If I Were Garba Shehu

By Yusufu Shehu Usman

There is a raging controversy across the nation over the interview granted by Garba Shehu the media assistant to the President on the comments he made about the murder of forty three innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram in Bornu State

I didn’t hear the original version of the interview but I have followed the flurry of reactions that trailed it and I also watched Garba Shehu in more than one National Television station, trying to explain or rather interpret the controversial statement

He was alleged to have said that the forty three farmers killed by the Boko Haram did not seek clarification on the safety of the area around the farm before going to work there

He didn’t deny saying that there is need for those living and working especially in the war zone to seek information on the state of security before going to such vulnerable areas

On the scale of reason, this should attract no controversy because it is a prudent advise that reflects the truth of the situation on ground

This is what I saw and heard him say on the television

He never said that the deceased farmers were to be blamed for their deaths. No, he didn’t and could not have said that in the circumstances of the national outrage that trailed the massacre

In fairness to Garba Shehu, the section of the press that reported that he blamed the farmers for their death were unfair to Garba as they put words into his mouth which he did not utter or embellished his statement by writing into it, things that he did not say or mean

They must have deliberately interpreted his statement out of context to suit their own purposes, which is an old antic of an antagonistic press

What he said about Bornu being a war zone under military operation is true and can not be disputed

It is also true that people living in war prone areas need to take precautions to safe guard their lives, even in the face of military protection, which as we know, is not guaranteed hundred percent even for the soldiers themselves

However, what I think is wrong and apalling, is the timing and the circumstances under which Garba Shehu made the statement

The massacre has just occurred and the mood of the nation and across the world is that of outrage and condemnation

Therefore as a spokes man of the President, Garba Shehu should have limited his reaction to flow with the mood of the people, the nation and the international community

He should have condemned the gruesome and barbaric act of the Boko Haram against innocent citizens of Nigeria. He should only express condolences and strengthen the people with the assurances that the government would leave no stone unturned to stop further carnage, while assuaging the hurt and thoroughly devastating feelings of the bereaved families

Garba Shehu should never have re stated the warning that people should ask for clearance from the military before going to their farms.

He goofed and goofed big time. It is not the place, time and circumstance to make such a statement

It only added injury to the already boiling feelings of Nigerians and the bereaved families. That was unfortunate

And, if I were Garba Shehu, I would come out and publicly apologize to the families of the murdered farmers and the Nigerian public for making such a statement at such a time when all they need is condolences, compassion and assurances from the government, not a misplaced warning, which in any case, is not in his place to issue

If you goof in a public statement and by reason of that, hurt the feelings of the people or insult their sensitivities, as a public servant, there is no need to try defend such statement, because doing so, will only exercebate the situation and discredit the Government in the estimation of the citizens. The proper thing to do is to admit that you made an error of Judgement and apologise to the people for your indiscretion

Finally, I once more express my condolences to the families of the deceased and to all Nigerians for the murder in cold blood of innocent citizens killed in the pursuit of their legitimate right to life and livelihood

May Allah forgive their sins and grant them Aljannah Firdaus and may He console the families they left behind to mourn their death

And may Allah in His infinite mercy restore peace to our country

Amin

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