By Chukwudi Enekwechi
MALLAM Garba Shehu is a frontline journalist, accomplished newspaper editor and a former president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. His brilliance and expertise endeared him to the former government of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who engaged him as the spokesperson for the Vice President then. His high qualities again caught the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari who appointed him as the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity in 2015 and since then, he has carried on with decorum and high sense of responsibility. In the Nigerian media circles, Garba Shehu is well respected as a towering figure from all corners of the country, and indeed, the whole world.
Perhaps his distinguishing feature is his detribalised disposition to Nigerians from other parts of the country. His contributions to the growth of journalism in Nigeria has earned him several international recognitions and he has acquitted himself very well in serving Nigeria.
I have gone this far to eulogise Mallam Shehu to dispel the wrong impression being created about his distinguished journalism career by a certain group known as National Volunteers for Lamido. Apparently, they reacted on behalf of former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido.
I write this article bearing in mind that once an individual throws his hat in the political ring, he is bound to attract what may be described as ‘erasures’ and the tendency is that you get all manner of tantrums from some quarters.
For the avoidance of doubt, Garba Shehu has relentlessly discharged his responsibilities as a spokesman of President Buhari with unalloyed loyalty, commitment and devotion to his duties. There is no doubt that in the course of defending the president, he is bound to attract opposition, but for the Sule Lamido group to resort to barefaced lies, innuendos and outright insults is unbecoming and totally out of sync with the tenets of democracy, decency and good conscience.
For many Nigerians, Garba Shehu, a graduate from two prominent Nigerian universities- University of Nigeria Nsukka and Bayero University Kano, has through his professional practice, advanced the growth and development of the journalism profession and indeed, the country’s democracy. His grasp of issues and events is phenomenal, not to talk of his responses to them. As someone saddled with the task of shaping the president’s image, he never hesitates to react with facts and figures as occasion demands and in most instances, he inadvertently incurs the wrath of some individuals or groups who are directly or indirectly affected.
Such vitriolic attacks against his person are expected and can get worse under an administration that has elected to tackle the corruption malaise frontally. Nonetheless, the Buhari administration will not relent as the fight against corruption was one of the reasons Nigerians voted for President Muhammadu Buhari, and gladly the results are already manifesting.
As observers and even participants, Nigerians rely on presidential spokespersons like Garba Shehu to continue to distil government policies and promote the people-centred administration of President Buhari for the benefit of all Nigerians. But for the emergence of President Buhari and his officers like Garba Shehu, how would Nigerians have realised that the country lost such humungous amounts of money to past office holders and their acolytes?
In the course of carrying out these responsibilities, he is faced with unwarranted and unprovoked insults on his person, yet these matters ought not to be personal or petty. As expected, former public officials have a responsibility to render account of their stewardship, but unfortunately, in the Nigerian context, it can amount to the vilification of serving government officials- in this case Mallam Garba Shehu.
Garba Shehu has continued to play a pivotal role in promoting the achievements of the Buhari administration and the feeling among Nigerians is that his dedication to duty does not go down well with the opposition. His articulation of government policies, general interpretation and narration to Nigerians continue to bewilder the opposition. Ordinarily, they would prefer a man without clarity of thought as Garba Shehu, so that the president’s numerous achievements will remain unsung and unnoticed. Unfortunately for them, Garba Shehu has a full grasp of the situation and he is marketing President Buhari to the satisfaction of the administration and most Nigerians.
Just last week, prominent Nigerians, diplomats, the media and the business community gathered in Abuja to bear witness to the public presentation of the president’s mid-term score card which Garba co-edited with Mr. Femi Adesina, President Buhari’s Special Adviser on media and publicity.
Mallam Shehu deserves our accolades and indeed support for utilising his intellect and expertise for the benefit of the Buhari administration and by extension, all Nigerians. The practice of running down a performing government official should be discouraged as it does not augur well for us as a nation. Such approach has the tendency to discourage other patriotic Nigerians from offering their services when the need arises.
Aganinst this backdrop, we implore him to trudge on and never look back in serving the country. His enviable role in promoting the administration of President Buhari’s administration and helping to build a virile and sustainable country will not be in vain.