The presidency apparently lied about Buhari's stopover in London after his meeting with Trump. It was an unnecessary lie.
Shehu has been caught telling a lie he had no business telling.
After Buhari’s meeting with U.S President Donald Trump on April 30, 2018, the Nigerian leader was supposed to be airborne the next day for Abuja.
And of course Buhari did leave Washington the next day, because on May 1, the presidency told us that the nation’s presidential jet had taken off from the Joint Base Andrews Airport in Maryland; which meant that Buhari was Abuja bound.
However, on May 2, journalists who had been tracking the president’s flight, wondered why Buhari was nowhere near Abuja just yet.
It was then it occurred to everyone that the president’s official Eagle One aircraft had landed in London instead of Abuja on Tuesday, May 2.
Of course everyone who has been following Buhari and his London medical trips knew that the nation’s number one citizen had stopped over in the UK to keep a date with his doctors.
When Shehu was asked why the president was in London instead of Abuja as pre-planned, the phrase “technical stopover” was born into the nation's lexicon.
"They had a technical stopover in London. I am sure if you keep your ears to the ground, you will hear of his arrival soon”, Shehu said of the delay, without flinching.
He later clarified: "The big jet is under repairs. 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, refuel, do some checks and then proceed on the journey.
"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. This is very normal. There is nothing unusual about it. In any case, they are already on their way back home."
Mind you, there was no point in Shehu’s explanations where he talked about Buhari stopping over in London to see his doctors.
Fast forward to Monday, May 7, 2018. Buhari announces that he’ll be embarking on a four day trip to London to keep a date with his doctors.
“I will be travelling to the United Kingdom tomorrow to see my doctor at his request. Will be away for four days. Back in Abuja on Saturday May 12”, President Buhari announced.
Of course the job of cleaning up the mess and going back on that “technical stopover” phrase fell on Shehu.
And then the president’s spokesperson told the nation that that “technical stopover” had everything to do with Buhari’s health.
“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”, Shehu confessed.
“The doctor requested the President to return for a meeting which he agreed to do. President Buhari will return on Saturday, May 12th”, Shehu added.
If you read carefully between the lines, you would have noticed that Buhari didn’t stop over in London from Washington on May 2 because his jet needed refueling or checks or because the president was “using a small plane and there is a limit to the distance the small plane can cover”.
The presidency told the nation a bare-faced lie. A lie that was totally unnecessary. The fib was a disaster in information management and public relations; and everyone involved in this unforced spin should be bowing their heads in utter shame. It is like taking an entire nation for a ride.
And this outright mendacity from the presidency isn’t even the first in recent times. On Monday, April 9, 2018, Buhari departed for London—nine days before a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) slated for April 18.
Of course several other meetings were scheduled for Buhari during his nine-day vacation before the CHOGM. Till this day, no one from the presidency has explained to taxpayers if Buhari saw his doctors or not before the CHOGM.
Let’s be clear here: There’s nothing wrong with the president seeing his doctors now and again because the man has been battling an undisclosed ailment since he was elected. Ahead of a rigorous electioneering season, it’s only normal that Buhari consults with his doctors a lot more. We all fall ill and no one is going to live forever. The president has our best wishes at this time like he's always done.
However, what is wrong is not levelling up with Nigerians and appearing to conceal what should be common knowledge to every taxpayer in this nation. Nigerians want a presidency that tells them the truth when they should be told the truth.
Shehu and his team got this one horribly wrong and they should be apologising to Nigerians for lying to them and taking them for a ride.