By Favour Afolabi
I wrote and published this article on March 31, 2013; and when I met Dr. Reuben Abati for the first time earlier this year, the first thing he told me was “I thank you for that article you did” – I was of course surprised that he remembered this piece exactly two years after; so when I read his piece – “The Phones no Longer Ring” this morning, I decided to reproduce the same article without editing it.
“So, to answer your question, I will not be “joining government”. I am not interested. Public pedagogy of the sort that I am doing is a higher, nobler calling than prostitution in government. There is nothing more satisfying than the privilege of being able to participate in public instruction, being able to be part of this vital struggle for Nigeria’s ethical rebirth.”
“Segun Adeniyi is my friend – no, make that my brother, he is my brother – and he too made a judgment call I vehemently disagree with, hence the biting satirical war I waged against him throughout the time he spent with the oppressor. Today, he too is still managing the consequences of his problematic decision. Unlike Abati, I at least can claim to understand the rationalizations that went through Segun’s mind as he went in. Segun will not be the first credible and progressive intellectual to fall prey to such rosy rationalizations. He will not be the last.”
“Reuben Abati’s tragic choice has been elevated into something of a national injury in the Nigerian psyche. Nigerians have taken his treachery personal and he may never recover from this disaster. His degrees, his brilliance, didn’t prevent him from underestimating the credibility and symbolic capital he had built with the Nigerian people and everything has come crashing.”
– Pius Adesanmi in an interview with Suraj Oyewale.
I have for a while wanted to seek to understand and explain the varying treatments received from Nigerians by these two subject individuals and indeed others aside from them who have served the Nation in different capacities while working for different governments and administrations, who seem to have hitherto before these jobs being seen as “well respected and trusted media/public celebrities” who became “instant villains” once they took up these jobs; with a few of them trying/managing to regain the earlier status while others have not been able to succeed in doing that.
For this purpose, I will be considering already-famous names like Reuben Abati, Olusegun Adeniyi, Oluremi Oyo, Dora Akunyili, Nasir El-Rufai, Femi Fani-Kayode, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Obiageli Ezekwesili, Dino Melaye, Tunji Bello; and I would also seek to use some other not-yet-so-famous names like Egghead Odewale, Ahaoma Kanu, and Kelechi Deca.
Case in point – Dr. Reuben Abati – is currently the number one erstwhile good man is now being treated as a villain for taking a government job – there is now no week that goes by without his older articles being dug up to remind the polity of how he has sold out for the lure of filthy lucre just as it was the case with Olusegun Adeniyi when he was in this same seat only a couple of years ago; just as it was the case with Oluremi Oyo before the two of them yet, I am beginning to notice that Adeniyi is fast regaining his “Yes-he-is-saying-the-truth status” within this polity all over again from the same people that only about 3 years ago described him as “the worst shame to have ever befallen the journalism/media industry” as they described him as a member of the cabal that kept the whereabouts of the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua away from Nigerians – they accused him of being more interested in protecting “his boss” compared to being patriotic; they accused him of being more interested in securing his job than to do the honourable of telling it all and then quitting immediately thereafter – they suggested to him to leave when the ovation was loudest so he could win the sympathy and applause of the Nation and possibly regain his lost glory from his days as possibly the most revered columnist in the era of modern journalism in Nigeria.
And Dora Akunyili was not spared as well – all her golden years at NAFDAC were effectively rubbished and even called into question by her erstwhile admirers for being the Minister of Information during this same period even as this same “public commentating constituency” openly celebrated Kanti Bello’s allegation that “she was cooking Egusi for the Turai, the de facto leader of the cabal” and perhaps Adeniyi should even be grateful to her for being around to share some of the insults with him at the time as I really how he alone would have been able to survive it all alone; and nothing this woman did, including being the first person within the Federal Executive Council [FEC] to move for the notion to have President Goodluck Jonathan to take up the full roles of the President could ever atone for her “unwritten sins” as she went on being hated both by the Nigerians that she was trying to stand up for and the PDP hierarchy that wondered “why this ordinary woman” would consider herself worthy of being the one to break the ranks within the party – well, the rest as they say is history: the woman is still trying to regain the popularity ratings she enjoyed within this polity, which at a certain time was higher than that of the President she worked under while at NAFDAC. And I guess that Abati also joined in on writing against Adeniyi and Akunyili during those fateful days as well for which he was of course applauded by his teeming audience?
This makes me begin to wonder that perhaps Abati might someday regain that same “populist adulation” as Adeniyi seems to be currently enjoying, the same one that he enjoyed at The Guardian before he allegedly went to go and chop in Aso Rock? Perhaps, the real sin here is that “it is a crime to take a PDP-government job”? Perhaps if Abati or Adeniyi had taken up these roles with ACN/Lagos state, their public acceptance would have gone through the roofs irrespective of “The True Face of Lagos reports”? Perhaps if they had opted to replace Lai Mohammed as the PR officer of the National ACN/APC, they would have been “dashed an all expenses-paid-for-second-wife of Yoruba origin” by the South-West to further cement their love for them? Perhaps if Dora becomes the one that is able to deliver the entire APGA into the fold of the APC, she too might just return to the zenith of public adoration again?
