Even now I’m unable to figure out exactly what motivated Garba Shehu, a columnist with the Peoples Daily newspaper and the online medium Premium Times to descend to the level of irresponsible commentary that he allowed himself to descend to. Like most self-respecting journalists, Garba Shehu has always come across as a level-headed, clever hustler, traits that saw him rise to the level of editor of the defunct, Kano-state owned Triumph newspaper all the way to the exalted position of the president of the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE).
The shadowy media man reached the peak of his professional career when in 2000 or thereabout he was appointed the media assistant to the then Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
It was in that position that he distinguished himself as a dogged, competent media aide when his boss fell out of favour with the then president Obasanjo. The media tangle that ensued was rough, tough and dirty, but both Garba and his boss came out bloodied but alive to fight another day.
But somehow, in just one week and for reasons that are hitherto inexplicable, Garba Shehu has done irreparable damage to his otherwise decent reputation with the cruel article he wrote entitled “Katsina’s low blow to VP Sambo”, which was published in both the Peoples Daily and the increasingly reliable online medium Premium Times. In that brief moment of utter malice, Shehu exposed himself as a cheap opportunist ready to do anything that would serve his parochial interest, irrespective of the moral damage that inevitably accompany the short term benefits of self-centered commentaries.
The thrust of Garba Shehu’s argument in the article cited above was that when Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo visited Katsina on 24/1/14 to witness the turbaning ceremony of the Katsina State Governor, Barrister Ibrahim Shehu Shema, as Sarkin Fulanin Katsina, the VP suffered embarrassment when, in the twisted logic of Shehu, some members of the mammoth crowd that gathered to witness the occassion chanted the praise of their Governor by responding thus: When the VP Sambo chanted the usual “PDP” the crowd responded with the usual “POWER”; but when he chanted “Nigeria” the crowd chanted “SAI SHEMA”. To start with, the incident did not happen at the venue of the turbaning ceremony, but at the commissioning of the newly built PDP Secretariat of the State. And also in itself the procedure adopted by the esteemed Vice President was an abnormality; because since it was not yet time for campaign for political offices, the appropriate slogan was to stop at “PDP” to which the crowd would normally respond “Power” and the speaker would then reverse the roles to “Power” to which the crowd would respond “PDP” or “Power To the People”.
Thus in Garba Shehu’s book of unjust interpretation, this spontaneous, inadvertent, perhaps even unintended crowd behaviour, constituted an insult to the Vice President. It is on record that Governor Shema has never been known to insult, embarrass or even look down on his subordinates, not to talk of visiting same on his peers and seniors. To underscore the absolute goodwill and amiability that Governor Shema has garnered across the length and breadth of the country, it is necessary to give a sample of the dignitaries that responded to his invitation to witness his well deserved honour of being turbaned as the Sarkin Fulanin Katsina by the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji AbdulMumini Kabir Usman. Present were all the 17 PDP Governors (who had scheduled a meeting in Katsina to coincide with the event); distinguished members of the PDP Board of Trustees; the newly elected National Chairman of the PDP Alhaji Ahmadu Muazu and members of his National Working Committee; former National Chairmen of the party in the persons of Col ( rtd) Ahmadu Ali and Alhaji Bello Halliru; the Emir of Bauchi and many other emirs and traditional rulers, including the representative of the Sultan of Sokoto.
From outside the country, there were the representatives of both the President and the Prime minister of Niger Republic; the Governors of Niamey, Maradi and Damagaran; the Sultan of Damagaran and many more important dignitaries. Then of course there was the Vice President himself who represented President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Anyone whose habit it is to disrespect others, as Garba Shehu mischievously insinuated in his article, cannot produce such a glittering assemblage of diverse group of dignitaries to rejoice with him on his conferment with the prestigious title of the Sarkin Fulanin Katsina.
Yet, obviously because on Governor Shema, Mr. columnist Garba Shehu has been an ‘effect waiting for a cause’, he chose to ignore all the positive attributes of that gathering (including the fact that later that evening all the 17 Governors travelled to Dutsin Ma, Governor Shema’s hometown where they were treated to a dinner and cultural display at his country home, before returning to Katsina at midnight to spend the night in the new Government House built by the Shema regime); and on the flimsy, inconsequential split -second reaction of a crowd behavior over which nobody, not even the host Governor Shema, had any control, Garba Shehu went on to spin a yarn about how political practices have changed from their civil, cultured tradition when he and his boss were fighting tooth and nail to betray and displace their boss former President Obasanjo; to the crude method of nowadays when politicians fight dirty and washing their dirty linings in public!
Incredible! Isn’t it. An Atiku sidekick sermonizing (falsely as in this case) about the inappropriateness of fighting dirty and of washing dirty linings in public? If the image, integrity, and person of a complete and extremely decent gentleman of the standing of Governor Shema were not endangered, Garba Shehu’s article would have gone down as one of the most comically hypocritical presentations of the year, if not of the decade. An Atiku appendage speaking of culture, tradition, and clean fight? There is really no more shame left in the world.
If there were, Garba Shehu should have been ashamed of himself; and rather than absurdly expecting Governor Shema to apologise for an offence he did not commit, he ought to be the one apologizing to his readers for the cruel assault on their sensibilities for his personal gains, on the cynical assumption that they would be too stupid to decode his real intent. The attack on Governor Shema certainly came out of nowhere; it was unprovoked, unnecessary, unfair and definitely unjustifiable by any stretch of the imagination.
But enough said, and lets leave Garba Shehu with his conscience. Governor Shema has since developed immunity for such incomprehensible attacks from people who have tried hopelessly to find him wanting in the discharge of his duties in all the public offices he has held, and not finding him ever resorting to absurdities, blackmail and naked insults.
In conclusion though, it is necessary to mention three important points. One: Mr. Sanctimonious Garba Shehu was nowhere near Katsina when the purported ‘disrespect’ to Vice President Sambo was supposed to have happened. I was there and his claim is a blatant lie, which he concocted from his offices in Abuja. Two: Mr. ‘Crying more than the bereaved’ Garba Shehu has actually been disowned by the supporters of the Vice President himself in an article by one of them. A certain Bashir Bello wrote to the Peoples Daily of last Friday and it was published on page 15 of that edition. Three, as the same Bashir Bello said in his article, Governor Shema has said repeatedly that he is not after VP Sambo’s or anybody’s job, contrary to the allegations of Garba Shehu. If armchair columnist like Garba Shehu could muster the energy to visit Katsina State, they would understand where Governor Shema’s energy is directed: In building and positioning his State as one of the best, if not the best governed state in the country. That is Governor Shema’s preoccupation; and so it shall remain. Until God Almighty, who decides the destinies of all His creatures, takes him to the next phase of his life.
I rest my case.
Mohammed Ibrahim wrote in from Saulawa Quarters, Katsina.