SHEHU SHEMA, WHAT BEING GOV HAS COST ME
Looking at the trappings of office, some people may think that chief executives of states would not miss any aspect of their lives prior to coming into office. This does not apply to Dr. Shehu Shema, governor of Katsina State.
Although Shema, as governor, would be having a good experience, there is something he misses. He told Saturday Sun that prior to becoming governor, he travelled from one country to another, in the line of business. But today, he has been grounded by responsibilities of a governor.
He said: 'I usually pack my bag and move at a minute's notice, from one continent or another. I can spend about six months and I never spend one week in one country, moving from one location to another, holding meetings in corporate rooms and meeting with lawyers of international repute, getting involved in multifarious cases that affect peoples lives and getting result from those courts across the world and getting substantial judgments and decisions that favour my clients.
'That is the experience I miss a lot because I know I am at my best when I have opportunity to express myself and to help people. But I am grateful that God has given me this opportunity to come and serve my people here and to improve their lots.'
Shema, in this interview, told his story, including how he once confronted soldiers on the convoy of a military governor for manhandling and arresting innocent motorists.
Some Nigerians only know about your profile as governor and a professional. Could you tell us a bit about your early years, your growing up?
My growing up days was fantastic. I was a lucky person, as a child. I was loved, practically, by every member of my family. I was lucky enough to go to good schools. I went to secondary school in Kafanchan. First of all, I started here in Katsina. I went to Garama Primary School, but I finished up in Nasarawa. I attended secondary school in Kafanchan. From there, I came to College of Arts and Technology, Zaria. After my JAMB, I got admitted into ABU and finished in Law. Thereafter, I went to law school in Lagos and qualified to be a barrister and a solicitor. After that, I ventured into private practice and private business. I set up industries, some with my uncle. I set up spare parts and industrial manufacturing in Lagos. I had some businesses in the areas of pharmaceuticals, transportation and what have you.
I left that business and came back solidly to practice. I set up my law firm and I went to international corporate and aviation practice for quite a number of years. I travelled all over the world and I handled all manner of cases, mostly in the US area. I was in Washington, Atlanta and Georgia. I also worked with some lawyers in San Francisco. I have membership to some bar associations, including the American Bar Association, International Bar Association and the Nigerian Bar Association. I received fellowship of the Nigerian Institute of Management.
I came here at the invitation of the late president of the country. Then he was the governor and he invited me to be his Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. I was Attorney General for four years (1999-2003). Thereafter, I went back to my practice. I went back to Abuja University to read PhD in Public Administration and Policy Analysis. I have finished my thesis. I have submitted it to my supervisor, but I have not defended it yet. In between, I became the Deputy National Chairman (1) of the PDP. I was next to Ahmadu Ali. Chief Bode George was Deputy National Chairman (2). I was chairman, National Disciplinary Committee of PDP. I was chairman of People Democratic Institute. I was chairman of Nigerian Air Space Management Agency. I got fellowship from the Academy of American and International Law and I continued playing politics. I was chairman, Organization and Reconciliation Committee for PDP South-South. I was in the panel for Anambra State crisis during the Ngige saga. I was equally involved in handling lots of the amendment of the PDP constitution. Eventually, I came around for the office of the governor of Katsina State and I am here by the grace of God.
Who are your role models?
Umar Musa Yar'Adua is my number one role model and, of course, the past leaders of this country, including Sir Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe and others. They contributed to the well being of this nation and I believe Nigerians should do very well to emulate most of their good habits.
What is your philosophy of life?
Simplicity, integrity, honour and hard work.
What do you miss that you would have been doing if you were not a governor?
Private practice, international aviation and corporate law. I usually pack my bag and move at a minute's notice, from one continent or the other. I can spend about six months and I never spend one week in one country, moving from one location to the other, holding meetings in corporate rooms and meeting with lawyers of international repute, getting involved in multifarious cases that affect peoples lives and getting result from those courts across the world and getting substantial judgments and decisions that favour my clients.
