Shettima and the fashion revolution — Opinion — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News
Mr. Kashim Shettima, Senator and former Governor of Borno State, receives a gunfight not from terrorists who plague his state, but from critics in the political space. Shettima appeared as one of the prominent guests at the 62nd Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) conference last week wearing a suit and sneakers. There was an outcry inside and outside conference circles over this unorthodox way of dressing. A suit is formal attire often worn with lace-up leather shoes and socks. Since then, Shettima has been carpeted by columnists and social media activists. They went beyond the robe to ridicule him for his failure to save the girls of Chibok Government College from kidnappers when he was governor of the state.
Shettima, who was a banker for many years, always dressing in smart suits and ties, says he embraced this fashion-forward fashion for a reason. He said he had sent a team to find out what kind of reception he would receive at the conference. He said that “he discovered that one of the presidential candidates had been holding meetings for three days to plan misdeeds. He therefore knew that he would face a hostile situation at the conference and therefore deliberately wore sneakers to snub them. He added: “I am a banker trained by one of the best bankers in the world. I’m a Jim Ovia boy. The hidden meaning of what he said was that he, like all bankers, knew how to dress well in sparkling suits and nice shoes. In other words, he is a fashionable man who knows the etiquette of dressing well.
Shettima graduated from the University of Maiduguri with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a master’s degree in the same subject from the University of Ibadan. He has worked with several banks including Nigerian Agricultural and Cooperative Bank, Commercial Bank of Africa Limited, African International Bank. He crowned his banking career at Zenith where he rose to the position of Managing Director. In 2007, he left the bank when he was appointed Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development in Governor Ali Modu Sheriff’s government in Borno State. He then became governor of the state, a position he held with courage and dedication.
Shettima may not be aware that what he wore, a suit and sneakers, is gradually becoming a fad among young people, especially those in the entertainment world. Over time, this may become an acceptable trend for more people. But of course, dress etiquette is largely determined by age and position in society. Therefore, even if the trend spreads, it will still be unorthodox and unacceptable for older people who occupy a higher social position in life to adopt it as their formal wear. By this definition, Shettima is barred from wearing such fashion-forward attire to a major public event, even if he wanted to snub those waiting to ridicule him. The dress demeans him, not the hostile mob he thought was lying in wait for him.
Let’s face it. The world is witnessing a fashion revolution. People now wear ripped, ripped or patched jeans and no one ridicules them for being unable to buy new clothes. These cloths are actually made that way and they don’t come cheap. In fact, the more tattered it is, the more expensive it becomes. Some men even wear hoop earrings or chandelier earrings, wear long pointed nails. Some of them even paint them in different colors. The hair is either fried, braided or painted in different colors. Women wear micro-mini skirts that are either so short that they tend to expose what should be hidden, or they simply leave very little to the imagination.
At the other end of the fashion pole are women who wear extra long floor-sweeping skirts as they go. I witnessed a scene where a lovely lady in a very long dress walked as she entered a reception hall and fell head first. People had to come and get her. It was the end of the party for her. I wonder what difference it would make to the length of a dress if it didn’t have to sweep the floor. Those who believe themselves to be intelligent use one hand to lift the dress, thereby depriving themselves of the availability of that hand for more useful purposes. Should fashion deprive people of common sense in terms of functionality? But it is obvious that these fashionistas and creators of these new trends think that they can make the world copy them and make unorthodox clothes and designs look unorthodox.
However, I’m sure Shettima knows that his unusual outfit isn’t the main reason he gets barbed rods. The main reason is that he is in politics and as the vice-presidential candidate of the APC, he is the target of poison arrows from opponents. Politics is like a kitchen. Although it is a place where delicious meals are prepared, a kitchen also smells of onion. There are two main reasons why this period is not a postcard-perfect period for Shettima. The first is that he made the adjective error of positioning himself against the elite who are campaigning for the restructuring of the country. Not only did he oppose the restructuring, but he did it in a very belligerent way saying “restructuring my foot”. It was overdone.
