the full story of how the former Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima managed a complex internal democracy (primary), which produced a significant man to succeed him. It is a great lesson for the godfathers who wish for a good governance but work out bad successors. The story is as told in a speech by Senator Shettima on September 30, 2018.
‘Why I endorsed Prof. Zulum out of 21 aspirants to succeed me….’
…In the politics of Borno State, at least since 1999, we have had and maintained a tradition in which major stakeholders of a ruling party, expect from an outgoing Governor, a sense of political direction in the choice of a successor. Some people may see this tradition as a form of dictatorship but to many others, politicians with varied experiences, such an honor provides the critical step needed by our party in its transition processes.
In the last couple of days, I have come under intense pressure from many stakeholders insisting that I should anoint a successor. In all discussions, I have maintained one divine statement, which is, only Allah gives power to whom he pleases and at the time He pleases. I, Kashim Shettima am but human, a first amongst equals. I do not and cannot give power. I can only make recommendation based on my own human but informed analysis. Even at that, my recommendation cannot foreclose the fundamental right of any legitimate aspirant to contest the primary election.
We cannot pretend not to be aware that an otherwise leader in our party, the APC, has deliberately created an unnecessary division within its membership in the state. This has led, to borrow from the satirical wisdom of Distinguished Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, the existence of what is akin to a match between “home based players” in the majority and with local support and a minority “foreign based players”.
Four months ago, when we received some fleeing leaders back into the APC fold, I had thought that those who choose to work against the majority have learned lessons. I had expected us to once again, fuse into one indivisible family so that together, we could give our party a direction and confront our opponents as a united force. How wrong I was! Perhaps, I ignored the common saying, that a leopard does not change its spots.
As we all know, we have 21 cleared governorship aspirants, if I am right. I will like to first, place on record, my deepest respect for all aspirants, including those who have joined forces to fight the majority. Some people have tried to make mockery of the sheer number of Borno’s governorship aspirants.
To me, the high number only goes to show the enthusiasm, passion and determination of many citizens who want to contribute in the post conflict repositioning of Borno. All our 21 aspirants, I believe, are only eager to build on our modest efforts in order to take Borno to the next level. I salute all of them and I dare say, that all our aspirants have immense qualities which make everyone of them eminently qualified to be the Governor of Borno State especially in ordinary times. However, as we know, Borno is not in ordinary times and regardless, there can only be one Governor at a time.
I would like to say that the task of recommending one aspirant to our stakeholders has more than anything else, tested me. I have faced the test of choosing between my personal interest, my friendships, and my political associations, all on one side and on the other, my conscience and the future of Borno State.
Borno state has seen the darkest side of history. The type we cannot wish for worst enemies. Parents, brothers and sisters, have witnessed first hand, the public and brutal execution of their loved ones. We have lost thousands of persons. Nearly two million persons were displaced. Majority ran for their lives, trekking for miles before arriving different safe destinations.
Today, Borno still has citizens displaced in all parts of Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
Thousands of children have been turned into orphans after the gruesome murder of their parents, and similarly thousands of women have become widows of the conflict. Wealthy merchants in hundreds of communities have been transformed overnight from prosperity to penury. Landlords have been turned into hapless tenants, and even among the homeless. Prosperous and economically viable communities were turned to graves and war zones.
Borno has witnessed a long period of gloom and doom. Our peculiar experiences in Borno State have to my mind, made the task of choosing a potential Governor a difficult one. It was a task, which required and forced me to set aside personal interest and consider the greater interest of our dear state. Borno is greater than Kashim Shettima and Borno is greater than any one of us.
As Governor from 2011 to date, I can say without any iota of doubt that handling the affairs of Borno State is as complex as steering the affairs of some big countries. The challenges before Borno are more than whatever anyone might imagine. Making the choice of my potential successor was beyond my thinking alone. Such a choice required a combination of very deep thoughts and wisdom.
I therefore had to undertake very extensive consultations. I consulted to extents never reached in the recent political history of Borno State. I have met virtually all the critical segments that make up our dear State. I have held closed-door meetings and had frank and open discussions with our royal fathers and elders. I have visited homes and met with past and serving leaders, party stakeholders and professionals of various fields.
I even went as far as employing the services of agents unknown to each other, which I sent to communities across our 27 local government areas to feel the pulses of our citizens. In all my consultations, I created one-on-one atmosphere to get undiluted opinions. I held one on one meeting with public office holders across different levels of Borno. I made sure I was getting the honest opinions of everyone. I was able to collate views as comprehensive as humanly possible. I looked at these views as objectively as possible.
“Of our 21 aspirants, if I were to support and hand pick what some people might call any of my closest boys as successor; I most certainly would go for Barrister Kaka Shehu Lawan or Adamu Lawan Zaufanjimba. If, on the other hand, public service is the only consideration, none of the aspirants can be more qualified than our elder statesman, Ambassador Baba Ahmed Jidda. If loyalty to political association is my main consideration, Distinguished Senator Abubakar Kyari has proved unalloyed loyalty to political association with me.
If years of sincere and mutual friendship are my main consideration, Distinguished Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai and Alhaji Mai Sheriff are my closest friends amongst all our aspirants. If the consideration is about humility and ability to carry people along, His Excellency Shettima Yuguda Dibal is legendary. I have relationship and so much respect for majority of the aspirants, the likes of Hon. Umara Kumalia, Makinta, name them. In fact, two of the aspirants, Mustapha Fannarambe and Umar Alkali are my relatives. All aspirants have divergent qualities.
However, because of the situation we found ourselves, considerations for the next Governor of Borno State requires specific quips tailored to our needs for now. From the generality of feedbacks, there is no doubt that what will define political debates in Borno’s 2019 Governorship election will be promises in the aftermath of brutal conflict, deaths and destructions of communities.
Everywhere in the world, post conflict rehabilitation, restoration, reconciliation & resettlement are complex, composite & interwoven. With humility and absolute respect for all aspirants, I will like to say, that from overwhelming opinions and feedbacks, the aspirant with an edge in understanding the Peace-Development Nexus of Borno’s post conflict future is Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, mni. As Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement since September 2015, Professor Zulum has been in the thick of our recovery and restoration efforts. He has proved to understand the dynamics. He has established enormous amount of contact in the post conflict development sector and has earned the confidence of local and international stakeholders. Borno needs such confidence in the task of completing our ongoing social and economic recovery, rebuilding of communities and livelihoods.
For our peculiar situation, Professor Zulum has shown the potentials to take Borno State to the next level. His age is also an advantage. At 48, Professor Zulum is in his prime, he is head & shoulders above me in terms of intellect, capacity & indefatigability. Zulum is without the slightest doubt, a workhorse!
Professor Zulum’s story in the struggles of life will connect with electorates. Professor Zulum fought his way from grass to grace. From a humble beginning, he hawked firewood to finance his education. Through unusual courage and determination, he is today a Professor of Irrigation Engineering and member of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies.
My recommendation of Professor Zulum does not, should not and will not stop any aspirant from contesting in the primaries. It is easy to market Professor Zulum before delegates. If we succeed, Insha’Allah, we shall go round Borno State, to remind electorates from Gwoza to Chibok, Bama to Damasak, Konduga to Kaga and all over Borno State. We shall tell electorates to look around their neighborhoods and see how Professor Zulum was able to rebuild their communities—from thousands of homes, hundreds of schools to healthcare centres and restored their livelihoods at the risk of being attacked by Boko Haram.
I will remind my fellow APC stakeholders and supporters that the contest before us is one that would require us to be together. No matter our differences, we must recognize that we stand to loose individually and as a group, when we sabotage our efforts. We must set aside our individual interests and preferences for the future of Borno and the benefit of our traumatized citizens.
I will like to express my continued and most profound appreciation to the honour done to me in giving me the task of making consultations on behalf of our great party. I believe I have to the best of my ability, justified the trust you have shown in me. No one would expect a Professor to become a stooge of any Governor. Professor Zulum has always been one with his independent mindset.
Fortunately, his mindset has proved to be highly progressive and productive. His records as rector of Ramat Polytechnic in Maiduguri have stood him out as much as what he so much achieved in our ongoing reconstruction and Resettlement of internally displaced persons and refugees affected by the Boko Haram crisis. In choosing Professor, I know, that I will be remembered for placing Borno above my personal interest.
I will forever remain grateful for the overwhelming support and honour I have enjoyed in serving the good people of Borno State. Allah Ya ba mu nasara!’.