The Change In Covering Buhari | Independent Newspapers Limited
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COLUMNIST, Inside the Presidency

The Change In Covering Buhari

Posted: Jul 12, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Inside The Presidency

Journalists covering the Aso Rock Presidential Villa were the butt of their own jokes in the first few weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo took their oaths of office but declined to move into the Aso Rock Presidential Villa until renovation of the seat of power was completed.

Full of expectations, the journalists prepared to continue their new shunt with a new administration in the saddle and particularly, to see the new President urgently begin to usher in the change he promised. That was why members of the State House Press Corps reported for work quite early in the first few days after the May 29 inauguration along with regular staff members who were equally anxious to usher in the new ‘change’ regime. However, it all turned out to be a false start as neither the President nor Vice-President was in a hurry to embrace the Villa and possess their possessions.

These first few days were thus devoid of serious activities expected in the political engine room of the nation. It soon dawned on all that the duo of Buhari and Osinbajo would for quite some time to come, work from the federal government’s premier guest house, the Defence House, in Maitama District of the federal capital. They had operated from there before their inauguration.

Since Muhammadu refused to come to the Villa, the Villa had to move to Muhammadu. So, some key staff, particularly protocol, administrative and security, as well as journalists were compelled to relocate from the Villa to the Defence House.

First surprise or taste of ‘change’ for the journalists was that they had to sign in as visitors before they entered the premises of the Defence House since their regular State House identification tags were no guarantee of automatic entrance into the premises of the new ‘State House’.

When finally in, another reality was that instead of the luxury of a press centre or press briefing room they were used to at the Presidential Villa, the journalists had to now loiter around the grounds of Defence House waiting for the few news events that were covered then. In the alternative, they could make do with the temporary canopy erected for use of the numerous aides of the officers working with the President at the Defence House. There were no seats under the canopy, but respite came with the camp beds supplied by the presidency staff. The beds were actually meant for and appropriately labelled for the Police Mobile Force. Seeing the news hunters in different positions on the camp beds under the canopy quickly gave one an image of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS); a joke that stuck for the period of their stay at Defence House even after the beds were replaced with platic hairs two weeks after.

It was not all gloomy though as the reporters had a pleasant surprise of being served with take-away packs of cooked rice. That was a luxury that they did and still do not have at the almighty Aso Rock Villa. With food vendors or eateries not so close to the Villa, the prospect of having free meals became something of compensation at the Defence House. After all this is one beat that a historic moment for the nation can unfold at the very moment a reporter leaves to go and get a bite of something to quench hunger after waiting the whole day and nothing happened.

Well, things have now changed. State House Correspondents who had then re-christened themselves Defence House Correspondents and didn’t find that particular ‘change’ too funny, have now reverted to the regular mode as Buhari and Osinbajo have now taken their rightful abode.

Interestingly, Buhari started his first day at Aso Rock Villa by meeting ?with members of the State House Press Corps. It was a pleasant surprise and the kind of gesture President Jonathan did not have time for. As he cracked jokes and threw jabs at the journalists, Buhari did not fail to reminisce on his not-too cordial relations with the press over the past three decades. But he said it is now time for change and we hope he means it going by this his first thoughtful step. He has since added another step by reinstating Mr. Ubale Musa, the State House correspondent of the German radio/television network, Deutsch Welle, who was expelled from the Villa by President Jonathan for asking ‘embarrassing’ questions. As reassuring as these gestures appear and with no ‘embarrassing’ question episode recorded yet, the journalists are still watching Mr. President closely, to help him monitor the change he promised.