The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu has come under fire for discharging his ‘duties’ as one the spokespersons of President Muhammadu Buhari.
From outright insults to doubts over the authenticity of his utterances or comments to accusations of over reaching his boundaries, the former President of the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) continues to receive darts almost on a daily basis.
The attacks against Shehu may not be without reasons, as the presidential spokesman, in the reckoning of Nigerians, including prominent ones, may have allegedly gone beyond his original brief as a spokesman or a carrier of information for the President.
On different occasions, Shehu had allegedly spoken with the audacity of an authority, conveying and making far-reaching declarations that tend to be taken by most as the official position of his boss. But on many of the occasions, he ended up causing more troubles for the President, as such statements and utterances received serious backlash.
The attacks on Shehu became even more disturbing after he famously condemned the decision of the Southern Governors Forum to ban open grazing, while describing it as of ‘questionable legality.’
Also, in what qualifies for another good, Shehu was quick to tell Nigerians on Wednesday that President Muhammadu Buhari failed to attend the burial of the late Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Ibrahim Atahiru and other military officers that died in the NAF aircraft crash in Kaduna, because the President hates causing traffic gridlock. This was viewed by many as too pedestrian an excuse, and a poor job at explaining away a major error on the part of the President.
An Ethnic Public Relations Officer
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, while reacting to one of Garba Shehu’s statements, accused him of being a Public Relations Officer for an ethnic and religious platform.
According to the group, what is presently playing out with Shehu is unprecedented in the political annals of the country, when an appointee of the President, who was elected by Nigerians becomes the Public Relations Officer of the ethnicity and religious platforms of both himself and his boss who hold office on behalf of the entire Nigerians.”
According to HURIWA, Shehu is “shamelessly siding with Miyetti Allah Cattle Dealers against the considered and well thought out proposal of 17 governors of Southern Nigeria who spoke on behalf of over 80 million citizens of Nigeria to ban open grazing of livestock in a lasting bid to stop the incessant unprovoked attacks of farmers by some armed Fulani herdsmen.”
The group further described, as an act of corruption and abuse of office, the practice of using the office of the spokesman for the Nigerian President to speak for cattle dealers.
Akeredolu Diatribe Against Shehu
Before the banning of open grazing by Southern governors and Shehu stirring of the hornet’s nest, both Akeredolu and Shehu already had an unpalatable history of altercation.
It would be recalled that Shehu issued a statement to the effect that Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) does not have the power to issue a quit notice to herders occupying the state’s forest reserves illegally.
So, when he took on the Southern Governors Forum, a forum coincidentally headed by Akeredolu, the Ondo Governor went for the jugular, in a statement that literally tore the presidential spokesman apart.
Akeredolu, reacting on behalf of the SGF in a statement by his Senior Special Adviser on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr Doyin Odebowale, alleged that Shehu was creating confusion in the country and that he was assiduously working for extraneous interests who are working against the genuine interest of love and peace and peaceful co-existence of all the ethnic groups in the country.
”Garba Shehu must disclose, this day, the real motive(s) of those he serves, definitely not the President.
“He cannot continue to hide under some opaque, omnibus and dubious directives to create confusion in the polity. The easy recourse to mendacious uppity in pushing a barely disguised pernicious agendum is well understood.
“Anyone who has been following the utterances of this man, as well as his fellow travelers on the self-deluding, mendacious but potentially dangerous itinerary to anarchy cannot but conclude that he works, assiduously, for extraneous interests whose game plan stands at variance with the expectations of genuine lovers of peaceful coexistence among all the people whose ethnic extractions are indigenous to Nigeria.
“May we warn Mr Garba Shehu and his cohorts to desist from hurling insults at the elected representatives of the people.
“He lacks the authority to make policy statements for the Federal Government, unless directed, expressly. His acts are clearly those of an agent provocateur. Other closet dreamers, aspirers to colonial fantasies, must be weaned off their delusion”, Akeredolu said.
The Garba Shehu Syndrome
Celebrated columnist, Sonala Olumhense in one of his writings titled ‘Malami’s Garba Shehu Syndrome’, said the presidential spokesman has become the de-facto President of Nigeria, who announces, declares, describes, explains and answers.
He wrote: “Ever since President Muhammadu Buhari appeared to forget the meaning and substance of the presidency, it is Mr. Shehu who has stepped in as something of an acting president.