I have represented clients in Cameroun, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, South Africa and most of America. I was in partnership with some lawyers in D.C. I have law firms that I worked with in Florida. I have law firms that I worked in San Francisco, England and France. So I have multifarious cases and opportunities to meet clients of all kinds of languages, all kinds of people, and all kinds of locations in the world. That is the experience I miss a lot because I know I am at my best when I have opportunity to express my self and to help people. But I am grateful that God has given me this opportunity to come and serve my people here and to improve their lots.
How many wives do you have?
How did you meet her?
I met her in school. She is a great girl, very decent, very honest, very beautiful and very intelligent. I met her in school in my college days and we started friendship like any body else and we ended up as man and wife. I am very happy with her. We have four beautiful children. She is a great woman.
What does it feel like being in power?
I don't feel like being in power, I feel like being in service, truthfully speaking. I feel the enormous weight of responsibility on my shoulders and every day I make sure I do my best to meet it. It's about responsibility, you have no time to yourself, no time for your family, your health is at risk and your reputation is at risk. Sometimes, because of the Nigerian type of politics, you can continue working as hard as you can, but the most important thing that gladdens my heart and make me grateful to God is, when I wake up every morning, when I look at the chart of activities of governance in Katsina that I found that I have been able to serve the people meaningfully.
Can you recall your most embarrassing moment?
This is a question I have never asked my self before. Maybe the only events you can have as a politician is that people don't appreciate that politics is a vehicle for service and you feel a bit bad that not every body thinks like you. Ninety per cent thinks politics is something else and they have a different perception of politics in Nigeria completely. The question of fairness and honour and integrity is not important to people. So when I can't sit down with a person and talk frankly and honestly with that person, it never makes me feel good. I believe I should look you in the eye and tell you the truth, no matter what you will say and what you will feel and you should do the same to me.
There should be honour and integrity in politics. I don't know whether this is so elsewhere or only in Nigerian terrain, but this is the kind of feeling that I found a bit strange, honestly speaking that people don't want to deal with you one on one and with sincerity so that's the only thing that I have seen that is a bit strange in politics. If I speak to you as a lawyer or you sit with me as a client, I will need you to tell me the truth about your case because its only when you are truthful to me in totality that I, as a lawyer, can help and defend you correctly. When you tell me half-truths, where is my trust? I can't defend you well; so it's the same thing in politics. In politics, it appears that people want to tell lies; they want to backstab each other; they want to be mischievous; they want to be dishonest; they want to cart away public funds, they want to do all those kind of things that are not really correct.
As an individual, what do you consider as your cutting edge?
My strongest point is my belief in the will of God. I know I believe totally in the will of God and nothing shakes me from that.
What is your weakest point?
Some of these things you are asking I never thought about them. My weakest point is I love my family very well. I love my father, I love my people and I love the people of Nigeria. Again, I hate completely and absolutely to see someone being treated unkindly.
I hate injustice. In those days, I had an incidence that I remember readily. I was driving my car one day, coming from Kaduna and entered Kano. It was during the military administration. I stopped by a traffic light and I was waiting for the light to turn green. Suddenly, from the other side where the traffic light had turned red, that section where they were supposed to stop, I think there was a convoy of the military governor coming. I was lucky to see them coming in when I got to the junction, but a bus driver at a distance just saw the green and he was rushing to pass and these people were not using siren. They were just driving at top speed. The bus driver hit one of the vehicles in the convoy.
The security guys in the vehicles descended on the driver and were beating the hell out of him. Honestly, I parked my car and held one of them and said you should stop beating this guy because you should have used your siren so we will know you are coming. This could have happened to me. They quickly threw him into their vehicle and drove away. But I followed them. They drove into Government House, Kano and I followed them inside. They tried to block my car I said no! No! You must release this man. I don't know but sometimes I just react like that when I see injustice being meted out to the people.