Shettima: Profile in Loyalty, From Accidental Politician to Political Maestro

Habu Kale Tijjani Yajiwa /posted January 24, 2023

The subject of this week for my column (Yajiwa’s Column), would not have come at the perfect time. A person who is moving out of the regional political arena, but fast conquering the national stage with grandeur.

Sometimes back between 2009 and 2010, when most of us were newbies to the social media platform (Facebook), I got a message through its message from a person I never expected.

The message reads: “My brother, I believe you are one of those who use this medium (Facebook) to positively contribute to development stuff. Please, let’s work together for the development and betterment of our dear state, Borno and people at large.”

Sincerely, I just ignored even to answer back, but quite sure I accepted the friend request. Unknown to me it was coming from one of those people that would later become amongst the most important and patriotic, great leaders, not only in Borno, but Nigeria at large.

A few weeks later, I was watching a TV programme on the Nigerian television authority, NTA, the Maiduguri zonal headquarters. A political programme, which invited governorship candidates to discuss their manifestoes in front of a specially selected audience and anchored by screen queen, Jummai Adaji – The Platform.

I was so captivated by this orator, and couldn’t do anything but listen, listen and listen to the factual, carefully selected words and convincing answers. As he drove home his point to a conclusion, Adaji, in concluding remarks said: That is Kashim Shettima, the gubernatorial candidate under the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. And the rest that followed is history.

The Financial guru – Jim Ovia’s Boy

Although Shettima is an agricultural economist, who started as a lecturer, went ahead and became one of the most celebrated bankers, ever produced in Nigeria and Africa, I can say.

He had been appointed Commissioner in various ministries in Borno State, but the most striking office that brought Shettima, was when he was the Commissioner of Finance. Shettima so diligently and shrewdly transformed the financial services of the state to another level.

Shettima quickly rose from the ranks and became the regional manager of one of the biggest banks in the industry. Shrewd as he is, Shettima never brags about his talent but gives credit to who identified, trained and guided him to grow – Jim Ovia.

Many successful individuals, in most cases, choose to emphasize on their talents rather than their mentors. This alone always builds on his credit as someone who never forgets the past, but always stays loyal and appreciates it.

Taking from the horse’s mouth, “In Jim Ovia’s words, the sole barometer for assessing people is their level of competence and input. In the history of Zenith Bank, I dare say, apart from Legendary Adaora Umeoji, no one grew faster than my humble self, Kashim Shettima said this at NBA Conference, 2022, in Lagos.

Senator Kashim Shettima always described himself as an accidental politician, because for someone who from an Agricultural Economics, university lecturer turned banker, to have found himself in politics is quite agreeable.

When Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was rounding off his second term as governor of Borno State, and fishing out for a successor, many giants and political personalities were listed to fill that position. I could remember when the rumours that emerged Shettima was one of the candidates, he quickly called for a press conference and declared that he was not in any way interested or nursing an ambition to be the next governor of Borno State.

As the saying that says, ‘you can never run away from your destiny, many candidates at that time considered anyone mentioning their names to that position as their enemy, forget about accepting the nomination, because at that time, the insurgency was at its peak. But for patriotism, selflessness and fearlessness, Shettima had to accept the nomination.

To this day, for any given politician in Borno State, when you ask who is Shettima in politics, the ultimate answer is, an accidental politician, who came into politics as a noble, quickly learned, mastered and single-handedly revolutionized the polity with books within a space of less than a decade. The political Maestro!


For a leader to be identified as fair, detribalized and inclusive, his entourage and circle have to be well diverse and drawn from all parts of the society.

Kashim Shettima always answers that without any deep digging, the appointments of master strategist, Malam Isa Gusau from Zamfara, Chief Kesta Ugualolili, an Igbo man from Enugu State, Christopher Godwin Akaba, an Urhobo man from Niger Delta, Chief Lanreh John Obadiah, Jack Vincent Fidelis, among others, as Special Adviser, Senior Special Assistant and special assistants during both his first and second tenures as the governor of Borno State could clearly explain that.

I always give references on occasions that involved my humble self. when I was elected as the Coordinator of Borno Social Media Frontiers (BSF), a social media-based organization that projects the image and happenings of the state, I lead my executive members and board of trustees on courtesy and ‘thank you’ visit for support to our organization.

As we all introduced ourselves one after the other, he kept scribbling in his diary. I was thinking his mind was not with us. But to my utmost surprise, when the last man introduced himself, Shettima’s first response startled me.

He said and I quote: “My dear Coordinator Habu Yajiwa, why is it that there is no single Christian among your executives and very few from southern Borno extractions, as for gender it is woefully poor.

“If you want me to take you guys seriously and convince me you are for Borno, then go back and give another slot to those from southern Borno, females as well as significant representation for Christians. Because I am the governor of the whole of Borno State, not for some parts.” Such are a few of his detribalized nature.

Book worm

Books, reading and training build man’s capacity. As my very humble and good mentor Malam Isa Gusau would always say, “always read, get involved in learning new skills, train and retrain, that would always make you a step ahead among your contemporaries.”

Kashim Shettima’s prowess in reading is one of his greatest strengths that he can always be counted on. If with all their busy schedules, since his time as the regional manager of one of the prestigious banks in Nigeria – Zenith Bank, Governor of Borno, and a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he would have time to read and comprehend any book at his disposal, what can we give as an answer, we, the younger generation, for not reading?

The un-ending flowery quotations, citations and references Shettima always gives during his enigmatic and captivating speeches show his love for books and reading.

Most times, you see his audience appalled, having different thoughts in their minds either how sharp this man is or did he study in this country or abroad. There was a time a man asked me during an occasion when Shettima was the guest speaker, “Is Shettima reading from an invisible board only visible to him, or a hidden spirit reading it to him silently?”

