The emergence of Senator Kashim Shettima as the running mate to the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential flag bearer, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, has continued to generate reactions from all corners of Nigeria. Most worrisome is the puerile attempt by some ill-intentioned social media influencers to link the former governor of Borno State to Boko Haram terrorism.
What could have influenced the attempt to link Shettima with Boko Haram?
While the paid and unpaid agents behind this vile propaganda have not provided any evidence to link the senator to terrorism, it is nevertheless necessary to examine some facts from the obvious fallacies of the opposition and separate the wheat from the chaff.
For instance, while traveling to Gamboru Ngala for a rally ahead of the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections, Shettima’s convoy was attacked by members of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and three of his loyalists were killed and many others sustained various degrees of injuries.
Characteristically, ISWAP claimed responsibility for the attack the following day. The then Special Adviser on Communications and Strategy, Malam Isa Gusau, confirmed the identities of the deceased which included a brave soldier and two staunch politicians.
According to Gusau, the attack was principally aimed to attract global media attention in order to sustain the terrorists’ agenda of instilling fear in citizens and reducing the morale of the gallant troops.
The leader of the Boko Haram terrorists, Abubakar Shekau, who was later killed in alleged suicide-bombing had threatened Shettima and top government officials in a 56-minute video where he ordered his members and foot-soldiers to kill them wherever and whenever they find them. Could Shettima have had a link with Boko Haram and yet would be the number one on their hit list?
It was not surprising that Shettima and Babagana Zulum were mentioned in the video, because both personalities have consistently spoken against the evil of Boko Haram and worked assiduously with security agents and other stakeholders to decimate them. They have also been supporting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to recover from the damage the terrorists have done in their lives, and to also relocate them to their respective, original communities.
It should also be noted that Shettima didn’t just stop at appealing to the federal government to intensify efforts aimed at eradicating terrorism, he committed enormous resources in supporting the military with security equipment and dozens of vehicles to ease mobility during operations.
Is that a governor that has a link with Boko Haram terrorists?
Shettima adequately funded the Volunteer Vigilante Youth Groups popularly known as Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in 2013, who were later trained in counter-terrorism operations, to strengthen the fight against Boko Haram terrorists. He also provided adequate welfare and logistic support to over 20,000 CJTFs to strengthen the fight against Boko Haram elements. The motivation enhanced the crucial role of CJTF in intelligence gathering, easy identification, and arrest of suspected insurgents among others. Could Shettima have had a link with Boko Haram fighters and yet fund their tormentors?
Before the expiration of Shettima’s tenure as governor of Borno State, he was relentlessly calling for the deployment of military personnel and equipment to curb the threat of the terrorist group in the Northeast. In fact, considering the cost of the war on terror, Shettima was among the few personalities who persuaded state governors of the necessity of approving the sum of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account for the counter-insurgency campaigns. He also defended the federal government’s plan to ensure the judicious utilization of the fund for the intended purpose.
Could Shettima have had a connection with terrorists, yet support counter-terrorism financing?
When Boko Haram terrorists destroyed churches in Borno, Shettima, not only provided funds for the reconstruction of the places of worship but also ensured adequate security protection of the places. In his testimony to this, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Borno Chapter, Bishop Mohammed Naga, said: “During Shettima’s visit to these areas, he released N100 million for the rebuilding of some of these churches.
A committee was set up for that purpose, I was a member of the committee headed by a permanent secretary, Mr. Justus Zare, as chairman, and I am happy to inform you that presently we have used that money to rebuild 11 key churches which our people are now using. I am surprised to hear some people saying why don’t we rebuild all the churches. We cannot do that because there are many places that are still unsafe.”
Would Shettima be praised by church leaders if he had a link with Boko Haram fighters?
Shettima is neither an ethnocentric leader nor a religious bigot. He is a charismatic personality who believes in equity, justice, and fairness. From his engagements and pronouncements, he has been a consistent advocate of peaceful and harmonious relationships among different tribes and religions.
It is therefore unfair and unreasonable to link him with Boko Haram terrorism when he, in reality, has been their number one enemy and a prime target for years.
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