Shettima’s Love For Borno Christians: Nothing To Fear About A Tinubu and Shettima’s Presidency

By Christopher Godwin Akaba

Recently, at a political rendezvous with some of my Niger-Delta brothers and sisters who are die-hard APC members, in Maiduguri, I adumbrated on the Muslim-Muslim option by the ruling APC. That was exactly a week before Senator Kashim Shettima was unveiled as running mate to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

As a political scientist, I perspicuously explained to them that the fundamental reason behind the APC flying a Muslim-Muslim ticket is purely for electoral victory; no buts about it. Under the current circumstances, it is only politically expedient that the APC fields a Muslim VP so that it will not lose substantial votes from the North and probably lose the entire presidency. This is APC’s heebie-jeebies and the reason for a Muslim VP. It is important that Nigerians are not beguiled into believing it is a religious problem. This is because if we fall for such shenanigans, we would be losing sight of the big picture.

Take for instance, in the just concluded governorship election in Osun State, the PDP flew a Christian-Christian ticket and still won as against the APC that presented a Muslim-Christian ticket, in a Muslim majority state. What happened in Osun goes to show that election is beyond religion. You could see that Tinubu has been vindicated in his choices of Kashim Shettima as his running mate.

For the politically obscurantist, let’s ponder on these facts: When we visit the hospital, no one cares if the doctor that attended to us is a Muslim or a Christian, right? When we go to the market or supermarket to buy things no one cares if the seller/owner is a Muslim or a Christian, right? When we go to the restaurant to buy that appetizing meal to satiate our hunger no one also cares if the owner or the cook that prepared the scrumptious meal are Muslims or Christians, right? In fact, no one even cares whether a Muslim or Christian farmer harvested the beans, onions, plantain, palm kernel oil, etc, that we consume nationwide.

Importantly too, when we fly on the plane, no one cares if the pilot and his co-pilot are Muslims or Christians. We feel relaxed on board the plane because no one thinks the Muslim or Christian pilots will crash the plane since they were carrying passengers from different faith. So, why all the brouhaha and fears of a same faith ticket? It is about time we put aside religious sentiment and learn to accommodate and embrace each other. The albatross of religious sentiment is that it affects the unity and development of the country. That should not be our primary focus as we march towards the 2023 general elections.

What’s even the fear about a Tinubu Presidency when, his wife of over four decade is a Pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God? Why the fear of an Islamization of Nigeria when Tinubu himself has not islamised his home? Why the fear about Islamization when Kashim Shettima while as Governor of Borno State did not convert all his Christian appointees to practice his faith?

As a Niger-Delta Christian that has worked under Kashim Shettima while he was Governor of Borno State for eight years, he neither converted me or any Christian cabinet member that I know into Islam. Kashim Shettima has also appointed an Igbo Christian from Anambra State as his special adviser; a Yoruba Christian from Kwara State, an Edo Christian and an Igala Christian from Kogi state as his assistants, yet he didn’t convert them into Islam. Four of us have been reappointed by Shettima’s successor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum and we are still practicing our Christian faiths.

Like the current Borno State CAN Chairman, Bishop Mohammed Naga, said in a well publicised news report in 2017 about Shettima, “in the history of Borno State, there is no governor who has been fair to the Christian community in this State as much as Governor Kashim Shettima.”

I can also beat my chest that his successor Prof. Babagana Zulum has also continued to support the Christian community in Borno State. It behoves on me to say therefore that both Governor Zulum and Kashim Shettima are God-sent to the Christians of Borno State.

Shettima, while as Governor, ensued that there was religious harmony between adherents of different faiths in the state through fairness. He has sponsored over 2,000 Christians to Jerusalem, in Israel, to perform the annual Christian pilgrimage. He has provided transportation for the Igbos and other non-indigenes resident in Borno to travel to the East and South to celebrate Christmas. I am also a living witness on how Kashim Shettima was going round all busy motor parks in Maiduguri to beg people of different ethnicities and faith not to leave Borno state at the peak of the Boko Haram insurgency.

Shettima also introduced the yearly Christmas and Easter welfare packages given to pastors and the Christian community in Borno to celebrate these important festivities. He also reached out yearly to the Christian widows throughout his tenure. This legacy is currently being sustained by Gov. Zulum.

Importantly too, Shettima has also supported my Niger-Delta brothers and sisters in the state. On some few occasions that we lost some of our sons and daughters to natural death, Shettima had assisted in shouldering the burial expenses by giving money to the deceased family to convey their corpses to the South.

He has given both the Christians and Muslims the opportunity to run a collective programme on State owned television and radio, as attested to by the Borno CAN Chairman. Borno CAN had worked with the Jama’atul Nasril Islam to sensitize people on peaceful coexistence. The foundation for the mutual trust that existed between the two religious bodies today was laid down by Kashim Shettima. I was once called upon by Shettima to lead a Christian prayer at a gathering where we were only few in the midst of many Muslims.

When Boko Haram destroyed Churches and Mosques between 2011 to 2019, Governor Shettima undertook an one-the-spot assessment of some local governments where Churches were destroyed and as the time he left office, he has rebuilt the churches. Anyone in doubt can work into the Maiduguri CAN office to find out the names and number of churches rebuilt by Shettima.

Can people that want to Islamise Nigeria build churches for Christians? Tinubu, it was, who laid the foundation that currently accommodates the citing of over 10,000 Churches and Mosques in Lagos today.

Consequently, the choice of Kashim Shettima as VP candidate to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, both Muslims, is not based on religion or any Islamization agenda but on political permutation that he will bring the required vote to the table.

Christopher Godwin Akaba is Senior Special Assistant on Jobs Creation and Youth Empowerment to Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State and writes from Maiduguri.

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