President Muhamadu Buhari will not interfere with the decision of the courts in the ongoing high profile corruption trials in the country, his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu has said.
Shehu was reacting yesterday to the comments that trailed the Buhari’s first Presidential Media Chat on Wednesday.
There were mixed reactions to President Buhari’s comments during the chat on court cases involving former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
Kanu and Dasuki, who are separately standing trial for treasonable felony and alleged misapplication of $2.2 billion arms deal fund respectively, were granted bail by the courts, yet, they were re-arrested and kept in detention by the security agencies.
During the media chat, while responding to questions on alleged violation of court orders by security agents in the trials of the former NSA and IPOB leader, President Buhari said: “If you see the atrocities those committed against this country, we can’t allow them to jump bail”.
The response drew sharp criticisms, especially from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which accused Buhari of being tyrannical.
But Shehu, in an article, titled “Media chat, a win-win move”, said the president was only freely expressing his personal views on the matter, as every other Nigerian was entitled to do, adding he would be been wrong, if he had tried to impose such views on the courts or anyone.
“It is harsh of anyone to deny the President an opinion on these matters when all of us are freely commenting upon them. Muhammadu Buhari is first a citizen before becoming a President. He is entitled to hold views as you and I are under the constitution.
“What will be wrong is when he tries to impose those views on the courts or on anyone, and this not anything he has done, and will not do as the elected president of Nigeria”, he said.
The article stated that “many understand his comments regarding the bail for Col Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu to mean that government would use all avenues in the legal system to ensure that they are made to face trials”.
The presidential aide pointed out that under the constitution, no one can stop the courts from performing their duties, saying it is a matter Mr. Buhari keeps going back to, given his much-cherished, newly-acquired democratic beliefs.
He also pointed out that on any given day in court, lawyers argue the pros and cons of given issues and so do writers and commentators in the media.
Shehu said a lawyer can argue for bail, while another one argues against it, with both entitled to their views.
He explained that Buhari was first a citizen before becoming president and was entitled to hold views under the constitution.
Addressing the issue of Biafran agitations, Shehu said President Buhari drew lessons from history on the strategic consequences of failing to act with firmness and great wisdom.
He also said on economic review, Buhari presented a sobering picture not only for the government, but for the general public to heed the warning signal.
The article also dwelt on the president’s condour, saying “it was very rare that when asked a question, the leader of a country will say I don’t have the answer, I will seek explanation from so, so or that I will instruct the Central Bank to issue a statement on that”.
According to the article, this honesty on the part of Buhari, makes people to believe him when he speaks because he does so with an aura of sincerity.
“This is something that helps public perception. A leader who knows it all by himself is not what a country needs”, Shehu said.
On the media, Shehu pointed out that since assuming power in May, 2015 the president has sent very clear signals to the media of his non-interference with their freedom.
He stressed that as leader of a large and diverse country, the president wants the media to rise above speculations, do a lot of research and investigation to produce credible articles.
He said the media needed to do this to ramp up their credibility, failure of which they will risk dragging down their reputable institution from the high pedestal it occupies.
Shehu remarked that the maiden media chat served both sides well, with the media carrying out their constitutional duty and the president having a useful platform to reach millions of citizens.
He said the chat had 300,000 tweets and feedbacks from TV viewers and radio listeners using the hashtags #presidentialmediachat, #PMBmediachat and #ASKBuhari.