At the recently concluded signing ceremony hosted by the National Peace Committee for presidential hopefuls and political parties, Senator Kashim Shettima exuded camaraderie and high spirits as he exchanged pleasantries with a cross-section of participants including Bishop Isaac Idahosa, whom he referred to as his brother, as well as Prof. Rufa’i Ahmed Alkali. Shettima is an embodiment of what you would call an Oan-Nigerian, drawing friends from all the different geopolitical areas of the country. Having worked in Calabar, Cross River State in the South-South, and obtained a Master of Science from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, in the South West, and then pursued over a decade and a half of banking career, mainly in Lagos Shettima is a Northerner by birth and a Nigerian by nature, experience and service to the nation. This explains why she easily associates with everyone she associates with, whether they are Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba. He is friendly and jovial to the native Fulani, as well as cordial and amusing to the Igbo parts dealer. He is the consummate politician of his and an ambassador to all.
Shettima was chosen by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as their vice-presidential candidate, mainly to deal with the fact that the main opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, had chosen Atiku. Abubakar as its standard-bearer, who is a colossal politician of northern extraction. She has been in the political arena since the MKO days, just like Asiwaju, and has built a very vibrant and dynamic presidential ambition. In what has become Nigerian politics, not too far removed from what it has been since time immemorial, voting is highly polarized along tribal and religious sentiments. The North has a massive voting population that doesn’t stop showing up and turning up on polling day.
To a large extent, it tilts the election in favor of whichever party or candidate you decide to vote for. This must have been the main reason why the PDP chose 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, to secure electoral victory in next month’s presidential election. The northern oligarchy is inclined to think that the power should not leave the north yet and may buy the Atiku project. This is where Shettima comes in.
Kashim Shettima has been brilliant in traversing the north far and wide, seeking the blessings of northern political leaders, monarchs, religious leaders, business magnates and political giants, who are enormously influential in influencing the pattern of northern voting, that is certainly the joker in the upcoming election. Shettima represents the North on the Asiwaju/Shettima project, and is assiduously bidding for why he was Asiwaju’s number one choice for Vice President. He is warming to any doubts among northern leaders as to why it is a prudent decision to leave power, for reasons of national interest and equity. He has worked well participating in Asiwaju’s very demanding and literally impressive campaign schedules, with all the town hall meetings and summits; and at the same time carry out an equally demanding and separate itinerary of networking with very important decision makers in northern politics.
Shettima was in Sokoto where he paid tribute to the Sultan of Sokoto and Northern Islamic leader, His Royal Highness Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar CFR. He was also in Kebbi state, where he paid homage to the Emir of Yauri, His Royal Highness Dr. Muhammad Zayyanu Abdullahi, at his palace. He recently was in Jigawa State, where he visited the Emir of Hadejia and Chairman of the Council of Heads of State, His Royal Highness Dr. Adamu Abubakar Maje, in Hadejia Jigawa State. He went to Bauchi, was there a day before the Bauchi rally, and spent a lot of time parleying with Bauchi’s business stakeholders, party bosses, and other political leaders. He did the same with the religious scholars in Kano, before the Kano campaign event.
He is rapidly running a second slide of campaigning activities in the north, which complements 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 and above the prudence of his joint candidacy with Asiwaju. He is effectively cajoling them and cementing their confidence in buying the project.
It is pertinent to note that the Asiwaju project is not a tribal or religious effort in which certain regions or religions will benefit, to the detriment of other national stakeholders. It’s a nationalist effort Nigeria needs right now, and it’s about to beg for it. It has an association of tried and trusted administrators who have the most wonderful records of their time as CEOs in their respective domains. The magic of Asiwaju IGR in Lagos is what the federal government desperately needs. So are the massive and transformative infrastructure developments that Lagos has witnessed and continues to benefit from; using a well-developed plan that has had tunnel vision for decades. The city of Eko Atlantic and the city’s light rail are fantastic milestones in Asiwaju’s development progress.
Meanwhile, Shettima’s calm in the midst of the most thunderous storm is what Arewa needs to reposition itself and recover from a terrorist invasion that is rapidly depleting its agricultural and natural resources. If you visited Maiduguri today, you would call the stories of terrorism that once rocked the state capital folk tales. I think it is in Nigeria’s interest to see the Asiwaju Lagos project spread throughout the federation, to get Nigeria back on its feet in 21st century racing.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi.