(BOOK REVIEW) An Encounter with the Spymaster
Yushau Shuaib has always had it easy getting jobs, sometimes in unpredictable places. He hails from the far north, but he became a spokesman of a government south of the country, in Delta State, in the early years of his employment history.
He relates that experience at the start of ‘I Cease to be a civil Servant,’ chapter three of his book, ‘An Encounter with the Spymaster,’ where he writes that in October 1993 when he received the Best Writer and Researcher Award while serving as a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), the Delta State governor at the time, Olorogun Felix Ibru (late), offered him automatic employment in the Government House as a public relations officer.
Recalling his next automatic employment which followed quickly, he writes of how he was named a recipient of the NYSC National Honour by the Federal Government and how that honour came with employment in the Federal Civil Service.
“Since then I have found myself working in various organisations as either press secretary or head of public relations as I continued to write official press releases and personal opinion articles,” he writes, listing the government offices where he worked as the Federal Ministries of Information, Finance and Health as well as the National Assembly, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), National Press Centre and finally the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) which he exited in 2013 because he dared to write an opinion that Minister of Finance at the time, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, took exception to.
Yushau Shuaibu’s book, which he presented to the public recently, is as much about a number of other issues as it is about himself. It is mostly a collection of his articles, a good deal of which were originally published in the years of the fight against Boko Haram under President Goodluck Jonathan and thereafter. Most of the articles around this time, especially after he became involved in information management of the anti-Boko Haram war in his post-retirement years under the Forum of Spokespersons of Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA) that the Muhammadu Buhari government inherited, are responses to critiques of the anti-insurgency fight under Jonathan with Jonathan himself and his national security adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki as direct targets.
The book indeed comes with multiple themes, expressed in 56 chapters in nine sections spread over 308 pages.
In Chapter 4, ‘Sambo Dasuki on Security Media Relations,’ the author pictures Dasuki, the NSA boss at the time the feature was originally published, on March 10, 2014, as a selfless prince who once resigned his appointment as the managing director of the Nigeria Security, Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC) because he disagreed with the president at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo, over privatization.
He also portrays Dasuki as a self-effacing NSA who made no attempt to influence media reports on him. “All his life, Dasuki has never been ambitious and would rather take a bow than fight dirty. He doesn’t believe in cheap publicity. He would rather expand resources in facilitating positive public perception on other security arms expected to be active and visible on the field,” he writes, hinting at the NSA office’s inauguration of FOSSRA intended principally to encourage security spokespersons to be proactive and timely in providing updates on security situations.
In Chapter 5, Sambo Dasuki: An Encounter with the Spymaster, the chapter by which the book is named, Yushau Shuaib writes of how Sambo Dasuki became one of a few top government functionaries who stood by him after his job with the Federal Government was terminated by getting him into the media relation functions of the antiinsurgency war in a private capacity after he rejected suggestion of a return to the civil service.
The sixth chapter of the book is an Open Letter to Presidential Spokesperson, Femi Adesina, in which he sheds further light on his role in image making for the security forces, by which he had the responsibility of consulting for FOSSRA.
In the letter, which was originally published on December 31, 2015, he writes to Adesina on how, as president of the Nigeria Guild of Editors Adesina was adequately informed of the success stories of Goodluck Jonathan administration’s war on terror, and expresses surprise how Adesina became ‘a changed person’ when he was made presidential spokesman (effective August 31, 2015) and as the trial of Sambo Dasuki heightened, he started to dismiss Dasuki’s achievements.
The letter to Adesina is one of a number of chapters of Yushau Shuaib’s book in which he seeks to dismiss allegations that the Jonathan administration did not buy weapons for the armed forces against the Boko Haram insurgents and that consequently the Boko Haram fighters had a field day everywhere.
He tells Adesina that On August 6, 2015, Dasuki named and provided pictures of sophisticated weapons bought for the military, and that in his official response to Adesina’s statement against him on November 18, 2015, Dasuki mentioned official acknowledgements of delivery of some of the equipment by the security chiefs. He adds that contrary to insinuations, the military did save many towns from the claws of the insurgents: “In the twilight of Jonathan’s administration, more than 22 towns in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states were recovered and confirmed with video and pictorial evidences through military press releases.”
The book, ‘An Encounter with the Spymaster’, a collection of articles originally published in print and online newspapers between 2013 and 2017, covers a wide array of subjects that includes the dynamics of the civil service, socioeconomic issues, national security imperatives with the Boko Haram insurgency as the focus, individuals who have featured prominently along the way, and of course issues in media and public relations.
Yushua A. Shuaib, a mass communication graduate and holder of a Master’s degree in Public Relations, is an accomplished writer and public relations practitioner whose book will help readers and researchers interested in especially issues around the fight against Boko Haram in the last four years.