Nigeria Matters

Sowore and Abati: The Devil's Advocate Speaks!

Few weeks ago, Omoyele Sowore made Nigerian universe stood up. Delegates sent to the US to explain away the subsidy removal tyranny to Nigerians in New York could never imagine the kind of psychic dislocation awaiting them. A young, handsome, unprepossessing figure sauntered in. He raised his arms and began to sing revolutionary songs. The itinerant Nigerian officials on the high table then realised that they have all signed up for an apocalyptic meltdown.

When Sowore stole the limelight and finally spoke, it was with the roar of an enraged warrior. In a gesture that reminds me of a courageous grandstanding; this media filibuster, this enfant terrible, this scourge of the entire Nigerian governmental machinery, this virulent critic of high corruption in high places unfolded his own brand of radical rupture without respect for convention.

To me it was sheer historical poetry in motion. One could see that Sowore had practised and perfected his courageous display of remarkable talent for dissembling over time. The practice sessions were forged in the furnace of his direct, neo- leftist and daring portal of ‘Sahara Reporters’ – a savaging, ultra-sensational online newspaper that dredges out, naughty, naughty corruption stories about Nigerians. His action was a redemptive lodestar for our collective cowardice. As Sowore spoke truth to our medieval servitude and current statist gridlock, his activist spirit gained new wings and he began to soar far beyond our old comprehension of his notorious pedigree.

He railed against the Nigerian society that would make you live as if dead. At least, in Nigeria, 12 years after our democratic renewal, no bridge yet can straddle the chasm between the rich and the poor.

No sea is sufficiently deep to contain the tears of our anguish and frustration. We smell the aroma of greatness but it has been eluding our grasping forever. To Sowore, our kind of democratic topography requires eternal vigilance. His probing imagination constantly scans the naked landscape of our future, and sadly, that to him needs replanting. To him, the line between corruption and integrity, falsehood and truth does not need any prescience to know that it is criminally blurred, albeit, with our silent consent.

And because Sowore is not a cowardly consenter, especially when fiction passes for truth, he had to roar. Then, Abati entered his reckoning the moment he realised that he has committed the gross sin of telling lies to fool the Nigerian public. For Sowore to have Reuben Abati in armlock over Jonathan’s 52 courtiers and Patience Jonathan’s own separate retinue of 32 delegates to Addis Ababa presents him with a chilling scandal. Both of them are purveyors of other people’s secrets —they dish out dirt about others through their journalistic pens. We have to remember that members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm are also co-opters like politicians.

They hardly allow the public to peep into their own corruption and every other shenanigan or ‘shenani’ that coils around them like poisoned ivy. Abati on the other hand was once a towering commentariat pugilist in the imagination of his avid readers. But the moment he began to punch below the belt through amoral survivalist strategy, he was disqualified. He has turned our old vibrant hunger for him into a deep snooze. A once solid architect of the angry pen has now silenced the very pen that gave him public fame and grace. Abati is not a man who will war with swords. He made all his winning wars with the pen. The cutting bluntness of his old pen has today found a match in Sowore’s sword. Already Sowore has been gladiatoring his passionate distaste for half truth and has rebukingly called Abati a liar in a combating riposte titled ‘Culture of Waste ……’ published online in www.theeagleonline.com.ng

We may all, in the characteristic attitude of educated liberal elite, regard Sowore’s smear as quite harsh. Really? To Sowore’s bloodhound sensational journalism, calling Abati a liar is part of the shock and awe tactics that made his online sheet famous. The thrust behind Sowore’s poking of Abati is the search for the truth. However, Sowore’s grandstanding fight for ethics in the hollow gaudiness of Jonathan’s secretive chamber amounts to pulling the string of suspicion too far. His combative, chastening and aggressive poking letter to Abati which made scandalous headline news was not a patronising demand for answers but part of the choleric genre you read about in the stone throwing Sahara Reporters site.

Sowore and Abati both possess the charisma to stir, captivate, repulse and divide us. But we have to warn that Abati must not abate our reawakened appetite for civic engagement with Jonathan’s administration, especially in the critical area of informational accuracy. He should not regress into his old Omertarian silence that still beclouded his Abuja land controversy. It is still within the bounds of investigative journalism and accountability for a Sowore, on behalf of us all, to know how many people wined and dined with the president and his wife while away in Addis Ababa. Even before I put the final full stop on this piece, war has already broken out between Abati and Dele Momodu. But that’s another story for my future advocacy. The whole world still awaits the release of the list Abati mentioned was in his bag in the hotel room in Addis Ababa. Noam Chomsky famously said that it is the responsibility of the intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies.

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