Industrial hub and mega schools

Borno had never had it in terms of an unprecedented number of industries since the tenure of the late governor of Borno State, Late Alhaji Mohammed Goni. The coming up of the Borno industrial hub, immediately projected Borno’s position in the list of those states with a high number of industries.

From the solar power equipment production plant to drip irrigation equipment, and refurbished Borno plastic industries – Boplas, among others.

Fast decision maker, Talent hunter, Zulum’s relationship without interference

One of the most striking resemblances between Kashim Shettima and the Jagaban of Borgu, the Presidential Candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is their unique ability, to identify and create exceptional and qualitative leaders.

Just take a look at the emergence of the exceptional history maker, the governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum. Kashim Shettima once said, that he has identified hundreds of Zulums in Borno State, the obvious credit is not identifying them, but the ability to give them the opportunity and level playground to emerge without interference.

More than 20 gubernatorial candidates emerged, when Shettima completed his eight years tenure as the number one citizen in Borno State.

Human nature is as it is, many believed that Shettima was going to choose his successor from his closest allies as it is the norm in Africa. Among them were his cousin’s brothers, childhood friends and very close trustees. None of the candidates was far from what would be described as his closest associates.

But to the astonishment of all, Shettima did not fall to sentiments, ‘cover my back fear syndrome’ or let not my successor overshadow my mantra, but stood firm to go with the best man for the job as the result of the surveys, analyses and consultations revealed.

To God be the glory, Zulum went ahead and vindicated Shettima not only in the state but nationally and globally, with an avalanche of structural development, human capital development as well as restoring peace, building resilience and restoration of beliefs, values and discipline in a post decade long war torn Borno State.

I can put this on record without fear of any contradictions that since the advent democratic set-up in Nigeria, no former leader had it better in terms of good mutual understanding, synergy and non-interference with his successor than Kashim Shettima and Professor Babagana Umara Zulum.

To this date, Shettima respects, treats and follows Zulum as his leader, as enshrined in the constitution of the APC’s constitution – that in any state, the sitting governor is the leader of the party. Shettima never shies away from addressing Zulum as ‘My Boss’ be it in public or private, and to make it even more beautiful, Zulum also always treats Shettima as his Boss and Leader.

A situation that always makes one think that they are staging it, yet the compassion, truthfulness, humility and loyalty that take over whenever you see them together overcome any imaginable human comprehension. May we also always be loyal to our masters.

Kanuri – Fulani tradition

The long tradition of friendship, love, joke and relationship between the Kanuri and Fulani people, could never be better explained without sitting back and studying Kashim Shettima’s relationship with the Fulanis.

Yes! As a Kanuri myself, I’m always proud to joke, mingle and parade myself as the King of the Fulanis.

I believe that children born in the late 90’s and early 2000’s almost missed the knowledge of life-long tradition. Shettima reinvented the level of relationship between the two, which was almost on its way to extinction.

Fulanis are known for their versatility and blending into any society. They are so resilient and never sit back, but always take any job that can provide for their needs that is free from any misdeeds.

They also are very fond of taking jobs as guard men. During the construction of most of the mega schools, industrial hub, hospitals and other structures, Shettima always inspects the projects physically himself and most times you would see him seated eating ‘suya’, drinking locally brewed tea or even eating bread with a group of Fulani people who man the projects.

Shettima would always make sure to give them time to pose for a picture with them; in some instances he would even go to the length of having a little wrestling just to give them a sense of belonging. For a person occupying the seat of executive Governor, it is quite unprecedented.

I’m sure that, in the next coming decades, the hundreds and thousands of Mbororo and other Fulani clans that Shettima enrolled on schools, giving them complete free uniforms, reading materials, feeding and transport would write Shettima’s name in the history book with golden ink, beautiful encomiums and grateful tributes.

Writing on Kashim Shettima will continue without end if I will keep on bringing in his qualities upon qualities, but to give my readers a breathing space, I have to conclude. Yes, but not without mentioning the sense of loyalty and payback from a Boss-master-prodigy perspective.

One of the wildest imaginations of a follower or subordinate in any given situation is the fear that the moment the Boss gets what is needed from the subordinates, he discards him, once he is dead, he would be forgotten and immediately talk about his family. A phenomenon that makes most people scramble and earn no matter what. Be it in a dirty way or compromising trust.

Loyalty begets loyalty

But, in the case of Shettima, I would always say a different dimension is a case. Shettima never lets any family of his subordinates, or loyalists go. He is always with them. He always makes sure that not only the periodic food and non-food items upkeep he shoulders, but scholarship and Sallah gifts are always at their doorsteps.

Just take an example from how he has been taking care of the family of a late elder colleague, who had worked tirelessly with utmost loyalty to Shettima – the late Musa Ali, Yamuna KSM, as we fondly called him. No truly loyal person working for or believing in Shettima will hesitate to go to any length to work and believe in him.

If you would be thinking that Ya Musa KSM had been a long-serving loyalist of Shettima, what of Late Babagana Bura Ashaka? Someone even much younger than my humble self, who died last year, his family is now included amongst the beneficiaries’ list and already enjoying.

The last time I could remember, a list I saw from my colleague and friend, El Lawan Mustapha alone had about 387 families shortlisted. Some late person’s family names and others are old and tired. And I am more than a 100 percent sure that his list is not the only one, there are many in the hands of the likes of Yusuf Usman Shettima, Mustapha Kurokawa and many unknown persons.

These are tips of the ice-bag, from the characters and personality of the man, Kashim Shettima, a man who Nigerians will be expecting to be their next number two, the Vice President to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Note: The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

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