OFemi Kolawole

The announcement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, that rodents invaded President Buhari's office while he was away in the UK for treatment thus necessitating a renovation even as Buhari works from home gives one serious cause for concern if there is not a devious agenda to keep shaming, ridiculing, and embarrassing Nigeria by Shehu and certain individuals in the presidency all in the seeming bid to protect Buhari's interest at all costs even if by hook or crook.

If this wasn't the case, why on earth, for goodness sake, would Shehu, descend so low and lie in such blatant manner? Is that how insignificant and inconsequential this presidency takes Nigerians? Has it degenerated to such level? This was a man who earned the respect of Nigerians as spokesman of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

I will openly confess that the way some officials of this government have carried on, the temptation to ignore them with silence due to their continuous disappointing acts, is high. The flip side of that, however, is that one cannot afford to, for love of one's country as a concerned stakeholder like every other citizen.

As a journalist, the job to hold government accountable is one I have committed to whatever its pains or gains. But one occasionally wonders if Nigeria is really worth the trouble after all when supposed public officials paid with public money treat citizens as fools and zombies who they assume have no understanding of national issues whatsoever and thus deserve no modicum of respect in how they relate with and communicate to them.

With the likes of Shehu around the President, our country certainly deserves better. He is not fit for his position. This, he has demonstrated on many occasions. His latest gaffe only further compounds it. And those who have argued in the past that public relations professionals and communications specialists might be more suitable for the jobs of presidential spokesmen than journalists may have a point after all with the experiences we have had with those assigned such responsibilities in the last few years. Or perhaps, they are just exceptions who didn't fully grasp the weight of their choice of words or understand the best way to go about doing their tough jobs?

Whichever, how many Nigerians today are proud of their country with officials like Shehu at the corridors of power? And how many more are truly proud of the overall conduct and performance of this government?

We refuse to set minimum standards of expectations from our leaders. Yet, we need such. If a president is sick and his treatment will have to be borne by our collective wealth, shouldn't such president and his team be honest in telling the citizenry what ails the number one citizen? I honestly find it personally worrisome and puzzling that despite the much-vaunted integrity and honesty of President Buhari, no sincere explanation has been made to Nigerians on the true state of his health despite the country being responsible for this treatment in the UK at a cost that remains yet undisclosed.

And is it not embarrassing, disgusting and utterly shameful for us as a country that whenever a Nigerian President is sick, he has to be flown abroad for treatment? Are we not scandalised? Must a president continue to be treated abroad at such colossal expense? Is that what we have finally come to accept and endorse as a country? Is that how low we have sunk? What is the fate of other citizens who are sick but can't afford treatment overseas? What stops us from fixing our own medical facilities to become world class like it is in Germany, UK, US, the United Arab Emirates or India?

And we simply assume all VPs will be as loyal and dependable as Yemi Osinbajo. We think a time will not come when a subordinate might have his own ideas and want to unseat his boss at the slightest opportunity and damn the consequences when he thinks the main man is no longer able to perform the functions of his office.

We can choose to learn from the current experience. We can choose not to. However, I fear this type of scenario might repeat itself in future if we don't do the needful now. How long, for instance, can a president be constitutionally allowed to be away from his duty post with the latest experience we are having as a country after the sad experiences of the Umaru Musa Yar'Adua presidency?

The point I am making is that for no reason must presidential interest be allowed to trump the national interest no matter what. Under such situations, individuals and sectional interests win while the country loses.

Meanwhile, it appears this APC government has successfully blackmailed the whole country into accepting its way of doing things simply on the basis of the president's avowed fight against corruption and corrupt former public officials. Of course, the administration must be supported in ridding the country of corruption. However, this shouldn't excuse knocks from the media and true patriots on the government or any of its officials when it is erring.

I should add that there are many citizens of various classes today who believe the Nigerian media has lost its voice in boldly speaking out against the shortcomings of those in power compared to its exploits in fighting military dictatorships and its selfless contributions to the emergence of democratic governance in our fatherland.

I also find it baffling that the APC chairman, John Oyegun, and the information minister, Lai Muhammed, don't equally feel scandalized having the president travel abroad for treatment despite the much-hyped stance of their party being against such conduct during the 2015 electioneering campaigns.

But it's glad to read in the newspapers that the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has openly announced that its doctors are able to professionally treat the President no matter his medical challenges and there is no need for him to be going on medical tourism abroad. I believe them. The high numbers of Nigerians doctors working abroad where there are better equipment, world-class facilities and necessary backup infrastructure have distinguished themselves and continue to prove their mettle. They can do better at home if well supported.

Moving forward, one of the things I expect President Buhari would be concerned about within the limited time he has left in his four-year term is leaving an evident legacy at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of Nigeria's healthcare system. However, it appears the government doesn't seem to see this as critical on its to-do list.

But I digress.

To the main focus of this intervention, if Shehu still has any self respect and honour, he would by now know, without being told, that it's time to excuse himself from this government. It's time to pack his bag and baggage and go home. His service to the President is certainly not in the best interest of Nigeria. Otherwise, he wouldn't be spewing out what's nothing but pure bunkum, bringing the country international opprobrium, and making Nigeria a butt of jokes around the world with his untenable excuses of rodents in the president's office.

About the Author:
O'FEMI Kolawole is the chief executive officer of Posterity Media and convener, Posterity Media Business Forum. Twitter: @ofemigan

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