by Stanley Azuakola
On Saturday, February 21, 2015, Garba Shehu, the director of media and publicity of the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Council sent out a press statement which unknown to him at the time, would change the conversation in the coming week. And not in a positive way for his candidate.
In the statement which was titled, ‘Buhari to speak at Chatam House on Thursday, February 26,’ Shehu said, “as part of his ongoing engagement in the United Kingdom, General Buhari had an interview yesterday with a local medium, the ‘All Eyes on Africa TV show’ with Kemi Fajodutimi and met with Tony Blair on Saturday, February 21 morning.”
In the press statement, Shehu attached three photos of Buhari and Fadojutimi, and while labelling the photos, he claimed once again that they were taken “during Buhari’s working visit to the United Kingdom on Friday, 20 February 2015.”
Shehu and the APC presidential media office did not anticipate the fact that even though most people will look at the photos and accept them as circulated and labelled, there will be others who will take a more clinical look.
One such person who critically examined the photos was the controversial PDP sympathiser, Mukhtar Alex Dan’Iyan (@MrAyeDee on Twitter).
In a series of tweets, Dan’Iyan – who has been known to mislead as well – pointed out with pictorial evidence that the photo was actually taken at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, and not in the United Kingdom as claimed by Shehu.
Then, to prove a point, the governor of Ekiti, Ayo Fayose, who has been a thorn in the APC flesh throughout this campaign season visited the hotel suite were the interview held. Fayose took photos while seated on the same spot as Buhari, and with the furniture arranged in the same way as the Buhari interview. The story took a life of its own from that point.
Guardian newspaper which had used the photo on its Sunday cover put out a statement next day regretting the error. While the paper did not mention that the error was due to the misleading statement from Shehu, an editor with the paper, Tope Templer Olaiya, said on Twitter that rather than blaming the paper, Nigerians should “blame Garba Shehu’s sloppiness who sent out the picture with accompanying press statement.”
The ScoopNG reached out to Shehu for clarification on the misleading photographs and statement but he was unwilling to dwell on the mater.
“We’re not dwelling on that issue,” he said. “We want to use all our time to see how discussions can be advanced on the issues of insecurity, corruption, mismanagement and unemployment,” he said.
He dismissed the photo controversy as “irrelevant” in the face of weightier issues like insecurity.
Asked whether he does not worry about the fact that the controversy will rub off negatively on the APC candidate as undecided voters will believe that the party is misleading Nigerians on the true state of Buhari’s health and his foreign travel, Shehu said that the decision is that of the voters to make.
“The voter has a decision to make, whether the issue of photograph is more important to him than the issue of large scale insecurity. The media and the voter have a choice to make,” Shehu said.
Efforts by The ScoopNG to get the reaction of the spokesman to the Goodluck Jonathan campaign, Femi Fani-Kayode, have not been successful as calls and text messages sent to his telephone lines have gone unanswered.