Kashim Shettima is focused, trying to bridge gaps across people, culture, and religion in Nigeria.


By Dr. Bwala

Dr. James Bwala, PhD, is a media practitioner, consultant, and author. He is one of the closest media men to Nigeria's Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima. Ahead of the May 29 celebration of democracy day in Nigeria, he spoke to newsmen about his long-time relationship with the VP and why he writes in his own style to promote and defend Nigeria's Vice President on many fronts and other sundry issues. ... was there and sent an excerpt:

Q: Thank you for having us. It was indeed very important that we meet you. Can you please tell us about yourself?

A: I guess I am not in a hot seat. I really did not expect this question. It reminded me of some interview questions I was asked while I was seeking job opportunities with the NGO some time ago. But since this is not a job interview, I figured that I would relax and try not to be nervous. My name is James Bwala, as you all know. I am a journalist and have practiced in the media space for over two decades now. I studied mass communication for my first and second degree programs and earned my PhD in management with a specialty in disaster management. Currently, I run a media organization as the managing editor as well as managing public relations on behalf of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH). I am also into politics, trying to follow in the footsteps of my principal, Nigeria's Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, who has graciously been a very good teacher and mentor. And I hope that my learning will bring positive fruits and add value to Nigeria's politics at any given opportunity to make a mark and to sell the Nigerian dream in the renewed hope initiative of Mr. President.

Q: You are a prolific writer, and we are happy to say that you are doing well and encouraging young media professionals with your style. We have read a lot of writings from you defending and promoting the Vice President before, during, and even after the general elections. Do you have any political appointments in this government?

A: I just told you that the VP is my principal, whether or not I have an appointment in the government or not. My loyalty to the VP has been there for decades. He calls me brother, and I think he is an older brother I have who also stood with me in my darkest moments. He has demonstrated the brotherly love that I have heard preachers preach, and he never leaves me as would some older brothers do. I am happy that you noted that I have written several pieces on him. Some were promotional, while others were trying to defend both his public and private lives. Yes. I have been given a political appointment in this government, but that is not about me and Kashim Shettima. It was the reward system in a political circle when you played your part in the game and when your loyalty was tested and you gave results. For that also, I will remain grateful to the VP for choosing to consider me for such a political position. And like I said, he never leaves me. I will look up to him as that older brother and respect him. I will also always defend him in the media, where necessary.

Q: How long have you known the VP? 

A: About three decades, actually. I was raised in Kaduna, but I grew up in Borno State, which is my state. I am a bona fide citizen of Borno State, and I am proud of that. While growing up in Bullumkuttu, Abuja, in the city of Maiduguri, I happened to leave around the VP's wife's family residents. I became friends with some of Her Excellency's brothers and sisters, and we attended the same Bullumkuttu Primary School in the 1980s. I knew Kashim Shettima around 1988, to be precise, but we became very close when he became commissioner under the Modu Sheriff administration and I was writing for the newspapers as a journalist. I think we became very close because we share the same attitude and vision. Our culture, books, and views of life are the same. So, I would say we think alike.

Q: How would you describe the VP's activities in the last year of this administration, and do you see distractions?

A: Well, they are too numerous to mention his activities generally. For distractions, there are also numbers. However, the VP is focused. Remember he said in one of his many sayings during the campaign that you should stop throwing stones at every dog that barks at you or you may not reach your destination on time? So, I want to tell you that this is his posture toward distraction. And you can see that he remained focused, building on the renewed hope initiative of the government by trying to bridge gaps across people, culture, and religion. He has also been in and out of the country, connecting and networking to build relationships for security, the economy, and others. For every achievement, there is a working person, and the VP is one of those working to achieve the dreams of Mr. President and give Nigeria hope.

Q: Your writings speak volumes about the VP; do you also consult with him before you write?

A: No. I know him too well to read his lips, and I can also study his moods, especially his reactions to what I wrote. Like I said, he is my teacher and mentor, so I guess there is this chemistry of understanding what to do and what not to do between us, which came naturally. Secondly, I am a professional in my field with good experience in political writing. It is therefore easy for me to look at situations and determine with precision what I need to do as a professional. For someone like the VP, all I need to know are the vital signs, which are obligations to me because of the closeness. I watched his back media wise, and he does mine brotherly.