Restructuring has both supporters and opponents and it is the responsibility of those on either side of the divide to make their positions clear, succinct and factual without insulting the sensitivities of those on the other side. First, it is akin to anti-party activity for APC members to oppose the restructuring, which their party had sought to confirm its desirability to the Nigerian people. This was done through the Nasir El-Rufai committee, which gathered the opinion of Nigerians in all geopolitical zones.
Nigerians have confirmed that they want a restructuring, including the state police and the devolution of powers to state governments. Those who oppose restructuring have failed to make Nigeria a viable country; they have not made it a safe country to live in, to travel safely to and from the nearest state by road or rail without fear of being kidnapped or killed. Nigeria is on the verge of being a failed state and anyone who says this is the quality of life we deserve with all the manpower and mineral resources we have is living in a lunatic’s paradise.
Certainly, Nigeria can do better, much better than that. Virtually all of the gifts we thought we would receive from our dear country when we gained independence in 1960 have now become specks on a distant horizon. When Shettima uttered the words “restructure my foot,” he should have known without being told that such an arrogant statement was out of tune with the mood and whispers of the moment. Any party that does not favor a restructuring of the country does not deserve the votes of well-meaning Nigerians who know that the country is capable of being better, much better, than it is now. Nigeria, to date, has entered a waiting period. We have been paralyzed rather than galvanized by the unitary government we have had since the military took over in 1966.
The second reason why there was overt hostility towards Shettima is because of his appointment as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s vice-presidential running mate. Tinubu is a southern Muslim while Shettima is also a northern Muslim. The argument of those pushing for the appointment of a Christian from the north was to provide the right religious balance. This is why when he was nominated, qualified as he was, Shettima received only muffled applause. This is largely because the country has changed dramatically.
When Chief Moshood Abiola, a Muslim from the south, chose Mr. Babagana Kingibe, a Muslim from the north in 1993, there was very little opposition. The Nigerian people knew that neither man was a religious bigot and that they were unlikely to drive Nigeria into a religious cul-de-sac. This is why Nigerians voted for them. It is obvious that Tinubu is not a religious irredentist. He is married to a woman who is a pastor in a Pentecostal church. In the Southwest, there are many intermarriage between Muslims and Christians and they live in harmony.
I have often said that the South West remains the most refined and broad-minded region in Nigeria when it comes to religion. That’s why you don’t find that Boko Haram can recruit children from the South West as suicide bombers. It’s not that there isn’t poverty in the South West, an excuse people use to explain the ease with which young people are recruited by Boko Haram terrorists in the North for terrorism. There is poverty everywhere in Nigeria, but my explanation as to why the South West is relatively free of terrorist recruitment is education. The free education that Chief Obafemi Awolowo started in the South West, and which subsequent governments have continued, has had a liberating effect on the entire region.
The reason why some people are opposed to the Muslim-Muslim ticket has nothing to do with Tinubu or Shettima. It has something to do with how our politicians have treated religion in word and deed since the beginning of this Republic. We have heard politicians say that Boko Haram terrorists should benefit from the kind of amnesty program granted to militants in the Niger Delta. We have heard them say at campaign rallies that Muslims should only vote for Muslim candidates. They also played a very dangerous game by appointing people to leadership positions in the armed forces, police and paramilitary forces. When you go down the line bypassing a number of competent people because they are not of your faith you create a situation of suspicion and discord. My instinct is that one of the reasons, among others, why the fight against terrorism, banditry, etc. does not yield appropriate positive results, is that some of the staff who feel marginalized may have decided to take a ‘siddon look’ position. I could be wrong but that’s my intuition.
I have nothing against the APC Muslim-Muslim candidacy though I think we should blame our politicians for elevating religion into the public sphere in a way that tends to poison relations among Nigerians. At Newswatch, we didn’t include space for the religion of our staff because we didn’t want to run an organization that was biased by faith. We just wanted our staff to do their job well and be rewarded for it.
In deciding who to vote for in the next election, religion will not be a factor for me. What will count for me will be my assessment of whether or not the candidate is capable of solving Nigeria’s problems. This assessment will be based on how the candidate answers the question, how?