Reuben Abati is a fine prose writer !
There is no doubt about that. He demonstrated that for everyone to see during his years as Chairman, Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspaper, and currently in his writings on the back page of Thisday newspaper.
He has also shown that he could also be a good television anchor with his exploits on Arise Television’s popular programme The Morning Show.
But that’s where it all ends. !!
There is no doubt that the Abati of today, no matter his exertions on the back page of ThisDay or his elocution on Arise Television, has been grossly devalued intellectually, professionally, and morally. No more do his columns carry meaningful weight or help shape the views of his readers. One reason for the unfortunate diminution of the hitherto great Abati was his foray into politics.
Of course, politics is not necessarily an ignoble vocation. It is just that Abati’s adventures in politics helped to unveil the real Abati: unprincipled, amoral, untrustworthy and as irresponsible as many of those he had spent years excoriating in his columns. Abati’s forays into politics ended dismally. As a matter of fact, he was an abysmal failure.
To the chagrin of many, and perhaps in deference to his strong networks, within a year or thereabouts of his entering partisan politics, Abati managed to emerge as the People’s Democratic Party deputy governorship candidate in his home-state of Ogun.
The astonishing thing, however, is: As of the time he was nominated as running mate, he did not know who his would-be principal, the party’s governorship candidate, was. When after his name had been submitted to INEC and cleared for the election, he was to learn that the candidate was Senator Buruji Kashamu, the late wheeler-dealer and strongman of Ijebu-east politics who many called Esho Jinadu, Abati was horrified.
Anyone who knows Abati will know that he can rationalise anything. For him everything is about expediency. Without batting an eyelid, Dr Abati rationalised the nomination and simply moved along. Those who rated him highly felt that pairing did incalculable damage to his reputation, in their eyes that is. Abati was unfazed because all he cared for is what that mercurial Ekiti politician Ayodele Fayose would call stomach infrastructure. Many would recall Abati’s vulgar words on campaign hustings at the time. A video of that scandalous speech went viral at the time.
Apparently singing the praises of Buruji and stoking his political detractors, he said in Yoruba: “Awon miran n’bere bi oko se de idi baba won lai mon pe oko yen ni won fi bi won. Buruji ti ndo iya won, ojo ti pe,” roughly translated without being licentious to mean Kashamu has been the one tormenting the mothers of his political enemies for long. That’s Abati for you, very articulate in Yoruba, his mother tongue, and English language. Today, Abati remains a PDP man through and through, though he would want you to believe otherwise.
His recent back page column in Thisday on the 2023 presidential race particularly with respect to the South-west was clearly off the mark. Perhaps, the one thing Abati got right is that none of the prominent leaders and APC top stalwarts from the South-west geopolitical zone whom he mentioned in connection with the top job namely Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Dr Kayode Fayemi has actually declared for the race. So he merely assumed that they are all running for the presidency.
In assessing their chances in the race, Abati, betrayed his below-par understanding of the politics of the 2023 election. Political writer Abati wilfully cancelled Asiwaju Tinubu, Osinbajo and Amosun in the upcoming race, even if they eventually threw their hats into the ring. He says Osinbajo lacked a structure of his own, refusing to acknowledge that almost six years on the saddle as VP, he is no longer a political novice. Each time he acted in the absence of his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, Osinbajo has always done well and discharged himself with an eye on his political future.
Amosun’s strongest point, according to Abati, is that he is a friend of President Buhari, pointing out, however, that that relationship alone cannot take him far in the contest.
Also, though he acknowledges that Asiwaju Tinubu is a formidable candidate and the one who holds the political ace in the South-west, he rules like a magistrate that Asiwaju can only be the kingmaker and not the king. He would even offend the sensibilities of Asiwaju, his team and right-thinking people when he writes that he did not think Asiwaju wants to be president and that in any case “he cannot be” as if he is the prescient God who knows everything, sees everything and orders the affairs of men.
The problem with Abati and his ilk is that they are so supercilious and haughty; they think they know it all and forget to reserve and preserve the realm of God, which surpasses all human understanding.
Given his intellect and analytic abilities, one would have expected Abati to come up with a lucid, coherent and cogent thesis pointing out the strengths, weaknesses and possibilities of each person he had identified as being interested in the presidency come 2023.
He indeed ought to have given reasons for those he focused on since there are several other capable persons from the South West who eminently qualify to make a pitch for the presidency if they so choose. Unfortunately, the new Abati has stumbled into so much inexplicable wealth and unanticipated comfort that rigorous thinking and meticulous articulation have become too tasking for him.
Abati failed woefully to disguise where his heart lies, perhaps where he want to pitch next for SI (stomach infrastructure) and whom he did the writing for: Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr. Fayemi.
Having knocked out every other suspected aspirant, he left the Ekiti State governor smelling like a rose, deploying all known adjectives for him. He even says the governor has a wife who would pass for the best First Lady in the world.
Abati’s commercialised write-up may indeed have made his client, Kayode Fayemi’s day. But it has done further incalculable damage to a former star columnist’s reputation. Of course, Abati knows more than anybody else that being an influential columnist goes beyond writing good, flowing prose or engaging in intellectual pyrotechnics. The most important attributes of the columnist are integrity, credibility and fidelity to the truth at all times.
Abati’s slide downhill began when he accepted the job of being President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman after he had spent considerable time and effort launching tirades against the latter’s governance style in his column. When he found himself in public office, did Abati maintain the high moral and ethical standards he had advocated in his newspaper writings? Not on your life – sadly.
Or can we forget that he was a tenant for some time in the detention facilities of the EFCC for sometime for allegedly receiving N50 million from the office of the then National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki, during the Jonathan presidency for media work ?
It is an open secret in media circles that the welfare and wellbeing of ordinary Nigerians was the least of Abati’s priorities when he served as Special Adviser on Media to President Jonathan.
But there is no need for Abati to belabour himself. The vast majority of APC members, not only in the South-west but across the country know their stalwarts well, and will determine where the pendulum swings as regards the 2023 presidential election in the fullness of time. And as indicated before, the way things will go is in the bowel of time.