Had Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicty, known that President Muhammadu Buhari would be returning to the UK very soon on medical grounds, he would have been more circumspect in his response to enquiries about the President’s ‘sudden disappearance’ from the US after an official visit headlined by a joint press conference with President Donald Trump.
Buhari’s take-off from the US on Tuesday had been tweeted by Bashir Ahmad, one of his social-media aides. However, when the President still hadn’t been seen by Thursday afternoon — two days after departure from the US — the Presidency found itself fielding multiple questions from journalists.
Shehu, saddled with the responsibility of providing answers, stated thus: “I am sure if you keep your ears to the ground, you will hear of his arrival soon,” he had said.
“The big jet is under repair. It has been taken for major repairs. So the President is using a small plane and there is a limit to the distance the small plane can cover.
“So the technical stopover I talked about is that the journey from US to Abuja is broken into two. Technical stopover is that the plane stops at a point, refuels, does some checks and then proceeds on the journey.
“This is very normal. There is nothing unusual about it. In any case, they are already on their way back home. It is a routine thing. The plane can do Abuja-Washington, that’s about 12 hours and the maximum the plane can fly is 12 hours, 40 minutes. But you don’t need to push it to the edge.”
How ironical it is that when it was time for Buhari to announce the proper four-day medical trip to the UK, the responsibilty fell not on Femi Adesina but on Garba Shehu.
“President Muhammadu Buhari will tomorrow, Tuesday undertake a four-day trip to the United Kingdom,” he tweeted this time.
“In the course of the technical stop-over for aircraft maintenance in London on his way back from Washington last week, the President had a meeting with his doctor. The Doctor requested the President to return for a meeting which he agreed to do.
“President Buhari will return on Saturday, May 12th. On his return, the President’s two-day State Visit to Jigawa, which was postponed because of the All Progressives Congress, APC’s Ward Congresses, will now take place on Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th May.”
This time Shehu simply had to say the truth. Four full days in the UK would have proven too long for another “technical stopover”.
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