Abati: The Invalid, The Nincompoop

by SOC Okenwa

Dr Reuben Abati, the controversial Nigerian presidential spokesman, was in his best element when he ‘opened’ yet another front in the ‘war’ against the critics of President Goodluck Jonathan by publishing recently a hard-hitting article aimed at former President Obasanjo and his big ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ — now united in their virulent upbraiding of GEJ and his inept administration. Abati was firing from all cylinders as he crudely and rudely took on the OBJ boys and girls naming no names but identifying them indirectly: OBJ himself, Nasir el-Rufai, Femi Fani-Kayode and Oby Ezekwesili. It was vintage Abati as he sought desperately to defend his boss facing unrelenting criticisms for his rudderless leadership, security challenges and massive corruption in the system.

Entitled “The Hypocrisy Of Yesterday’s Men” Abati took down some unnamed big guns in the OBJ years and impliedly passed judgement on them. Abati was pathetic in his conclusions exposing once again his dramatic ‘transformation’ by power! Abati was neither diplomatic nor graceful as he made frantic efforts to ‘demolish’ OBJ and his horde of ex-aides engaging lately in what one could call a revolt against the establishment. But the revolt of the OBJ boys and girls is understandable given the rot in the land; those ruining our lives ought to be reminded of their responsibility for good governance. The source of the message cannot be more important than the message itself.

After reading the highly critical piece fraught with expletives I came out with one impression: Abati, true to type, sounded both arrogant and haughty. His piece was, as usual, full of sound and fury signifying nothing! While not holding brief for OBJ and his boys and girls revolting against the system one must not fail to see a clear case of irony in Abati’s submissions. How can a chief hypocrite, a professional sycophant be labelling others as “hypocrites”? The kettle calling the pot black? Abati does not impress anyone with his cheap shots and tirades sans substance.

Dr Oby Ezekwesili’s well-publicised hard-hitting lecture delivered at the UNN (Nsukka) convocation ceremony must have rankled the presidency so much that attack lions, tigers and leopards were released by Aso Rock to demonise the decent woman and call her names. But what did madam Ezekwesili say in form of a bombshell that so incensed the government to want to declare ‘war’ against whatever she stands for? She had raised the issue of corruption lamenting the squandering of the nation’s foreign reserves and excess crude account savings by the Yar’Adua and Jonathan’s administrations — 67 billion dollars saved by the Obasanjo administration!

She had said: “Six years after the administration I served handed over such humongous national wealth to another one; most Nigerians but especially the poor continue to suffer the effects of failing public health and education systems as well as decrepit infrastructure and battered institutions. One cannot but ask, what exactly does Nigeria convey with this level of brazen misappropriation of public resources? Where did all that money go? Where is the accountability for the use of both these resources plus the additional several hundred billions of dollars realized from oil sale by the two administrations that have governed our nation in the last six years? How were these resources applied or more appropriately, misapplied? Tragic choices! Yes. Our national dignity continues to be degraded by cycles of stagnation because of the terrible choices my generation and those before repeatedly make as a result of free oil money. The wealth and poverty of a nation never found a better Symbol!”

Despite the ceaseless castigation Oby has remained calm and unfazed insisting on a public debate with the GEJ aides, something they have declined! The Minister of (mis)Information Labaran Maku said she got her figures wrong even accusing her of mismanaging the Education Ministry when she was in charge. The ‘attack lion’ Doyin Okupe declared she goofed claiming nothing has been squandered from the foreign reserves! The cyberworld ‘hitman’ Omokri likened her to a ‘wicked step-mother’ and Abati penned acerbic lines in sharp stinging rebuke.

If Abati were not engaged by President Jonathan only God knows how he would have since described the Ijaw-man, maybe as a failure! During Obasanjo’s presidency Abati was one of the many implacable critics that tore the Ota farmer to shreds week after week while pretending to fight the popular cause against dictatorship. One is not a fan of Obasanjo, el-Rufai or Fani-Kayode but the truth must prevail here. Whilst the OBJ boys and girls who have been expressing disgust over the present situation in Nigeria could be hypocritical in their motives no one could fault their patriotism and disenchantment with the system. Most of their charges were in order.

President Goodluck Jonathan deserves the constructive criticisms coming his way because his administration has not shown such purposefulness that comes from the will to lead. We can do better than being saddled with a weak character as President. Opportunistic megalomaniacs like Reuben Abati must be made to appreciate that fact. Leadership is much more than hiring loose cannons to spew mendacious propaganda that assault the sensibilities of the discerning segment of the population.

Obasanjo is playing the politics of 2015; as a congenital manipulator he is trying to ‘fix’ 2015 presidential polls so that he can still remain relevant post-Jonathan. Abati accused them of “grandstanding” but one wonders if Abati and the other GEJ ‘attack lions’ are not more ‘guilty’ of grandstanding and intellectual hubris. Reuben Abati, Reno Omokri, Labaran Maku or Doyin Okupe are not in a position to talk down on anybody that manifests opposition against GEJ and his lacklustre government. He must perform or resign!

Now that the Owu Chief has visited the President in Aso Rock on a Sunday where they worshipped together and later wined and dined together the likes of Abati must have seen the futility of ‘fighting’ an enemy that is beyond prediction. And just last weekend they met again in far-away London as OBJ launched his “Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation”. Gen. Obasanjo is a master strategist and serial schemer; he knows the capacity and limits of the temporary holder of power, so he is using both mischief and notoriety to blackmail and whip him into submission to his will. The Obasanjo we know is not a good man but he is patriotically outspoken.

The two ‘warring’ camps are therefore ‘guilty’ of criminal hypocrisy! And the “men of yesterday” and the men of today must excuse us and save us the prospects of national paralysis on the horizon. While the present is woefully corrupt and diffident the past did not fare any better. But the little difference between the immediate past and the present remains that the past was courageous and focused while the present is mediocrity personified. Nigeria does not deserve any of the two!

Permit me to end this piece by quoting one Ayobami Oyalowo whose article (The Issue Is Not Yesterday’s Men; The Issue Is Tomorrow’s Children) was published online few days ago: “Of the many mistakes Obasanjo made, herein lies his greatest mistake– that he bequeathed to Nigeria two of the worst kinds of successors: an invalid and a nincompoop, because success without a successor is invariably a big failure”. Fortunately the invalid has since gone to the great beyond but unfortunately the nincompoop is still very much around as the “Grand Comedian of the Federal Republic” (GCFR).

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