How Kashim Shettima Stood By Borno Christians In Their Times of Pain

By Kwapchi-Bata Hamman

The Boko Haram Insurgency which has left many deaths and massive destruction for over  a decade (13 years) now started in July 2009 when the sect launched an attack on Maiduguri. 

The group responsible for attacks within Maiduguri later expanded its activities to Local Government Areas. At some point, the sect took over control of 20 out of the 27 local government areas of Borno state.

During their occupation of these areas, the terrorists inflicted so much pain on people leading to loss of lives, sources of livelihood as well as the destruction of property. schools, health care facilities, and public and private buildings were destroyed by the insurgents. 

Places of worship were also not left out in the mass destruction. 

In 2015, the Nigerian Government and the security forces after a tough battle recovered the territories hitherto occupied by Boko Haram. It was at this point that Governor Kashim Shettima, who inherited the crisis, started rebuilding efforts to return Borno to its former glory. 

Individuals were compensated, and private houses were rebuilt as well as government properties. During the rehabilitation, reconstruction and rebuilding process, Governor Kashim Shettima, undertook a tour of Southern Borno and discovered that about 90 per cent of places of worship were destroyed. The most hit was that of the Christain faith.

A church destroyed by Boko Haram but rebuilt by Senator Kashim Shettima

He found most churches either completely razed down or partially burnt. Worshippers were subjected to conducting church service under makeshift tents or open spaces. While in Lassa, having gone around most of the areas affected, the Governor immediately created a committee consisting of CAN leadership, community leaders, Clergy, Engineers, experts and critical stakeholders to undertake the rebuilding of the Churches. 

Over two billion naira (N2,000,000,000.00) was expended on the rebuilding and reconstruction of over 50 churches cutting across the 9 Local Government Areas of Borno State. Some of the churches rebuilt are EYN Lassa No 1, COCIN Lassa, Bible School Chapel Lassa, EYN  Dille, Redeemed Christian Church of God Husara, EYN No 1 Husara, Catholic Church Mufa Uba, EYN Mufa  Uba, Catholic Church Askira, EYN Church Rumirgo, EYN Church Yobe Chibok, Good News Church Life Chibok, EYN Kwada  Chibok, Nasara Baptist kautikari, EYN Church Banzar Chibok, Holiness Church Kwapul Chibok, EYN Kwapul Chibok, EYN Shaffa No 2 Hawul, EYN Church Perla birni  Hawul, EYN Mallam Jakwa Hawul, ECWA Church Shaffa Hawul, EYN Tasha Alade Hawul, EYN  Church Kibutu Hawul, EYN Church Sangare, COCIN Gadamayo, COCIN Low Cost, Anglican Church, ECWA Church, Deeper Life Church, St Francis Catholic Church, EYN Limannkara, COCIN church Pulka, and  St Paul Catholic Church pulka. 

Shettima did not embark on this reconstruction of churches because he wanted to score a cheap political goal. He did it because of the humanity in his heart. He dared all the perception consequences to do the needful and the right thing.  

Another church that was destroyed by Boko Haram but rebuilt by Senator Kashim Shettima

As my principal, His Excellency has always reminded us and everyone that cared to listen that in Borno state no one is a lesser citizen. That everyone is equal irrespective of our religious and ethnic backgrounds. 

During the Christmas and Easter celebrations, Governor Kashim Shettima did not only send out felicitations to the Christian community, but he also ensured gifts of all kinds are delivered to the majority of the Christian communities around Borno state. 

His appointment of Christians to key positions in his government including those from outside the state was legendary. I have worked closely with many Christian brothers from the southwest, south-south and southeast Nigeria either as advisers, Senior Special assistants and Special assistants. 

Senator Shettima’s popular saying is that “the Christians in Borno are our brothers and we have no options to work and live together;/We cannot barbecue them and or throw them into Lake Chad simply because we don’t share the same faith.”

When Senator Shettima was rebuilding churches and empowering Christians during his time as Governor, he never had the thought of becoming a running mate to any presidential candidate.  He did what he did simply because his humanity and love for fellow citizens, irrespective of his or her background, has been an inherent grain of his character. 

Today, destiny has dropped yet another responsibility on the laps of Senator Kashim Shettima by his recent nomination as running mate to Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Another church that was also destroyed by Boko Haram but rebuilt by Senator Kashim Shettima

This laudable nomination of a man that epitomises unity and togetherness in Nigeria comes amidst sectional outcry that he is not very squared a peg for the square-holed office. 

I’m compelled by the raging debate over the suitability of Senator Kashim’s nomination as the running mate to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu with whom he shares the same faith as a Muslim. 

Of course, as a Christian,  yours sincerely should also join in this ‘protest’ for a Muslim-Christian ticket to demand what many describe as fairness and a sense of belonging. But the choice of picking a running mate lies solely on the pleasure of the elected candidate. And the APC presidential candidate has picked the person he strongly feels will not only help him strengthen his winning chances but one who would effectively deputise for him when elected to office. 

And if the issue of fairness and sense of belonging is what we are asking for in the context of selecting a vice president, I guess we have little or nothing to worry about because in Kashim Shettima we have a man who had in the past proven to us in Borno that we all are one and would do everything possible to protect the interests of the Christains. Senator Shettima has done it before and we the Christians in Borno are still proud of how he stood by us in our times of collective pain. Many or us are living witnesses and his works are lifetime testimony.

While it is legitimate for the Christians in Nigeria to demand inclusion which is a major ingredient for engendering peace and stability in the country, we must be careful to avoid throwing away the baby with the bathwater. 

For now, religion comes as the least of the problems facing our dear country. In the past years, we have seen terrible things happen in our socio-economic and political affairs so bad that we want a messiah to come and rescue us. We had reached a stage in the past years that we all didn’t even care where this  Messiah came from. At this time of our trial, neither ethnicity nor religion matters – all that matters to us now is a peaceful and secured nation where progress and development thrive. And the character, the background or the faith of the person to make this happen should not, for now, be considered above his or her capabilities. 

Kwapchi-Bata is a Member of the Borno State Committee on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of Destroyed Churches.

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