“Where Mr. Buhari ought to speak, it is often Shehu who does. He announces. He declares. He describes. He explains. He answers.
“It is a powerful profile, and I often disagree with the spokesman, but this role, of a de facto president, has granted Shehu an inestimable uniqueness, and perhaps great envy, within the administration: the kind that would drive a desperate cabinet minister to a television studio to embarrass himself.
“This is what the Garba Shehu Syndrome is: it makes a man to destroy himself trying to justify the unjustifiable to President Buhari.”
Attempting to satisfy Master-Servant Overboard Theatrics
The founder of the Akin Fadeyi Foundation, Mr. Akin Fadeyi, who is also a columnist believes Garba Shehu is only displaying what he called master-servant Overboard theatrics, contending that what is currently playing out may end up eroding whatever legacy he should have.
“In listening to Garba Shehu in recent days, he has for a while, either to satisfy a growing desperation for master-servant overboard theatrics, or for reasons inexplicable to moral fortitude, held on to a pernicious code of reprehensible conduct that’s fast eroding his possible legacy, if any, in advance.
Fadeyi slammed Shehu for trying to explain away the murder of Greenfield University students while appearing on television.
“You must blink with pain to see people die or university students being slaughtered. To go on TV spewing base arguments of why “it’s not the first time people are dying” is the opposite of love, which is numbness. It amounts to cold hearted indifference.
“Unfortunately, in Garba Shehu’s combative deliveries, there has been a reversal of common sense that leaves us confounded by his limited capacity to pass mere information down without the accompanying knowledge consistent with age or ideal professional solemnity.
“To be candid, the task of presidential spokespersons at the stage of engagement Shehu occupies, especially in times of national crisis of this magnitude ought to have been scaled up beyond juvenile delinquency”, Fadeyi wrote.
Speaking without Buhari’s approval
One of the things Garba has been accused of variously is speaking without approval or issuing statements that couldn’t have been approved by President Buhari.
The presidential spokesman showed a glimpse of it on Wednesday on Arise TV, when he said the President did not attend Ibrahim Atahiru’s funeral because of his aversion to causing traffic gridlock. He also hinted that he had not spoken to the President concerning it but believes that was the reason.
He said: “I was in Europe myself on assignment and I have not spoken to the president on this but let me give you just one example: the president is somebody who is so concerned about the safety and wellbeing of ordinary Nigerians on the streets.
“Do you know why he now prays his Juma’at in the State House and doesn’t go to the National Mosque?
“Because he doesn’t like this idea of closing roads, security men molesting people on the road for the President to have the right of way.
“These are small things for many people but they are important for President Muhammadu Buhari.
“So, it is a mourning situation and the president didn’t want to take away attention from that.”
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State probably knew this about Shehu before the President’s SSA personally demonstrated it.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, Ortom says he was convinced the
President was not aware of Shehu’s statement where he purportedly said he was disappointed in him for advising him to declare a state of emergency over insecurity.
“We are convinced that Mr President was not aware that his aide, Shehu made such a statement on his behalf. It is clear that the media aide didn’t speak for the President in the said statement. President Buhari wouldn’t have given approval for such a reckless and insensitive press release,” he said.
The governor also accused Shehu of supporting killer herdsmen as evident in his reaction to his comments.
He said: “It is shocking that Shehu would make a statement regarding an attack evidently carried out by Fulani herdsmen and there won’t be a single sentence of reproach directed at the violent Fulani herders. Such a deliberate omission smacks of complicity and tacit support for the killer herders.”
Osoba’s Wise Counsel
Stepping into the controversies surrounding Garba Shehu’s utterances, a former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, on Wednesday, warned him to mind his words and weigh them carefully so as not to contradict his principal, President Buhari and the position of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Osoba, a chieftain of the APC and a veteran journalist himself, gave the advice on Arise Television while reacting to Shehu’s faulting of the ban on open grazing ban by Southern Governors.
According to the former Managing Director of Daily Times, members of the APC are not speaking with one voice on the herders’ crisis in the country.
He said: “We the elders of the party are talking to ourselves already. A situation where we in the same government, in the same party, are singing discordant tunes is not helpful at all, we are not helping this country.
“The governors are members of the APC and Garba Shehu was a former President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, a well-grounded professional. I will counsel that he has to come back to this profession and weigh his words and be careful in terms of interventions. We are one government but we are the ones acting as opposition to ourselves.”
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