Q: Recently, you wrote defending the VP on the issue of 2027. Why do you think some people want him replaced? Did he offend those calling for his replacement?

A: You know, this is actually laughable. 

VP Kashim Shettima did not offend anybody, but the gang was politically motivated. For me, it is normal in politics to have those who want you there and those who are pushing for you to be out of place. But let me tell you something. Recently, the President appointed the Zenith Bank Chairman to lead the loan team. Jim Ovia was VP Shettima's boss when he was still working in the bank. What does that tell you? Does it look like there is friction between the VP and his principal? The closeness between VP Kashim Shettima and the Zenith Bank Chairman is well known to Mr. President. As those people claim in their dreams that there is friction, I do not think we have been seeing this development coming. Mr. President is well educated and knows very well those he can work with. He has a history of gathering intellectuals around him. That is also the reason for choosing VP Kashim Shettima as his running mate and partner in the governance of Nigeria. Together, they have been doing tremendously well, and as I said in my writing, there will be no replacement as suggested by those doomsayers.

Q: You sounded very confident about the political future and the likely play for Tinubu and Kashim Shettima in 2027. What is giving you such confidence, as in some of your writings?

A: I don't know, actually. But I keep having my dreams, and I believe in them. It has happened in the past and has come to be true. It is happening again, and I keep my belief. So many people fighting over 2027 think they are gods. This administration has only been around for about a year now. If they think they have all it takes to govern better than what the current occupants of the seat of power are doing, I hope that as Nigerians they should be kind to render support through their vision to help Nigeria develop well. The president and his vice president are calling on those who have vision for the development of Nigeria to come forward with suggestions. They must not be in position before they can bring out their good road map to make Nigeria better. If they are waiting to come to a position before they give suggestions or bring their ideas to the table, then I would suggest that those are not thinking of making Nigeria great but are working towards their selfish desires to occupy seats for the betterment of their families and not Nigeria.

Q: Can you at least mention those you think are already fighting over 2027? And those calling for the replacement of the VP?

A: My friends, we know the writing on the walls. You go and read some of the writing floating in the newspaper spaces. We have over one hundred live newspapers in the country, and they have been reporting issues recently. Engaged in some of these newspapers, you can come up with names likely to be those you are looking for. I do not know any of them other than those I have read through on the pages of the newspapers, and I believe you can do the same.

Q:. On May 29, this administration will be celebrating one year. Do you think there are things to celebrate?

A: Well, if I may ask you, do you think there are no things to celebrate? You see, sometimes we ask questions for which we already know the answers. Of course, there are thousands of things to celebrate about Nigeria. I hope you have been following the various achievements made by our military, the police, and other security agencies in the areas of insecurity in the country. I hope you have written about the successes in the economic sector. There are several achievements in health, agriculture, the road, and what have you. I may not have time to mention others, but we have days counting to May 29, and you can do us the favor of going around to hunt on the successes and achievements of the Tinubu and Kashim Shettima administrations since their coming to power on May 29, 2023. Nigerians are eager to hear from you because they can count on you, and I urge you to be fair in your reports.

Q: On a final note, what do you think this government should do based on the assessments of people on what they did or did not do for Nigerians and how to improve on their promises?

A: First of all, let me make it clear that you are asking the wrong question here because I am not a member of the economic team of this administration. Secondly, what I hear people saying may be different from what you hear that people are saying, so do not expect me to give an answer to what is going on about what you hear. However, I can speak for what I hear, and that is a positive note on the many challenges that this administration was able to sum up. Two key issues have been on the board since this administration came on board on May 29, 2023. That is the issue of insecurity and Nigeria's economy. I think that you would agree with me that the Tinubu-Shettima partnership has done creditably well in tackling these menaces in the areas of security and economy. If you do agree with me, then I can tell you that the government by measurements has done well and should be given the passing mark for demonstrating rear leadership.

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