The Executive Governor of Katsina state His Excellency Dr. Ibrahim Shehu Shema was the guest speaker at the ‘GUEST SPEAKERS FORUM’ an initiative of the Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI). The event held at FOUR POINTS BY SHERATON and chaired by a seasoned technocrat and diplomat Dr. Christopher Kolade.
The Katsina state governor chose to speak on ‘THE CHALLENGES OF POLITICAL LEADERSHIP’ a topic considered apt because of the heat wave in the country’s political community following clowning around of politicians on succession to political positions as 2015 general elections draw more rapidly.
In the perception of many, Katsina state being a diminutive community without industry, sea port or viable economic gate way and presently yearning for development, the forum was expecting to hear the governor complain like other for improved federal allocation to meet with myriad of development demands.
The JUPITER hall, venue of the event was capacity full, with key industry players in manufacturing, banking industry, the media and the academia waiting for Shema to ask for assistance to help him meet with his campaign promises. The first line from his prepared text turned the noisy hall into grave-yard mute.
What did he say to capture the attention of everyone? Shema began by saying that ‘It is usually being said that the bane of Nigeria’s progress and development has always been ascribed to problems of Leadership or to wit challenges of Leadership’. He now went further ‘Therefore, if this be a fact of our National life, then it behoves on all of us to try to fathom what leadership is; what are its qualities, characteristics and values’.The governor then asked rhetorically ‘how does this relate to political leadership in the nation?
He then began by identifying what the concepts and terms are. He stated that to all intents and purposes, Leadership is that quality or traits by which a person is recognised to posses to steer or lead a certain group of persons or organisations or entity towards a desired direction as to attain or achieve a desired objective(s). The governor argued that political leadership in our consideration means a leader within the political realm of a given recognised legal entity, nation, state or local administrative area leading and steering the affairs of such recognised entities through recognised institutions or social systems.
He explained that the basic challenges of political leadership in Nigeria or Katsina state within the context of his paper include aspiring to political leadership, assumption of office, challenges of governance, succession and nurturing political leaders.
The governor believed that the first major challenge would be to access political office which demands a lot of investments in the political realm, passing through the political party selection processes of party registration, primary elections, party endorsement, electioneering campaigns, elections and winning of elections, swearing into office and consequently assumption to position of political leadership.
Recalling his challenges, Shema stated that his long road to political leadership began when he was invited to serve in the administration of late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua while he was governor of Katsina state.
‘I was invited to serve as his first Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice during his first term of office as Governor of Katsina State from 1999-2003’.
After that he held various positions outside political office and later returned to political clime as a member of the State Executive Council which marked the beginning of his pageant into political leadership terrain.
POLITICAL OFFICE CHALLENGES
Governor Shehu Shema clearly sees political leadership as service to the people, so when he became the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of the state he met myriad of challenges, beginning with the establishment of rule of law as basic tenets that should be subscribed for in the determination of all state and political matters.
He realised that on return to democracy in 1999, after a long interregnum of military rule, there was need to institute respect and obeisance to the rule of law, observance to due process and acceptance of court judgements against institutions of state.
There were equally other challenges of ensuring cooperation of every arm of government, and to grant independence to each arm as enshrined in the constitution.
Upon completion of his tenure as Justice Commissioner, he went into private practice but was nominated to run as governor of the state in 2006, and was sworn in as Executive Governor on May, 29th, 2007.
The position further opened up more challenges. Chief among these was how to harness the massive yearnings, aspirations and demands of the people which he saw during his electioneering campaign.
Shehu Shema, applying leadership qualities he garnered over a period of time adopted a Bottom-To-Top Approach Development Template through Community Development Committees (CDC) at each of the local government levels with membership cutting across all sectors, groups.
This paid off, because they team collated and filtered all requests from communities sectorally for government’s intervention, after which he set up a Central Coordinating Committee to coordinate all activities and interaction.
From inception of his administration, all development projects implemented with respect of roads network, water supply, education, health, rural electrification, agriculture and other social and economic intervention measures and programmes were extracted from the collated and codified demands of the people.
The governor also mentioned other key challenges his administration faced which was the choice of either completing outstanding projects inherited from his predecessor, or to abandon them and commence head long with his own projects or select some out the many.
He explained that the vision he applied in dealing with the issue was typical of a visionary leader.
He had formulated a deliberate policy to complete all outstanding and ongoing projects thus leading to the completion and commissioning of the state university projects, the maternity and children hospital, the schools and hospital expansion pilot projects, the Katsina Airport among other important projects.
Another quality of leadership approach he shared with the audience is his administrations formulation of educational, health and development policies that will ensure full utilisation of the infrastructures already put in place.
This include free education policy at all levels, and this was supported by payment of all final year examination fees like WAEC, NECO and NABTEB etc, free healthcare services and delivery especially in the five core areas of the free ante-natal care, free treatment of children under five years and accident victims within the first forty eight hours, free malaria treatment as well as free renal treatment to all victims of kidney failure. His administration also ensured supply of subsidised drugs to all hospitals.
Another good quality leadership trait of Shema’s government was the sustenance of interpersonal relationship among various ethnic communities in the state, by building a bridges with the communities as to interface and maintain peaceful relationship for community inclusiveness and oneness in the society.
This was made possible with the establishment of the office of the Senior Special Assistant on Diplomacy and Society Relations which coordinates and liaises with all other ethnic groups in the state.
The governor however raised an issue of fundamental importance at the forum, ‘Succession’ which has always heat up the political environment whenever election approaches.
An outstanding political leader of repute, the governor stated that though he has not found himself in that circle, he already had an answer that could be of benefit to other political office holders.
He clearly stated that there is no success without a successor, and it is therefore the responsibility of the leader to ensure who succeeds him.
He said that challenge of succession is ‘challenge of legacy’ and thus politicians should be guided by the fact that they ought to enthrone transparency and accountability leadership such that no one expresses fear of leaving office or enthroning a chosen heir apparent.
In his view, as political office deals with institutions, it is necessary that political office holders arrange to have a successor to steer the ship of state to safe landing.
‘The challenge to succession usually arises in our continued effort to ensure sustainability and continuity of our policies, which is to bequeath to who would build upon what one has started. It is therefore the responsibility of political leaders to ensure that the issue of successor is duly addressed, defined and conducted with all relevant stakeholders as to ensure the process succeed’, Shema counselled.