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The Heroes of a Turbulent Time

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The Heroes of a Turbulent Time

By: Senator Kashim Shettima 

Being a speech by His Excellency, Senator Kashim Shettima, the Vice Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, at a Reception in His Honour, at Rockview Hotel (Royale), Abuja, on Sunday, December 4, 2022.

Protocols…

I am humbled by this day. I am humbled because I know that receiving such grand honour is a rare experience in one’s home. You and I are the heartbeats of the same home, and wherever we go, whatever we do, and whenever we act, we carry with us their stories, their beliefs, and their expectations. On our best days away from home, we are celebrated as gifts to humankind. On our worst days, we are harshly remembered as offshoots of our home, as ambassadors of our people. So, you must understand my joy that I’m not standing trial here.  

The Heroes of a Turbulent Time

We live in a time where your origin can be the beginning of your nightmare if you find yourself in the wrong place. Sometimes, you are compelled to work harder than others to fit in. Other times, you are not even given the chance at all. You are either written off or treated as a wild stereotype by fellow countrymen. You are expected to function in a system where you must relegate your origin and identity, or apologise for the affiliations you never got to choose. None of us here got to choose where we were born, and to whom. But we all have a choice to create a world where nobody ever experiences discrimination based on the languages they speak, the places they worship, and the colour of their skin.  

You and I may not have the magic wand for surviving the bigotry of our kind and the extremism of corrupting dogmas. What we have is a glorious history that reminds us of the beauty of a diverse nation. We know the consequences of treating others as different from us or lesser than us. We know we are a collage of various ethnic, religious, and racial groups bound by a common destiny. We know that Borno remains standing amidst a wave of attacks on our lives and properties because of this refusal to let go of what defines us, that we are bound by the same humanity. 

The Heroes of a Turbulent Time

Our brotherhood and sisterhood across generations are an enduring heritage that not even a nuclear weapon can annihilate. We have survived conspiracies designed to turn us against one another. We have witnessed the comings and goings of anarchists who wished to profit from our conflicts. We know why they have failed. They intended to distort and misinterpret our realities to suit their agenda. Our people have not surrendered to any alien idea because the subjects of the dreams we have in Konduga are the same as those had in Argungu, Abuja, Abakaliki, and Aba. All of them dream of a quiet to live gainfully and love indiscriminately. 

I am also here today because I fought for a benign world to chase my dream. From the intellectual splendour of Yerwa, I yearned for a time and place where I would partake in helping our people to climb up the social ladder. I dreamt of touching lives beyond the boundaries of my city. I rode on the kindness of familiars and strangers to get here, Christians and Muslims, Hausa and Igbo, and northerners and southerners. My dream took off because I encountered people who knew the danger of treating me as a label, people who didn’t feed on stereotypes to sabotage me. 

I would’ve veered off to a place of hate if I had allowed the bigotries I encountered to define me. Even as a two-time Governor and, now, Senator, I’m just as vulnerable to bigotry as every Nigerian. If you intend to see where the truth goes to die in Nigeria, then don’t look too far away from the electronic exchanges on social media. Most of the falsehoods dispensed are, unfortunately, carefully-coordinated attacks by agents of those running for the highest office in the country. 

My venturing into politics has taken me to the bank of this river of hatred between and among groups in the country. Sometimes, you come across the energy devoted to promoting their improbable fiction that you begin to wonder if their redemption is possible—if they would ever agree to submit to superior facts. But we have to thank the exceptional citizens and journalists volunteering to fact-check the imaginary stories. 

The Heroes of a Turbulent Time

As a Governor, for instance, I engaged with various groups in Borno State to learn from their experiences or as a courtesy required from a leader whenever I came across them. Some of such encounters were with vigilante groups helping us in the war against Boko Haram or with Fulani herdsmen within our jurisdiction. So, whenever photos from such meetings are shared to make certain allusions, I was unsure of whether to laugh or cry for the nation. Their allusions are a product of the usual unchecked ethnic profiling, and that’s a risky political strategy for a country already too divided. 

But we can’t afford to give up. We can’t afford to take their bait. The day we embark on responding to profiling any group with similar colour of hate, we are halfway to the end of this union. This is the chaos they seek. But we are far too sophisticated to see any Nigerian as an enemy just because of their ethnicity, religion, or region. We will weaponise neither our ethnic nor regional identity to oppose any individual, whether their agenda is printed on a billboard or intended to be a secret campaign. 

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The darkest irony in our politics today is the sponsorship of hate campaigns by front-line political candidates against an opposing group in the very country they are asking to govern. I expect you to be the voice of reason in teaching conflict profiteers in our midst about the enduring bond we share. We would’ve been long overrun if we had paid mind to any politician who invests in divisions, the ones who’ve seen and experienced the devastation of violence firsthand. 

The Heroes of a Turbulent Time

I am proud to share that we refuse to treat any Nigerian as an outsider because of the village in which he or she was born. We refuse to attack our citizens because of the architecture of their places of worship. We refuse to grade our citizens based on the prominence of their ethnic group. We refuse to make our politics a chamber for waging wars. This is the Nigeria we must work together to build. 

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no testimony greater than the words of objective witnesses to our part in history. We are here today because of you. We are here because you saw through the pedestrian mischief and lies. You know the churches and mosques we have rebuilt to reassure all groups in Borno State that the conflict in our place is from a common enemy. You are the heroes Nigeria seeks, the ones we all deserve to guide us to the path of peaceful coexistence, the path of alliances. Thank you.

The Heroes of a Turbulent Time

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