Ibrahim Shema: A leader shun of transactional politics

Ibrahim Shema: A leader shun of transactional politics

By Olawale Oluwabusola

Former Katsina State Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema, born on 22 September, 1957, is 66 years old this year. At 66, Shema is an accomplished international corporate lawyer, businessman, and politician. In his voyage in the field of politics, he was a foundation member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a mentee of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. When Yar’Adua was elected as the governor of the Katsina State in 1999, and he nominated Shema as the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, there was a lone voice against his nomination. Due to one man’s opposition to his nomination, Shema met with Yar’Adua and pleaded to be withdrawn from the cabinet, but Yar’Adua declined.

Shema eventually served as the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice between 1999 and 2003. In 2003, when Yar’Adua was re-elected as governor, Shema was being considered to be re-appointed as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice or Secretary to the State Government, but Shema pleaded with Yar’Adua to permit him to go back to his thriving private practice as a lawyer and business man, a request which was reluctantly granted by Governor Yar’Adua.

In 2005, when there was a crisis in PDP, which led to the mass resignation of all the members of National Working Committee, to pave way for the caretaker committee before the party’s National Convention, Shema was chosen to serve as the PDP’s Deputy National Chairman (North). He served in that capacity till 2007 when he became Katsina State PDP governorship candidate, and was subsequently elected as a governor. He served as the State Governor for eight years with a laudable record of achievements.

In 2014, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed and Muhammadu Buhari emerged as the party’s presidential candidate, the former governor, despite being the chief executive officer of Buhari’s State and with potential political danger that accompanied such, he remained committed to the PDP. He ignored appeals from diverse quarters for him to join the APC, like others did, simply because he is not a transactional politician. He stands for principles and integrity.

However, the scenario was not the same in 2023, when Shema took a decision to work for the APC against the PDP in Katsina State during the general elections. It was a decision premised on honour, integrity, and public interest. During the 2023 PDP presidential campaign, the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, had relegated the former governor to the background during his campaign in Katsina, ignoring the fact that every politics is local. Shema was also in Katsina days earlier to make arrangements for the presidential political campaign, but he backed out when he saw the handwriting on the wall that his contributions to the party’s success in Katsina was not considered to be vital. Former Vice President Atiku’s rhetoric during the campaign was replete with the landmark achievements of the PDP during Shema’s era as governor, including the campaign venue (Kankarda stadium), yet he refused to mention Shema’s name.

Surprisingly, the same Atiku was fond of referring to PDP accomplishments between 1999 and 2007 as the achievements of Obasanjo/Atiku administration.

Was it not amusing that Shema’s name and photograph, the only living former PDP governor of the state, were not included in the programme of events for the PDP’s presidential campaign rally, held in Katsina on 20 December, 2022? Deliberately, Atiku Abubakar, alongside a former National Chairman of the PDP Iyorchia Ayu, and the presidential campaign council Director General, Aminu Tambuwal snubbed the former governor when their campaign train moved into Katsina State. It is on record that before and after the rally, none of them deemed it necessary to visit or put a call through to Shema, an attitude that further confirmed the conspiracy against a man whose indelible record of performance was perceived to be a threat to APC’s retention of power in Katsina State.

If not for arrogance, how would a political party seeking a mandate to win elections in a state like Katsina, ignore a two-term governor of the state who performed creditably well on the platform of the party? In an election where every single vote counts, is it not living in delusion for anyone to think that Shema would not command thousands of sympathy votes from his ardent supporters, mostly the rural dwellers?

Prior to the above incident, Shema, using his personal resources, opened a PDP presidential campaign office for Atiku in the centre of Katsina, the office adjudged to be the best among the 2023 presidential candidates campaign offices in the state. It is disappointing that neither the PDP leadership nor the party’s presidential candidate acknowledged Shema’s notable contributions. Shema was like a sheep in the midst of wolves. The PDP leadership chose to celebrate the APC members who were regarded in the eyes of the electorate as APC’s nemesis and cankerworm, who were romancing with the PDP, before they eventually decamped to APC, a move regarded by APC leadership as an answered prayer.

