Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, says President Muhammadu Buhari’s “cook and luggage officer” accompany him on his foreign visits.
Reacting to the criticisms that have trailed the president’s trips abroad, Shehu made reference to how Sani Abacha, former head of state, was “despised for not representing his country abroad”.
He said Buhari was embarking on those journeys in the interest of the country, saying unlike his predecessor who was fond of travelling with a large retinue of aides, Buhari has brought down the number to a “bearable minimum”.
“In the delegations accompanying him abroad, President Buhari has slashed the numbers, bringing them down to a tolerable or the bearable minimum,” Shehu said in an article.
“He went to the United Nations General Assembly in September with an unbelievable 32 officials in his delegation. These included his cook, his doctor and luggage officer.
“His predecessor in office went to the same meeting with 150 officials and family members the year before.
“Wherever they are given government accommodation and feeding, members of President Buhari’s entourage receive reduced allowances, thereby saving the government some money.
“All trips have been marked by tight schedules. Meeting after meeting, happening back-to-back morning, afternoon and evening. The president has had to travel overnight for some of these meetings.
Shehu said since he assumed office, the president has visited 13 countries, adding that the trips were not meant for pleasure but to discuss serious issues.
Accusing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of trivialising the president’s foreign trips, Shehu said: “If President Buhari is successful as a leader, the PDP will be history”.
“There is no reason to be angry with anyone criticising President Buhari for traveling abroad. In politics, even if President Buhari were to bring with him a suitcase full of cash and pot gold each time he returned from a trip, someone will criticize him, saying that the journey is wasteful,” Shehu said.
“The PDP will kick, knowing that they got 16 years and did nothing with it. Those who didn’t do much during their term of governance will find it instructive to fault whatever the President is doing.
“The visit by any president to another country is the highest act in international relations. It sends out a message that that county is important to the visitor.
“It is not like your usual vacation abroad. Official discussions involving political leaders, the military, the diplomats and at times, business people are held at multi- track levels. In foreign policy you stand on a quick sand of events and you slip up if take a rest or lose focus.
“Governments also know that their achievements at home will be meaningless if they cannot project them abroad. Who or where are the foreign investors, whose hand you are seeking if you can’t travel meet them? Will they come if they don’t know about the country?
“Now, countries such as France, UK, the U.S are supporting Nigeria with intelligence, weapons and training for our military against Boko Haram and the economic saboteurs in the Delta region.
“President Buhari will definitely make Nigeria great, what the PDP fooled us for 16 years.
“All heads of countries around the world now take Nigeria seriously. His foreign trips are for business, security of the country and bilateral contacts- contacts that get actualized by follow-ups and the love and support a leader enjoys at home and abroad.
“Today the world is in a warm embrace of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Nigerians should be proud of the attention, love and admiration, importance, respect and investment he is bringing to Nigeria. These trips are not for enjoyment.”
[Courtesy: APC NEWS ALERT]