By Abdu Abdullahi
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” Plato.
Unknown to him, the desperate and restless presidential speaker, Malam Garba Shehu, has been fighting himself and gradually parting ways with his integrity owing to his persistent shenanigans and abuse of communication principles and commonsense.
Indeed, communication is a viable culture of meaning decoding, content development and dissemination, attitude and purpose expressions between the sender and the receiver. Any partial or full deviation is tantamount to credibility degeneration.
Contrastingly however, each time Shehu, the king image maker for the government speaks to the audience on crucial matters; he often ends producing bad communications which adversely affect the government and its reputation.
Sadly and repeatedly, the poor communication system of Shehu has always been a nuisance to be comprehended and digested by the public because of its lofty insensitivity. But such a repugnant communication enchants only himself. Amazingly however, the government continues to repose full-pledged confidence in him and squanders financial resources to keep him more comfortable at the expense of public funds.
Recently, the Senior Media Advocate of the Buhari Presidency was at it again! When the gruesome murder of the rice farmers filled us with gigantic horrors and enduring sympathy, Shehu put the concerted blames squarely on the innocent victims.
Appallingly, he was not prudent in the communication sense by that brutish massacre that he miscalculated the heinous scenario to produce a communication product that only satisfied his desperation to say something.
Except himself, nobody could venture into that communication risk and forfeit his or her integrity. That non decorum message which he carelessly conveyed to the bereaved families and the entire Zabarmari community was not a human error as he claimed.
In accordance with humanitarian gesture, the best he could passionately exhibit was to visit the community and soberly tender his heart-felt sympathy on behalf of the power house. But sadly, he could not console them with the most effective communication terms and theory to assuage their profound distress and agony.
While they were wailing in anguish and he was speaking from the top comfort of the Villa, perhaps, he did not need to get clearance not to fault the terrorists who butchered the innocent farmers. What new message did Garba store for us this time? Was the content fair, good or entirely poor? According to his perception, “the farmers did not get clearance from the military before they went to the rice fields”! We fervently pray that such irresponsible remarks and ill-motivated talk against the dead people will not emanate from him again so as not to remain a point of regrettable reference for which he will be remembered.
Unfortunately, the decoded meaning of this communication transaction is that the victims were the architects of their own tragic demise. In fact, he was ridiculing himself at his best communication time and pleasure.
His latest art of communication was too contemptuous and dangerous to the government if it could gather the political will to view it in that reckless dimension. He had by this single public relations activity smeared the image of the same government he had sworn to preserve.
In essence therefore, the government has been the greatest casualty of Shehu’s communication misappropriation. With those unguided and mindless utterances that sent our joint psychology asunder, he had once again largely tarnished his individual image in his extreme bid to create a big point. But how could he feel when he is heavily paid for any message content that leaves much to be desired?
All of a sudden, the image creator is now the image destroyer both at the individual and governmental levels. We are not saying that Shehu should not be faithful and loyal to the government he so much loves and protects. However, his mass audience also deserves a sort of integrated loyalty that guarantees his integrity as well as decency in speeches.
From prior experiences, Malam Shehu is never the type who would not dare any critic of his communication methodology. As if he was in a haste to auction his integrity, again, he spoke badly on behalf of the same government that employed him to boost and embellish its image.
In the wake of the abducted Kankara school boys, he was impliedly debunking the mass media report that 334 students were stolen like animals. When he mischievously mentioned that: “only 10 students left with the bandits,” he was trying to say that they were all liars. But when the reality unmasked itself, it was now obvious who the great liar was.
Again, he played unfairly in the adoption of the lexical item ‘only’ which semantically denotes indifference. It would interest Shehu to believe strongly that by subtracting large number, he would be a healer of the wound. But that was a complete miscalculation from the morality point of view, for in a human tragedy, it is safer not to deploy politics of subtraction. If Shehu must have the audacity of uttering even the most pointless point, he should have deep reflections on the assertion of Mark Twain to the effect that “if you have nothing to say, say nothing.” Unfortunately for Garba Shehu, he always has something to say even when there should be nothingness.
To the best of our knowledge, Malam Garba Shehu is not the best communicator the country has ever produced. Neither will he be the first nor the last promoter of government.
Throughout his image designer career at the Villa, he has not improved the honour of the government to the next level. He has not popularised the government and its policies and subsequently avert its being plunged into crisis of confidence. At one time, he was so much controversial that the First Lady called for his sacking for communication related offenses that bothered on President Muhammadu Buhari.
In spite of his recurrent failings on matters of effective communication, the government seems to be comfortable with his dismal performances. However, the fact remains that Malam Garba will continue enjoying the endless blessings of the Presidency and he will feed us with the communication we don’t want.
Going by Jim Rohn communication philosophy, effective communication is 20 per cent what you know and 80 per cent how you feel about what you know.
Given reference to the two episodes earlier mentioned and Garba’s unsolicited remarks, in both instances, he scored 20 per cent knowledge wise, while his 80 per cent was his non charlatan attitude he exemplified. Accordingly, those of us who did not ridicule the deceased and their bereaved families went away with the 80 per cent of how we felt. Similarly, the parents of the abducted boys, Katsina State Government and the rest of us excluding Malam Garba Shehu who did not play the dirty game of number subtraction also got the 80 per cent feeling of agony when the news of the abduction was made public.
A careful study of Shehu’s image promoting exercise will definitely reveal that he has been engulfed by crisis of integrity. And the more he attempts to save the image of the employer, the more the crisis aggravates and further consumes his declining integrity.
I summed up Garba Shehu’s trouble in my piece entitled: ‘Magu’s next level, EFCC and Garba Shehu’s idiosyncratic rhetoric’ which was published in The Triumph of Friday, July 24, 2020. His professional colleagues in the media industry have always been badly affected by his desperate bid for self gratifications.
They persistently accuse him of not reflecting on the fact that he was one time occupying the exalted position of the president of the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE). It is for this reason that they want and desire for him a soft landing.
While exerting frantic efforts to please his pay masters, Garba is sacrificing his integrity. Interestingly, his latest pronouncements have clearly ignited loud public furore against him. Many people are of the opinion that he has exhausted his public relations usefulness.
If he is doubtful, a research should be carried out and definitely the findings will be shocking to him.
Between now and 2023, when Shehu’s communication contract expires, he will be left with two options. The first is to honour the path of cheap popularity, speech exuberance and further deteriorate his ailing integrity. The second is to rediscover himself and the feelings of others when they are afflicted by any calamity.
As we are running out of time, it is morally mandatory for Garba Shehu to choose between self gratification and eventual collapse of his integrity.
Abdullahi wrote in from Galadanci Quarters, Ringim, Jigawa State and can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07036207998.