The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, is a man many Nigerians have come to understand as someone who loves to talk and sometimes talk ‘out of point’ as it is usually said in local parlance, of people who spew out mostly irrelevant things, or what does not make sense.
The Presidential spokesman, in a bid to defend the absence of his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, from the burial of the late Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Ibrahim Atahiru and 10 other military officers, including three Brigadier Generals, that died in the Nigeria Air Force Beachcraft 350i that crashed at the Kaduna International Airport on Friday last week, said the President stayed away because he hates causing traffic gridlock.
Shehu, who appeared on an Arise TV Program on Wednesday, said although he has not discussed the issue with Buhari, he knows the President hates causing gridlock and seeing people suffering as a result, adding that Buhari stayed away from the burial to avoid innocent Nigerians being molested by security agencies to allow the president have his right of way.
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.”
It will be recalled that another presidential aide, Lauretta Onochie had earlier said that President Buhari failed to attend the burial because security agencies needs at least 48 hours to gather intelligence for the safety of the President and also plan his movement.
Though many Nigerians had thought the explanation given by Onochie was lame, until Shehu took the lameness to a new level, making it not just laughable but absurd.
Presidential handlers, especially spokespersons must learn not to insult the sensibilities of Nigerians, many of whom are highly intelligent and capable of recognising when attempts are made beguile them to believe what’s not true.
Shehu, in his attempt to douse the wave of criticism and outbursts that followed Buhari’s failure to pay his last respect for his late COAS and others who died in active service to the nation, unknowingly exposed himself, revealing that he has most times largely spoken for himself and not for the president, when he admitted he has not spoken to the president on the reason for his absence from the burial, but still went ahead to offer a reason for it. This goes to corroborate Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s statement that Garba Shehu does not speak for the presidency but himself.
A man, with Shehu’s experience and the office he presently occupies, should know that whatever he says are most times interpreted to mean the official position of the presidency and should therefore be circumspect and not allow his personal biases and opinion to be taken as the official position of the government or that of the President.