UNTIL last Friday’s editorial of a national daily, I had almost gotten over my frustration with Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima in Oslo, capital of Norway. The editorial titled, “Thank you, Scandinavians” was in appreciation of $672m donation by 13 countries and the European Commission to fund humanitarian activities in Nigeria and the Lake Chad. The pledges were outcome of a Humanitarian Donor Conference held in Oslo; jointly organized by Norway, Germany and Nigeria.
In Nigeria’s case, majority of those affected by the humanitarian crisis (created by Boko Haram) are people of Borno State. As it should be, Governor Shettima was invited by the Norwegian Government to address donor countries and other participants. The Governor’s address was electrifying, his listeners said so in words and spontaneous claps. However, the address and the conference are no reasons for this article. I am here to share my frustration on an entirely different matter.
In over five years, I have had a privilege of accompanying Governor Shettima on most (if not all) of his foreign and local trips. Over time, I realized that whenever we traveled out, Governor Shettima made it a habit of sparing a day for shopping. In these outings, he went with his Personal Assistant and any staff at Nigerian embassies. By the way, the Governor has a policy of involving Nigerian embassies in all of his engagements abroad. As I was saying, I noticed that in most of the Governor’s shopping abroad, he returned with either a box or two, wheeled by his P.A. and whoever joins them. I never really bothered to know what Shettima was buying in such a regular manner.
Now, on our trip to Oslo, I and him departed Abuja on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 and arrived at night. At the hotel, he told me I would be accompanying him for shopping the following day. I was so excited and anxious. ‘What time, Your Excellency?’ I asked and he replied ‘by afternoon’. Governor Shettima is humble, kind and generous, so the reader can understand why I was excited. On Wednesday, I was fully covered with inner and outer winter wears, totally ready for the shopping I had always envied and wished for. I had prepared my tall list of what to pick for myself. By 1 pm, the phone in my hotel room rang and I picked up in high spirit. Without waiting for the caller’s identity, I said, ‘Your Excellency’. It wasn’t the Governor, I was disappointed. An official from the Norwegian Government called. An hour later, came the call I was hoping for. Shopping time!
In 20 minutes, Governor Shettima and I arrived Paleet shopping center, a famous mall at Karl Johans gate, opposite the royal palace of the Norwegian monarchy in the city of Oslo. As we walked into the mall, I began to see branded items: clothes, shoes, watches, perfumes, name them. The Governor kept walking. I was wondering what else he wanted. I tried to bring his attention to the items, he said he saw them. He stopped by an information desk and asked where he could find a store called Tanum. The officials pointed at the direction. We finally located the place and guess what, it was a mighty books store. On entering, the Governor wore a cheerful face as if he had landed on diamond. An old man at the book store asked him his area of interest and the Shettima said non fiction, mostly books on Leadership, biographies, politics, history, economies, education and culture of different societies and nations. The attendant made some recommendations but before he finished calling book titles, the Governor told him names of the authors and said he had read the books. “I am looking for books exclusive to Norway, something in English, written by famous Scandinavian authors” Shettima said. After spending four hours of very patient stop-overs at different shelves, the Governor picked dozens of books. I remember six of them he set aside for reading throughout our trip from Oslo to New York. The list included “Thank You for being late (an optimist guide to thriving in the age of acceleration)”; North Men-the viking saga (793 to 1341); The Sami peoples of the North (a social and cultural history)”; One Fus (story of a massacre and it’s aftermath)”; The man who created the middle-east (a story of empire, conflict and the Sykes picot agreement)” and Germany (memories of a Nation).
To my frustration, there were many other books he bought. Don’t ask me what happened next because we returned to the hotel with only a box full of books. At the hotel, I put up a phone call to the Governor’s P.A and I asked what they normally bought with the Governor on previous shopping. “Malam Isa, Wallahi, books kawai mu ke kwasowa duk fitan mu, ko Professor iyakaci kenan,” (We always bought books in all outings, even a Professor can’t go beyond that), the P.A. said to me as he kept on laughing.
Three days later, we left Oslo and arrived New York. The governor again invited me to follow him to a bookstore on Monday. I pretended to be feeling sleepy. He excused me and asked a U.S based friend of his, Hassan, to accompany him. By the time they returned, I went to Hassan’s room and asked if he picked any nice stuff for me but in response, he dragged out a box bigger than the one I wheeled in Oslo. He opened it and said, “These are His Excellency’s books, they are the things we bought”, as he kept shaking his head to the left and right.
Well for those who might be wondering how, why Governor Kashim Shettima is so knowledgeable and makes well informed remarks, the answer lies in my pains of shopping with him in Oslo.
- Gusau, Special Adviser on Communications and Strategy to Governor Shettima, writes in from Maiduguri, Borno State.