Garba Shehu: I’m a Driver’s Son…I Wasn’t Born with a Silver Spoon, I Worked Hard to Propel Myself

Garba Shehu


Call him the boy from Dutse and you would be right. Yes, Garba Shehu, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media spent his formative years in this town, now in the present day Jigawa State. He talks about his beloved Dutse with so much passion. Garba was not born with a silver spoon, but worked hard to propel himself and education gave him the breakthrough opportunity. This gentleman is a workhorse. He tells anyone that cares to listen that hard work has its rewards. He is indeed getting all the rewards of hard work. There is never a dull moment with Garba, who shares the story of his life with Onyebuchi Ezigbo

Growing up in Dutse

I was born to Shehu Kofar Mata, and Jummai from Kano in Dutse where he worked. I spent my early childhood in Dutse, now Jigawa State capital and, as a consequence, I have most of my friends from there. Dutse was then a simple, unsophisticated settlement. Almost everyone knows one another. There were no crimes as we know them now, and drugs and alcohol consumers were few. You could count them on your fingertips. Education was not embraced by all. Few of the girls made it to secondary schools because they were married off early. Even the boys, many did not come to school on market days. Agriculture was the main economy so even families led by salary earners like mine, they kept farms and livestock.

I worked hard to propel myself in life

I am a driver’s son. Where could the silver spoon have come from? I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I worked hard to propel myself in life and education gave me the opportunity to bootstrap myself. The famous motivational writer Zig Ziglar said: “There is no elevator to success, you must take the stairs.” Indeed, working hard is essential in life. To excel and change your fortunes in life, you must work hard. If you work hard and excel, your opportunities are limitless. If you are worth your salt, your opportunities broaden day after day. Hard work has its rewards. The best certificate is the ability to prove yourself. This essentially is the reason for whatever I have attained in life and not because of any silver spoon. Besides, I am an adventurous person, I like challenges.

Growing up with sweet teeth

I spoke of my father as a driver. He was the world’s most prudent person. He is also a very careful driver. He told me in all his years on the wheels, he never crushed a life, not even of a chicken. My mother sold sugar. That’s why I grew with what they call sweet teeth. I grew up eating raw sugar but I have slowed down on that before the doctor comes knocking. Still, the bakery section, the chocolates and biscuits are my best whenever I enter the supermarket.

My dad was straight forward. He says it as it is. My mother was kind and generous. She gave out in excess. I am proud of my parents and I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to say one influenced me better than the other. Both of them were a tremendous influence on me. They taught me to work hard and their love and care was superb. Despite their financial limitations, they gave me unstinting care and support. I am proud of the wonderful way they nurtured me and supported me through life. Their contributions to the progress of my life are immeasurable.

Influence of late Emir Ado Bayero

I have told the Ado Bayero story (late Emir of Kano) many times in the past and it bears repeating here. In class one in primary school, he came on a visit and asked a tricky question in my class. I raised my hand and gave him the answer. He walked to my desk, his hand on my head and said something about greatness. That inspired me from then until this moment.

You knew very early that you were a nobody and had an idea of what to do to stand out. I am not at all suggesting that I have achieved greatness at this point in my life. No, but I am happy I have achieved contentment. I am happy with how far I have come. To think that one has made the journey from Dutse as I described it above, to the highest level of government where you are privileged to accompany the President to the White House, the UN in New York, the Royal Court in Riyadh, Elysee Palace in Paris; the world’s greatest historical sites like the Jewish heritage and holocaust sites in Poland, the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in China among others, and then, the privilege of sitting in the same room with the President of this country to listen and learn…you must thank providence for how far you have come.

The best gift I remember receiving as a child

Do I remember that? My Sallah dress which my father never failed to choose well, and provide, complete with a pair of shoes on time made me feel on top of everyone.

How I met my wife

I got married at 27. I have prayed in my life that God should show me my wife when I see her; that I should recognise her the moment she is there. I saw her in a crowd. Then, we couldn’t stop stealing a look at one another. I told myself that yes, that’s the one. I made the move, and we got going. This was the first and only relationship I ever went into. We stuck to each other ever since and I believe it will remain like that to the very end. I’m extremely pleased with the family I have.

Battle with WAEC

One of the most difficult challenges has to do with passing the final WAEC examination. I played with it and I banged. I became serious again and I made it.

Life mistakes 

I have made many mistakes and I believe many still lie ahead. Nothing will be helped by talking about them here. What I do is pray to my maker to forgive me.

Once you strive towards excellence, you can win confidence, respect

I’m grateful to God for His blessings. God couldn’t have been kinder to me. He has crowned my endeavours with success. I’m always convinced that once you strive towards excellence, you can win confidence and respect which in turn endear you to the people. Working in the nation’s highest seat of power is unarguably the pinnacle of professional and personal achievement. For people to have confidence in you and give you the opportunity to serve the country, it’s something to be proud of.

My biggest fear in life

It is death. We are all going to die.

Things I still desire

A quiet retirement, enjoying good health and the company of my beautiful family, without having to do anything. Just travel. Read. Watch TV. Exercise.

Life has taught me to be contented in order to find real happiness

Life has taught me to be patient, to work hard and avoid envy. It has taught me to strive towards excellence to attain my ambition instead of lamenting about other people’s success. Life has taught me to be contented in order to find real happiness. Gratitude for God’s blessings is one of the important ingredients of happiness. Self-pity and hating others don’t bring you happiness. If you are contented with your own blessings, you can find stress much easier to handle.

Understanding politics beyond the textbook definition

I am not a career politician, but working with politicians expands your horizons and life’s experiences. The roles I played and still play in terms of working with politicians has expanded my knowledge beyond the textbook definition of politics. Politics is full of intrigues and power play and being in the corridors of working with the wielders of power is a thrilling experience.