Borno state’s governor, Kashim Shettima, reportedly broke down during a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, Monday, in the council chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. In attendance were National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno; Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; acting Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar; and Director General of Department of State Services, Yussuf Bitchi.
Leading a high ranking delegation from Borno, Shettima said he had come to Abuja with “a set of observations and specific requests” drawn from the outcome of an extraordinary security meeting a week ago in Maiduguri. Recent reverses in the counter-insurgency campaign apparently got the better of the governor’s emotions. His tears led to journalists being asked to leave the chamber. Before then, Shettima told the President people of Borno have not lost hope in his ability to win the war and restore peace to the state. “Between 2013 and 2014 we witnessed the most daring and most vicious evil of the Boko Haram, losing 20 local government areas”, he said.
“However, we (have) rushed here because of the recent upsurge in the activities of the demented monster called Boko Haram, especially in northern Borno senatorial district. We are here because since 2015, Mr. President, you were able to restore our hope. Sir, you have demonstrated empathy for Borno and an overriding commitment to ending Boko Haram. This is why we rushed here on witnessing some setbacks.
“We are here because we thought that Allah will use you to fully reclaim Borno’s traditional glory of being the home of peace. We are here as a people who worked, prayed and waited for your Presidency in the firm and under the belief that with you as the Commander In Chief, Boko Haram will become history in Borno. Mr. President, we have not, and Insha Allah, we will not lose hope in you because we witnessed and survived worse moments before you came. We do not feel hopeless. Our hopes are very much alive and they are very high”. He said, however, “We came with some observations and 10 requests for urgent presidential intervention. These observations and requests are products of discussions in the aftermath of our extra-ordinary security meeting held one week ago”. He did not mention them in the presence of journalists, pleading for their understanding. “I will seek the understanding of the journalists by not making public our observations and 10 requests. They are matters of security which we hope to discuss with Mr. President in a closed door (meeting).”
We understand Shettima’s uncomfortable situation, seeing the enemy is on the rebound. However, there are reasons why he must not lose heart. Firstly, he is the leader of the state and he must be seen to be so if not for anything but his people do not faint. In him, we see a gratifying contrast to Zamfara’s Yari’s despair, leading to an open declaration to abdicate his position as governor in the face of killings by armed bandits. Shettima’s never-say-die spirit has impressed the President who remarked that “I’ve an idea how much you are doing and I very much appreciate it. I’m sure that has earned you more respect from the people.” Secondly, Buhari has shown that Shettima’s faith in him is not misplaced. He gave this commitment during the Monday meeting: “Having been a former governor in the North-east, a GOC in the region and very familiar with the terrain, I assure you that as Commander in Chief, I’ll raise the standard of the Nigerian armed forces and get the resources to encourage them to do better than what they are doing”. Recall that recently, Buhari told his service chiefs that the the war on Boko Haram is “a must-win”. There is no reason to doubt that he will walk his talk. So, Shettima, don’t despair.