Dr Reuben Abati Breaks His Silence

I guess I should commence this rejoinder by confessing that the uproar raised by my ‘involvement’ in the Abuja land allocation by the ex-Minister Modibo to the EFCC strongwoman and others including top editors of my generation had pricked my conscience. For many decades I have been practising journalism (which has culminated in my reaching the zenith of the noble profession in the Guardian) I have never been associated with any scandal of this kind, one publicly revealed by an ‘opposition’ online news source, ‘SaharaRaporters’. Of course Omoyele Sowore, my friend, and his anonymous reporters must have believed stumbling on a ‘scoop’ with the sole aim of tarnishing the good images of those mentioned in the so-called land ‘deal’ on their minds as they went about publishing same. I salute them all for their efforts and bear no grudges!

Let me declare here without any equivocation that I am neither shocked nor perturbed by the furore the report has generated within Nigeria and elsewhere outside our shores thus far. Whoever thinks that I am having sleepless nights over the exposé is deceiving himself or herself. But I must say nevertheless that I never knew before now that I had many detractors cum ‘enemies’ who are now feeding fat over a non-issue. I decided to remain silent before now to be able to come to terms with the limits of people’s anger and indignation and the capacity of man to over-reach himself in matters that ordinarily should not be his business.

If the former Minister of the FCT decided, in his sound judgement, to reward patriotic citizens like us who have the courage to remind government of their responsibilities and failings what is the fuss about that? Even if we fight against the ills of the society including corruption through our media outfits does that preclude us from receiving government’s largesse? The land gift we received had no strings attached to it, so we shall continue to criticise where criticism is called for and commend where commendation becomes necessary. It is not everybody in government that is corrupt or evil. We have those we can safely brand as ‘paragons’ even when we have many of their opposites within!

Apart from my parents who sent me to school it is only the Ibru family and God that can demand for any personal account from me or my transaction with those wielding power, some of whom are my friends. It is therefore ludicrous for some mortals operating mainly in the internet to want to put me down. While some are seeking attention through my name others are unhappy about my journalistic excellence; I refused to dignify their rantings with a response but for some passionate appeals from well-meaning Nigerians at home and abroad.

In Nigeria we often hear of people working hard without a good pay packet. We often hear about pensioners dying while waiting for the peanuts they took home as pension. In a nation where millionaires and billionaires are churned out daily by hook or by crook it is strikingly baffling how people expect me not to join the bandwagon of the rich and powerful. Journalists the world over do their job for fame and reward. Some are stupendously rich by the strenght of their characters, connections and ‘right deals’. Others are living fairly well and waiting for mother luck to smile on them.

I never bargained for any land with anybody but it is not good as an African (and above all as a Yoruba elite) to reject a gift given without any condition attached — and if one was attached then it is not to my knowledge. When the ex-Minister released the list of the land allotees and my name was included my happiness knew no bounds. That meant that those in authorities recognised the sharpness of one’s pen and the power of readership one wields as a national and international columnist.

The damage control measures I had smartly applied seems to have failed me spectacularly. The hard-core critics are not impressed and they are hardening up their positions of antagonism. By writing studiously about the scammers that had wanted to play a fast one on me and my friends, the police and their raped Queen, the ‘goat-robber’ of Ilorin, and the St. Valentine of love and lust I had sought to comically relieve my detractors of their frustrations. But they are not pacified, rather they have kept up the pressure asking probing questions about the Abuja land with my hard-earned reputation doing the Naira dance of fluctuation.

Is it a crime for prominent journalists to be officially recognised and rewarded for their patriotic contributions to national development? Is Olusegun Adeniyi not doing well as President Yar’Adua’s spokesman? Or other journalists in the state capitals providing their loyal services to the ‘oppressors’ we had collectively condemned yesterday? Does common sense not dictate that if you cannot beat the system (or change same outrightly) you join the system? Why are people not minding their businesses?

The inglorious era of wretched journalists or poor journalism is gone for good! We do remember with pathetic nostalgia when journalists would go to Oshodi market for suit and shoes or struggle for apartment in Ajegunle with thugs (‘Area Boys’ if you like). Now we are proud owners of choice plots of land, bungalows; we ride in modern cars and buy our attires in the best boutiques in choice capitals of the West: London, Paris New York!

I sincerely wish to thank those brave internet warriors (apologies to Prof. Pat Utomi) for standing up on my behalf to the malicious critics seeking my downfall. Special mention goes to ‘Tonsoyo’, my defender-in-chief, for his remarkable capacity as an ‘Abati-abater’. His resilience has impressed me very much indeed! His reward awaits him the moment he steps his feet on the Nigerian soil and signals his presence at Rutam House.

Please someone should tell the glorified holier-than-thou critics like Rudolf Okonkwo, SOC Okenwa, Taju Tijani, Wale Akin, Okpia Egbe, Osita Mba and others to wait for their own turn. Whenever government remembers them (as I have deservedly been remembered) and decides to give them their own plots of land I swear by my grand mother’s grave never to do any commentary on that. I shall overlook that for other dramatic things happening daily in our great nation whose full potentials has never been realised.

To conclude I crave your indulgence friends and well-wishers far and near. My major concern here is not found in the controversy surrounding my latest material acquisition. Rather my apprehension stems from the fact that by taking legal possession of the parcel of land in our federal capital city I should soon start putting up a befitting country home. However upon completion of the building one is worried that another crazy diminutive FCT Minister in the mould of El-Rufai could be appointed and acting dutifully on petitions, demolition of the structure like that of our own ‘Chemical’ Ali could well set in; or another EFCC Chair like Ribadu replacing Mrs Waziri could happen and setting off an investigation of yours sincerely’s precious gift in this regard.

I promise my faithful readers around the world one thing: I will be as critically analytical as before, as pungent as ever. I have neither ‘sold out’ to the oppressors nor allowed them to compromise my position against corruption, a cankerworm tearing down our national edifice. Remain mobilized everyone for the struggle ahead is a tasking one.

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