Shema: Birthday tribute for a selfless leader
By Olawale Oluwabusola
I call him my ‘oga’ but he refers to me as his brother or friend. This demonstrates Barrister Ibrahim Shehu Shema, the former Governor of Katsina State’s humility and simplicity towards others. Every September 22 is the date of birth of this exemplary personality whose footprint remains indelible on the sand of time. For writing this tribute, my oga, please, pardon me for not informing you, simply because you will not approve of it, but I have to.
At home, Shema is a darling of every member of the family. He pays attention to every detail that affects each member of his household. All the members of his family call him ‘Baba’, and, despite his professional and political schedules, Shema always creates time to attend to each member of his family.
He is an accomplished International Corporate and Aviation lawyer, with over 20 years in practice before venturing into political office. He is also a successful businessman as he served as Managing Director of conglomerates of companies, including Tools Manufacturing Ltd, Lagos.
I can also testify that Shema is a listening leader, most especially once he discovers that you are passionate about good governance and the welfare of the public.
Shema’s voyage into public office started in 1999 when he was appointed by the then Governor of Katsina State, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua as the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, between 1999 – 2003. In 2003, when Yar’Adua was re-elected as Governor of the State, Shema was being considered to be re-appointed as the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice or Secretary to the State Government, but Shema begged to allow him to go back to his thriving private practice as a lawyer and businessman, the request which was reluctantly agreed to by Yar’adua.
However, in 2005 when there was a crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which led to the mass resignation of all the members of the National Working Committee, to pave way for the caretaker Committee before the party’s National Convention, Ibrahim Shehu Shema was selected to replace Alhaji Iro Safana from Katsina, as PDP Deputy National Chairman (North). He served in that capacity till 2007 when he became Katsina State PDP gubernatorial candidate and was subsequently elected as a Governor.
Shema completed all the projects inherited from his predecessor, including the Katsina township Olympic size stadium with 35,000 sitting capacity
Shema, before he was elected Governor in 2007, served as chairman of the Peoples Democratic Institute; chairman of the National Disciplinary Committee of PDP, and also chairman, Nigeria Airspace Management Agency.
I have known His Excellency, Shehu Shema for over 20 years, out of which I have worked closely with him for about 15 years. Throughout his eight years as governor and despite not being a political appointee, I never had cause to lobby any of his aides to see him. He always obliged anytime I put a call through to him or sent an SMS of my intention to come and see him. I can also testify that Shema is a listening leader, most especially once he discovers that you are passionate about good governance and the welfare of the public.
He is a rare breed politician, diligent, highly intelligent, and well cultured. He is one of the very few de-tribalized Nigeria politicians. As governor of Katsina State, through prudent management of resources, Shema completed all the projects inherited from his predecessor, including the Katsina township Olympic size stadium with 35,000 sitting capacity, which his administration named ‘Kannada’ stadium, but now renamed Muhammad Dikko stadium by APC government.
His administration established ICT and Business Institute (now renamed Katsina State Institute of Technology and Management by APC government); built over 200 new secondary schools; 34 girl-child primary schools across the state; built over 100 ALLO Model schools to support Almanjiri education with a total population of over 17,000 students as at 2015 (with free-feeding, uniform, handcraft training and stipends to the teachers); payment of TSS salary scheme for teachers in primary and secondary schools; implementation and payment of minimum wage and payment of workers salary between 22nd and 24th of every month throughout the Shema administration.
He is a refined politician and history will definitely be kind to him one day, irrespective of current experience.
Similarly, his administration provided free education in primary and secondary schools, including payment of WAEC and NECO and other examination fees, for all students, including non-indigenes going to public schools; sponsorship of over 800 students to study abroad in critical fields like Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Dentistry, Computer Engineering, etc. He established Youths Craft Village to train youths in various skills like computer networking, programming, film making and photography, auto mechanic and auto electronic, shoemaking, etc.
The highlight of his achievements in the health sector includes the establishment of 250 bed Orthopaedic and Specialist hospital; 361 clinics in 361 political wards in the state; 86 primary health centers; provision of free medicare to women and children, dialysis patients, malaria patients, accident victims, etc; introduced rural ambulance service scheme in 34 local governments of the state.
In terms of infrastructure, the Shema administration built over 3000km roads across the state, built over 3500 houses in the state capital, and in each of the 34 local governments in the state, and Karfe District Abuja; built a new ultra-modern Government House named ‘ Alumma House ” now renamed Muhammed Buhari House by APC government; he built new Governor’s Lodge in Abuja, Katsina City Mall, Dubai International Market and 34 Model Markets in all the local governments of the state.
All these projects are a tip of the numerous people-oriented projects executed by the Shema administration. Despite these laudable achievements, his administration did not obtain any loan either local or foreign to finance any project, and still left over N14 billion in the coffers of the state government and local governments as of 29th May 2015.
In the build-up to the 2015 general election, when General Muhammadu Buhari, who also hails from Katsina State, was standing in the election as the APC presidential candidate against the then President Goodluck Jonathan, the presidential candidate of PDP, it was like running against the turbulent wind for any notable leader of PDP in most of northern Nigeria, a development that led to the defection of five PDP governors to APC to avert the wave of political tsunami ravaging the region then.
The scenario was more turbulent in Katsina State where anyone who identified with PDP was seen as an outcast. There was strong advice and appeal from various quarters that Shema should defect to APC and assume automatic leader of the party in the state, as was done in all the states where PDP Governors defected to APC, but he declined. To be candid, this advice and appeal would have been personally beneficial greatly to Shema politically and also avert future hostility from APC leadership. Though he averred that his respect for Muhammadu Buhari was not in doubt, more so he was brought up to always accord respect to all his leaders, he said politics should not be practiced based on personal benefit but based on ideology, principle, and public interest. It is worthy of note that Shema is still paying the price for sticking to this principle to date.
In the face of persecution, abuse, insult, and harassment, Shema has resisted the temptation to abuse or insult anyone. He is a refined politician and history will definitely be kind to him one day, irrespective of current experience.
Spokesperson of former Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema