BY OLAWALE OLUWABUSOLA
Sometimes early this year in the company of a friend, I was introduced to Segun Oni, the former governor of Ekiti, who was then contesting for the state gubernatorial seat on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), at his residence in Ifaki-Ekiti. On getting to know Ibrahim Shehu Shema, former governor of Katsina state, is my oga (boss), Oni received me warmly and made the following remarks in the presence of the people that gathered, “Shema is a refined politician, a special breed, an honest, perfect gentleman; his types are very rare in Nigeria political space “.
That is a testimony from a man who left the main opposition party (PDP), a party where Shema is a strong pillar, out of frustration and disappointment with the local politics of the state. I was not surprised about Oni’s remark because that has been a popular remark about this illustrious son of Dutsin-ma in Katsina state, anywhere I mention his name most especially outside the northern part of Nigeria.
On September 22, Shema will clock 65. As a former governor of a state with a low source of income, Shema through prudent management of resources without obtaining loans from either local or foreign sources provided free education for all students in primary and secondary schools, paid WAEC, NECO and NABTEB fees for students in public schools including non-indigenes, provided school buses to convey students to their various schools in the state, increased scholarship allowances of Katsina state students in tertiary institutions and ensured the implementation of minimum wage and prompt payment of workers salary between 22nd and 24th of every month throughout his eight years as governor of the state.
Shema administration did not only sponsor over 800 Katsina state students to study abroad in critical areas like medicine, pharmacy, nursing, dentistry, computer engineering etc, he established Youths Craft Village where more than 4,000 youths were trained annually in various skills like auto-mechanic and auto-electronic, computer networking, programming, film making and photography, shoe making, paint and chalk making etc. Also, he provided free medicare to women and children, dialysis and malaria patients, accident victims etc; increased the salary of health workers; rehabilitated all major general hospitals in the state and supplied new equipment and introduced a rural ambulance service scheme in 34 local governments of the state.
Despite being the most vilified former governor by the APC-led administration as a result of the intimidating record of his achievements in office, loyalty and commitment to his political party, Shema still remains a rising star in the northern part of Nigeria. He promoted the educational advancement of Katsina state through the establishment of ICT and Business Institute (now renamed Katsina State Institute of Technology and Management), 34 girl child primary schools across the state, and over 100 ALLO model schools to support Almanjiri education with a total population of over 17,000 students as of 2015 (with free feeding, uniform, handcraft training and stipends to teachers), built Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, established over 200 new secondary schools. He facilitated the establishment of the Federal University of Dutsin-ma with huge financial support.
If Nigeria is a country where things work efficiently without political colouration, bickering and rancour, Shema should be a classical case study of service delivery of good governance in an atmosphere of scarce resources.
For instance, without any loan facility, it remains a misery how as a governor, he built 35,000 sitting capacity Kankada stadium (now renamed Muhammadu Dikko stadium by the APC government); a new ultra-modern government house (Alumma House, now renamed Muhammadu Buhari House by APC government; built over 3,500 houses in the capital of Katsina, and in each of the 34 local governments in the state and Karfe district Abuja; built over 3000km of roads; dualised the township roads of Malumfashi, Kankia, Mani, Dutsin-ma, Daura, Funtua/ Sokoto road bye-pass; built ring road around the capital of Katsina; built Katsina City Mall, Dubai International market and 34 model
markets in all the local governments of the state; provided 3000 boreholes across the state; built over 100 semi-urban water schemes; expanded Katsina State International Airport; procured and distributed 340 Messi Ferguson tractors at a discounted price to farmers; established Katsina Songhai agricultural projects in three senatorial districts of the state; provided fertiliser for farmers at the cost of less than N1,800 throughout his eight years tenure etc.
Surprisingly, despite all these laudable projects recorded by his administration, Shema’s administration was not owing civil servants or contractors as of 29, May 2015. He did not borrow money to implement any project, did not indebt the state and also left over N14 billion in the coffers of the state government and local governments as of 29, May 2015. It is instructive to note that Shema has declined a series of pressure to contest any elective position since he left office as a governor. He was appointed as Katsina state attorney-general and commissioner for justice between 1999-2003.
In 2003 after the re-election of the then Governor Umaru Musa Yar’adua, Shema was considered to be re-appointed as the commissioner for justice or secretary to the state government, but he declined and pleaded with his leader, late Yar’adua to allow him to return to his thriving private law practice, although he was beckoned to become the state governor in 2007 after a stint as deputy national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party between 2005 – 2007.
Although Shema has suffered political intimidation and harassment from the ruling APC government in addition to a series of betrayals he experienced from his political family all in an attempt to wipe out his towering legacies, the legacies of the legends will always speak even after their exit from the world. It will be in the overall interest of Katsina state and Nigeria for critical stakeholders to encourage and support the likes of Shema to remain an active participant in the political space, as it appears my oga is gradually losing interest.
Happy birthday my oga, the apostle of good governance, honesty and integrity. Shema studied law and graduated from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1983 at age of 26 and was called to the bar in 1984 at the age of 27. His foray into business was a success while he served as managing director of conglomerates such as Solidarity Holding Limited, Tools Manufacturing Ltd, Lagos. He was once a dealer for Crown Flour Mill, WAMCO Nig Plc (manufacturer of Peak milk), WEMPCO Company (manufacturer of building materials) etc.
He built his first house in Kaduna in 1987 at the age of 30 through hard work and discipline, and by 1997, he already built four blocks of flats in the Wuse area of Abuja among other assets. In the legal profession, Shema is a success. He formed a law firm known as Shema Oscar Blonwu & Co in Lagos, and later when his partner relocated to the eastern part of Nigeria due to the demise of the partner’s father, Shema established Shema Ibrahim & Co with a concentration on International Aviation and Corporate law representing numerous international companies
Oluwabusola is Shema’s spokesperson.