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Buhari does not have magic wand as people think, says Shettima



Senator Kassim Shettima, representing Borno Central and a former governor of the state, spoke recently on insecurity and the recent attack in Auno. He called for elite consensus to solve Nigeria’s challenges. John Akubo was there.

Over the killing of 30 passengers in Auno, you said you could play to the gallery, that you could pour venom on Buhari, but you said that would solve the problem. What will solve the problem?


We are living in an interesting time and the worst curse that the Chinese may wish you is for you to live in an interesting time. It is my honest opinion that just like the Chinese battling with Coronavirus, they are able to form an elite consensus. Their focus is on addressing their core challenges. I believe that times like this also demands statesmanship, for maturity, for sobriety, for discipline, for circumspection and even for contriteness on the part of us as leaders. I can play to the gallery as I said earlier, but will that be a solution to the challenges confronting us as a people, as a nation? It is for us to unite irrespective of differences in political affiliation, religious persuasion, tribal or sectional background and see to it that the challenges facing us as a nation, as a people are frontally addressed and they are not beyond. This has been my position.

Currently, we are holding a meeting of the ad hoc committee on the national security architecture. We can make our contributions, as we believe very soon, the country will achieve a sigh of relief. But I believe quite frankly that grandstanding, playing to the gallery, pouring venom on the presidency would not solve the problem and, by and large, the proverb that says the truth that sets men free is most often the truth that men do not want to hear. We cannot just demonize Buhari. He did his best and we had respite between 2015 to 2017 before we are having this recent relapse. So how to find solution to our challenges is more important than demonising anybody. We shouldn’t suffer from memory amnesia.


For us from the Northeast, frankly speaking, Buhari has done more than enough for the Northeast. The Chief of Army Staff is not from Delta, neither is he from Igbo land; he is from Borno. The national security adviser is from Borno; the Chief of Air staff is from Bauchi – all from the Northeast. Buhari was instrumental to the creation of the Northeast Development Commission. Now, we have a plethora of Bills of people agitating for their own commissions as well. It was under his tutelage that a billion barrels of crude oil was discovered in Bauchi. We have to give it to him, placing our people in strategic positions to find a solution to our common challenges. If we are going to apportion blame, we need to be very fair to this old man. As I said, discretion is the better part of valour. Sometimes, silence is golden. This is why I shy away from talking, but I feel compelled to speak to you as a group. Not that I cannot communicate. Sometimes, certain things should be left unsaid. 

Your district booed the president recently, because of the worsening insecurity situation. what is your reaction?
What transpired in Maiduguri recently was very unfortunate. Mind you, Buhari has done exceedingly well for the people of Borno and the Northeast as whole. Yes, we have challenges but no matter how long the night is it must give way to the light of the dawn. Stormy as the weather might well be but it would not rain forever. Certainly, we have been through the crises and we are going to bounce back as a people. The people of Borno love Buhari. Maybe their expectations were over-exaggerated; people thought he has a magic wand but he doesn’t have one. I believe it is a temporary hiccup. The people of Borno, the people of the Northeast still passionately love Buhari. Without the cooperation of the people of Borno, the Civilian JTF couldn’t have come into being. The people and the Government of Borno are fully behind the President; they are fully in support of our security establishment, who has lost lives while serving the country. 


Buhari also blamed Borno leaders, that if they were not cooperating with the Boko Haram insurgents, the war would have been over by now. What did he mean?
I don’t want to join issues with that remark. Probably, it did not come from an authorised source; so, I doubt much if the president blamed the people of Borno or Borno elite. He may have made a general statement on the need for people to allow themselves the aspiration for restoring peace in the Northeast but I doubt much if the president blamed the people of Borno. I heard him pouring encomiums on my leader, on my boss the Governor of Borno State, who is adjudged to be the best performing governor in West Africa, I think you know that.

The chief of army staff said recently that they know those supporting the insurgents, and yet failed to mention them. Do you not think you and those leaders are playing politics with the lives of Nigerians?
It is the media that is playing sensational politics with the lives of Nigerians because what you referred to was mischievous fake news attributed to the chief of army staff and I dare anybody to come forward with the evidence showing anybody and as a federal administration, those people would be put on trial. Others were put on trial in the past; some were adjudged guilty, some were freed. So the onus is on you to verify what was attributed to the chief of army staff, what was declared false by the army spokesperson, but be that as it may, the fighting insurgency is a collective responsibility of all of us. It is a complex, composite and interwoven challenge for all of us. It is not something that can be solved through military options. We have to adopt a holistic approach encompassing the military, social, economic and political.


Trust me, beneath the mayhem of Boko Baram, underneath the cynicism lies the real cause, which is poverty. In the Lake Chad region, there is an incestuous relationship between the economy, ecology, climate change, and the most frightening aspect, apart from the decimation; the shrinking of Lake Chad from 25,000 to less than 2,000 square km. we have challenges of population growth. By 2050 Nigeria would be the third most populous country on earth surpassing the United States. There will be 420 million Nigerians by 2050. I might not be around; I am already 56 but you are going to be around. The most frightening aspect of these statistics is that by 2050, 70 per cent of Nigerians will live in the North, with desertification, deforestation, endemic poverty, and pervasive illiteracy. It is a recipe for disaster unless we wear our thinking caps as leaders unless we coalesce as a single force and come out with robust platforms to transform the anticipated demographic dividends or it will be the demographic disaster that will consume all of us.

This is why I want to appeal to you: let us work as a team; let us work as a family because the Nigeria we have now if it is to implode, where do we go? Down is the Atlantic Ocean; up is Niger. The population of Niger is less than that of Kano State. We are going to eat up the entire food reserves of Niger within a week or two.


On our western side are the tiny countries of Togo, Benin, and Ghana. Can they contain us? On our eastern side are Cameroon and the Central African Republic; they are all contending with their own problems. So, we have to make this country work because the trajectory of global growth in Africa. The Eastern economies are maturing and Nigeria will make or mar that transition. One out of every four black men is a Nigerian. Along the streets of London, if you see an African walking with confidence, with the swagger and not giving way to a white man, you don’t need a soothsayer to tell you that bloody nigga is a Nigerian. We are very proud very astute, the most progressive. The most upwardly mobile immigrant community in the United States are Nigerians.

So, we have to make this country work. The future for the black man, I dare to say, rests not with the hard-drinking South Africans; no. The hope for the black man rests not with the obsequious Kenyans; no. The hope for the black man rests with the Igbo people of South Eastern Nigeria, who are described by Ali Mazrui as the Nigerian Jews, geographically mobile, economically enterprising and educationally ambitious. The hope for the black man rests with the Yoruba of the South West, who are the most educated and the richest of the black race. The hope for the black man rests with the most hated and demonised Hausa. Wherever you go in this country, if have not seen an Igbo man and a Hausa man, that town and village is an incomplete village. Very enterprising people; I’m not a Hausa man, mind you; I am a bloody Kanuri man. So, let us work as a team, as a family to solve our challenges and most of these challenges are not insurmountable. They are not beyond us. Believe me, is it armed banditry, Boko Baram, herdsmen-farmers’ clashes, ethnoreligious here and there? They are solvable; we can solve them; we can fix this country collectively as a family. We missed the agricultural age. Africa missed the industrial age. We are now in the knowledge-driven post-industrial age. Why people are talking of Nanotechnology, of artificial intelligence or big data, we are talking of Amotekun, we are talking of restructuring. We should be much more serious and I think a lot is expected of us.


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