Phew, Mallam Garba Shehu is sixty. The man whom I have chosen to refer to as MGS, his acronym, has since become a household name in the media industry in the last forty years or so.
MGS, who is obviously a precocious child, set forth at dawn in his chosen career and climbed to the zenith of journalism at an age his peers were yet to make any headway in their professions.
Shehu, who became the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to President Muhammadu Buhari since 2015, has seen it all in journalism and Public Relations. At a young age of 33, the guru had climbed the rung of media leadership and administration by becoming the Managing Director/Editor in Chief of Triumph Newspapers in Kano.
His meteoric rise in the media industry only attests to his brilliance and precociousness. His handling of all positions entrusted to him now and in the past depicts a man with flair for details and perfection.
A media veteran and prolific writer, MGS became the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) at the age of 37 and held the position for eight unbroken years. As the head of the elite media group, he made egregious contributions to the development of journalism in Nigeria.
Shehu discovered and mentored raw talents in the media and most of those who benefitted from his immense wealth of experience have described him as a teacher who nudges his students to greater heights.
My boss and former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of this medium, Mallam Ali M. Ali wrote this of MGS in a recently published piece: “Shehu was destined for the top in his chosen path, which is journalism and PR. He made marks in both fields. As a newspaper editor and media manager, he was brilliant, visionary and had a keen eye for both talents and details.”
Prior to his appointment as a Presidential spokesman in 2015, Shehu was the media handler and PR manager of the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, in and outside of office. MGS promoted his principal to such a height that his popularity and media presence was second only to that of whoever was the President. Even outside of power, Atiku remained a media brand, courtesy of the robust campaigns sustained by his resourceful handler.
MGS relates well with all irrespective of class. As a media practitioner he is well at home with the high and mighty. Shehu equally ralates with journalists of whatever cadre with uncommon humility. He carries out his responsibility with gait and simplicity. MGS is approachable and is always willing to provide answers to questions posed to him even when they are somewhat ‘ridiculous’.
His ability to navigate the labyrinth of dilemma he faced at the twilight of 2019 Presidential election when his former boss and mentor, Atiku, resolved to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari brought out the best in MGS as a thorough bred professional.
While some of us were waiting with bated breath to see how he would balance his loyalty to the two great men who have impacted his life in so many ways, MGS applied his media dexterity to the admiration of all.
Not given to frivolities and abusive language prevalent during political campaigns period, MGS stuck to issues and focused on the promotion of those achievements recorded by the President whom he diligently serves. When his detractors thought he would not only be confused and detracted, the veteran engaged the opposition word for word without engaging in vulgar diatribes.
His handling of the dilemma during the Presidential contests between two very important political figures obviously deepened the trust invested in his character and professional capacity by his employer who rewarded him with his re-appointment as a Presidential spokesman.
MGS of course has the trust of State House Correspondents. He earned their respects too. This is because of his demonstration of the understanding of the challenges they face daily on their beats. He not only promptly respond to enquiries from newsmen, he is always ready to go steps further to source for information not readily at his disposal. MGS is always available to either confirm of dispel ‘insinuations’.
Aside from projecting and defending his principal’s action, MGS brought innovation into his duties. He introduced the practice of writing ‘Take-aways’ from all trips made abroad by the President. Since this innovation, criticisms against President’s ‘frequent’ trips abroad have reduced as citizens are always abreast of all dividends accruable to the country from such trips.
Members of the State House Press Correspondents who have been working with MGS in the last five years have nice words for him:
Johnbosco Agbakwuru said: “Mallam Garba Shehu is a thorough bred journalist that rose through the ranks. He is simple and unassuming without any trace of ethnic or religious attachment in his dealings with people. He also hates to see those around him suffer and is always willing to render a helping hand to those that are in need. In fact, his philanthropy knows no tribe or religion. He is always ready and polite to explain issues concerning the activities of the President when contacted and hardly loses his cool no matter the questions thrown to him.”
Chesa Chesa: “Shehu is a seasoned senior journalist that you can’t help but be charmed by his warmth and friendliness. This is usually the first thing one can notice about him: no airs and always ready to hear you out and see how any challenges can be surmounted.
His simplicity is indeed endearing, but does not hide the experience and smoothness which he carries along in the execution of his professional mandate. His writing skills over the many years he has been in journalism testify to this.”
Leon Usigbe: “Garba Shehu is not a media manager you want to unsettle with tough questions. Throw anything at him, no matter how malicious your claims may be, he remains cool and, in almost a pedagogic manner, breaks down his facts for you. It is class!”
Horatius Egua said “Mallam Garba Shehu is a thoroughbred journalist. One who knows his onions. He is a man who does not see his political office as one with which to look down or oppress his subordinates. An amiable and disciplined man who opens his doors to anyone who knocks.
He’s always ready to guide journalists attached to the State House in performing their duties and his counsels and interventions on several occasions have helped stabilize relationships between the security agents, civil servants and political appointees of Mr. President.
His high level of professional competence and maturity has helped him navigate the high voltage of political path he has had to travel for his closeness to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. For many thought he would not last as President Buhari’s appointee but four years on, he soldiers on because he separates work from emotion. Congrats Mallam Garba Shehu for you are an example of competence to many!”