By Emmanul Aziken
It is the opinion of some that Mallam Garba Shehu is still held with suspicion in the inner circle of the cabal around President Muhammadu Buhari. That is despite the fact that he is undoubtedly one of the finest media managers of the fourth republic.
Those who doubt Mallam Shehu’s fidelity to President Buhari’s agenda are quick to point to his illustrious service for Atiku Abubakar. It is indeed, a matter of irony that Atiku has now turned out to be the most potent weapon to what is left of the mystique that was once around Buhari.
For the first 15 years of the fourth republic, Shehu was pivotal in the impressive articulation of Atiku’s media profile. He came from a solid background. He had been a broadcaster, newspaper editor and, yes, editor of editors. He is arguably, the longest serving president of the Guild of Editors.
He pioneered the innovation of establishing a media office to project a politician. Garba’s vivaciousness when it came to the Atiku project in the past was highly infectious.
It was especially glaring during campaign outings. So when Atiku lost the All Progressives Congress, APC presidential nomination in 2014 to Buhari, the decision to gift Shehu’s media brilliance to the stiff Buhari campaign was understandable. His sterling performance in the Buhari campaign inevitably recommended him for a job in the Presidential Villa.
How he has tried to positively shape Buhari despite the odds have also been remarkable. I remember how at the peak of the Kemi Adeosun issue he dropped an off the record fact that nearly numbed critics!
Nevertheless, as marketers will say, a defect in any of the four variances of product, price, promotion and place will adversely affect the marketing of any commodity. You could well choose the element among the four Ps that is the greatest challenge to Shehu!
So given his commitment and convincing loyalty to the Buhari agenda, it is not difficult for anyone to guess that Shehu would be an interesting point in the evolving media campaign between Atiku and Buhari.
As it became increasingly clear that Atiku was on his way to becoming the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Port-Harcourt last weekend, your correspondent could barely suppress the thought of how Mallam Shehu would receive the news.
25 years after he made his first stake for the presidency of the country, Atiku, one of the country’s most formidable politicians was set to have his wish to stand firmly as a presidential candidate of a major party. Yes, Atiku had been involved in all but one of the presidential campaigns conducted in this country since 1993, when he vied with Chief MKO Abiola for the Social Democratic Party, SDP presidential ticket. The only presidential election he side-stepped was General Sani Abacha’s leprous exercise in democracy.
However, it was only in 2007 he stood as a presidential candidate, of Action Congress. But that campaign was just to score a point as he was cleared by the Supreme Court only two days before the election.
Now granted the luxury of a four month campaign, the prospects of the former vice-president as evidenced by the backing he has gotten from Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo and the other principalities could be bright.
It is in that context that one would be watching Mallam Shehu’s efforts to destroy a project that he once lived for.
Shehu would not be the only one. There are several others around Buhari that would attract the attention of the political press as the campaigns proceed. Chief Audu Ogbeh, Senator Chris Ngige and even Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
They were with Atiku in those tumultuous days of the anti-third term campaign. Chief Ogbeh’s forced exit out of his position as national chairman of the PDP was according to some accounts, the defining point in Atiku’s decision to frontally confront President Obasanjo in the second half of the second term.
How these men would respond to Atiku would be captivating!