Nigeria: Ex-Borno Governor Defends Motion for Sack of Former Service Chiefs

29 January 2021

Former governor Kashim Shettima last year moved a motion at the Senate for the replacement of the service chiefs.

A former Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, has defended his motion last year at the Senate for the removal of the former service chiefs.

He also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for finally yielding to the call and replacing them.

Mr Shettima, now senator for Borno Central district, had moved the Senate motion calling for the sack of the former service chiefs.

The motion followed the massacre of about 70 rice farmers in Zabarmari area of Jere Local Government Area of Borno.

Speaking with journalists on Thursday night in Maiduguri, Mr Shettima said he joined other Nigerians to call for the replacement of the military chiefs despite some of them being his kinsmen and friends.

He commended President Buhari for "proving that he is a listening leader and one who takes time to carefully make decisions."

Mr Shettima had also a few weeks ago again tackled the presidency on keeping the former commanders, who had exhausted their service years, amidst a worsening situation.

"The President made a well-informed decision," he said on the choice of the new chiefs.

"I have interacted with some of them and I can attest to their character and professionalism. General LEO Irabor (the Chief of Defence Staff), is one of the finest officers the Nigerian Army has produced in recent times. Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, who is the Chief of Naval Staff, had served here in Borno and so has General Ibrahim Attahiru (the new Chief of Army Staff) who was also in Borno for a brief period."

Commenting on the appointment of Mr Attahiru, who was once removed as the commander of the fotces fighting Boko Haram insurgents for alleged poor performance, Mr Shettima said:

"We all know that depending on the situation General Attahiru might have met on the ground as theatre commander back then, there is always a difference between when someone is working under another and when he is in charge. Today, he is chief of army staff who heads the Nigerian Army.

"This appointment provides an opportunity that will insha'Allah prove General Attahiru's leadership credentials and I believe that insha'Allah he will succeed.

"The success of all the service chiefs is in our best interest as leaders and as people of Borno. We will gain absolutely nothing if they fail while we will gain everything if they succeed.

"I am sure the President made an informed decision, it is for all of us to rally round the president and the service chiefs, to give them all the support so that insha'Allah they succeed in bringing an end to the Boko Haram madness," Mr Shettima said.

Nothing personal against former COAS, CAS

Mr Shettima stressed that he "had nothing personal but the interest of Borno and the nation" in lending his voice to the call for new service chiefs.

"There was nothing personal in our calls for the change of service chiefs. For instance, the former Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, we both grew up in Maiduguri, we attended the same primary school and the same university. The former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique, we even have marital affinity.

"But the issue goes beyond our personal interests and affiliations. It is about our survival as a people and no one can take away the fact that these service chiefs made contributions to Borno's fight against Boko Haram and Nigeria's fight with bandits and other criminals. We really wish them the very best."

He said it was best for him to speak his mind in the manner he did "if that would contribute to Buhari's success."

"We are more Buhari than some of those who castigated us for telling the truth when it mattered," he said.

"In both 2015 and 2019 elections in Borno State when I was governor, Buhari recorded his highest percentage margin of the vote not in Katsina, Kano or Jigawa but here in Borno. We gave Buhari more than 90 per cent margin over his opponents, Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 and Atiku Abubakar in 2019. We are Buharist to the core but at the same time, we adore the President without being hypocrites," Mr Shettima said.

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