Considering the above scenario and other details that will be a matter for another day, it is evident that Shema, with the philosophy of public-oriented service and developmental politics, could no longer function in the midst of political vultures, hence the decision to pitch his tent with the APC, without any condition attached to it. To say it loud and clear, it was Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and APC who Shema worked together in Katsina State during the 2023 general elections. The outcome of the elections in the state buttressed this fact. In an election the PDP expected to win its presidential election in the state in a landslide, Atiku only polled 489,045 votes, while Tinubu got 482,283, with just a margin of 6,762. In the gubernatorial election, it was a landslide win for APC gubernatorial candidate, Dikko Radda against PDP candidate, Yakubu Lado. Dikko Radda got 859,892 votes, while Lado received 486,620 votes, with a margin of 373,272. The margin was regarded as the highest in the 2023 gubernatorial election in Nigeria.

Shema, prior to the 2023 general elections, was regarded as the face and the umbrella of PDP in Katsina State. The moment the umbrella was removed, the gathering could no longer hold, hence the PDP’s embarrassing defeat at polling units and local governments of its so-called political gladiators for 2023 elections.

The fact that no living member of the PDP in Katsina State can parade the record of service that Shema possesses is without debate. He was the PDP’s Deputy National Chairman (North) between 2005 and 2007. He served as the chairman of its National Disciplinary Committee, which amended and drafted the disciplinary procedure as enshrined in the party’s constitution. He was a member of the Olagunsoye Oyinlola Committee on Anambra crisis pertaining to the dispute between Chris Mba and Chris Ngige; the chairman, reconciliation committee on South-South; chairman, Peoples Democratic Institute; and chairman, reconciliation team on Gombe on the crisis between Danjuma Goje and Adamu Abdullahi. He has also been the chairman, reconciliation committee on Benue, Oyo (the Ladoja and late Adedibu crisis) states; chairman, Lagos State reconciliation committee (2022); secretary, Ortom’s PDP committee on zoning; secretary of PDP National Convention Committee; member, Bukola Saraki National Reconciliation Committee; member of Board of Trustees, member of National Executive Committee; and member National Caucus Committee, among many others.

As a result of his deep commitment to the PDP, Shema resisted the temptation to decamp to the APC, despite the hostility he faced from APC administration after the 2015 general elections. In the face of the persecution and trials, he remained committed to the PDP, just because he is not a transactional politician, until the leadership of the party rewarded his sacrifice and loyalty with hatred and backstabbing.

In the aftermath of the 2023 general elections, the PDP illegally dissolved the Katsina State PDP executive and proceeded to suspend Shema, among others, from the party. The action necessitated a reaction from Shema, a first-rate administrator with exemplary records of public service. Shema, in his famous two-page letter, dated 24th March, 2023 and addressed to the National Chairman of PDP (it is worth of note that Shema suspension was the last official assignment of Iyorchia Ayu in office as PDP Chairman), appealed to the party to rescind its decision as follows-

(1) “Rescind the National Working Committee (NWC) decision of unlawful dissolution of Katsina State duly elected Executive Committee and allow them to complete their tenure and disband the purported caretaker committee similar to which so many court decisions in the land has illegalized”

(2) “Rescind the National Working Committee decision of my suspension as member of our party within the next Forty-Eight (48) hours. Take notice that failure to effect these two changes above within Forty-Eight (48) hours, this letters serves as my formal and official withdrawal of my membership from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) effective from Saturday 25th March, 2023”.

The NWC of PDP eventually rescinded its decision on Shema suspension after seventy-two hours, but ignored the reversal of unlawful dissolution of Katsina State duly elected Executives Committee of the party.

Shema unlike many Nigeria politicians, doesn’t play transactional politics; his decision to quit PDP was purely on principle, rule of law, honour, integrity and public interest. He has determined to use the rest of his life to serve God and public interest. He remains resolute and committed to good governance for better and prosperous Nigeria. It is glaring that his likes are few among the politicians in the country political space. He is a man of his words, and his major ‘sin’ is the fact that he is not political ‘hyenas or vipers “, hence the hatred, conspiracy and the gang up against him.

Once again happy birthday to a man with heart of gold, astute politician, an accomplished administrator, my oga, mentor, leader, brother and friend.

Olawale Oluwabusola is the head of the media team of former Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema.

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