Well, as Abati goes through his present travails, the public commentaries’ friends of the ACN-jobbers would rather look the other way when those other governments engage in varying manners of excesses while no one ever bothers to find out if these guys also did similar articles in the past about governance at any level that contradicts what the present government they now work with stands for; so Tunji Bello [ThisDay and now Lagos State], Ehimofe ‘Egghead’ Odewale, now with Ekiti State, and others who are now scattered across the south-west states yet I have noticed that while those that become employees of the FGN/PDP get lambasted, those that do the SW-States/ACN get to have an easy ride – they get to be congratulated while the former begin to be described as with all manner of uncharitable words while the other public commentators who have not yet got any of these jobs join the ACN-jobbers in constantly criticizing those on the PDP jobs.
Then it also seems that irrespective of the flak that you receive while in “a PDP job”, once you leave office and mingle back with the crowd, all your previous sins for which you were “insulted and even cursed” via a multitude of articles and counter claims would automatically be forgiven – Nasir El-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Femi Fani-Kayode, Obiageli Oby Ezekwesili, Dino Melaye, etc are ready examples here – once they left government and seemed to have sided back with popular opinion, all their old articles published while in office in support of government positions seemed to have been automatically deleted from the data archives of Sahara Reporters, et al never to be discovered again via a google search.
Enter Ahaoma Kanu, the CNN/Multichoice award-winning journalist who just during AFCON posted a Facebook status message off a SaharaReporers news bit that ‘Goodluck Jonathan was in a London Hospital receiving treatment for intestinal pains’ – this led to me challenging him for re-publishing what I considered to be an unsubstantiated story for which he conveniently told me that “he had done his job as a journalist by mentioning the source as SaharaReporters” while also mentioning on the same thread that “he had confirmed this information directly from the SA Media to the President” – information which of course, Abati never mentioned to Nigerians – for which I also challenged him for when the same President was to be shown later on TV within a few hours after this celebrating the victory of the Super Eagles – which he conveniently decided not to respond to – so who was lying here: Kanu or Abati? But of course on that same thread, he made sure that he gave me “a good trashing as the fine journalist that he was” for trying to teach him how to do his job as a journalist. I was of course surprised when barely 5 weeks from this drama on his wall, he also published another status message on the same wall announcing his appointment as COO of the PDP Media Team, here.
Just before this encounter between us, he and my dear of over a decade, who in fact attends the same church as I do, Kelechi Deca, a seasoned journalist and one that Kanu considers to be a mentor of his had debated heavily against me on the “controversial ChannelsTV’s Police College expose; the resulting visit of President Jonathan to the place; and the comments that he made while there” – while I had reasoned that the media house while doing a good thing could still have been considered to have erred “legitimately” if they had done the same thing in places like the US or UK where they would have definitely needed administrative authorizations of those in charge of the place to conduct such sessions, they had insisted that wasn’t the case and that the President bungled the opportunity to make a good PR impression.
So it would be interesting to see how Citizen Kanu’s social media reportage would be affected by this “new PDP job” – just as I keep praying for when Mr. Deca would get a similar job as well to see how he too would adapt to this new role away from his “I-must-always-be-balanced-approach” – which makes me want to ask to the following questions –
- “Do you know of anyone within our social media/citizens’ journalists circles; public commentators class who would turn down these government jobs when such is offered to them either working under the PDP or under the opposition parties?”
- And of course – “which of them would take these jobs only to begin to write statements against the positions of the governments that they represent because they want to remain consistent with the earlier positions they had held before they got these jobs?”
In the absence of direct answers to these questions, I am going to assume that it is almost impossible to turn down these jobs, just as it would be impossible as well to write against one’s boss as well; so why exactly is everyone on Abati’s case? And why were they on Adeniyi’s case as well? And why are they re-admitting Adeniyi, Femi Fani-Kayode, Nasir El-Rufai, Obiageli Ezekwesili, Dino Melaye into the class of the infallibles all so fast? Why was Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala re-admitted into that class when she left Obasanjo’s government only to have now been shut out of it again once she took the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration? Why is Dora Akunyili still shut out of that class and what would she need to be re-admitted into same? Why does no one bother that Tunji Bello and Ehimofe ‘Egghead’ Odewale now has government jobs as well? And why does it appear so sure that Ahaoma Kanu and Kelechi Deca would go through these same motions as well?
Well, I think I have finally been able to arrive at the answer to this debacle, which can be summed up as “Hatred for the PDP as sustained by Hypocrisy within this polity!”
So maybe the lesson to be learnt from this exercise is you shouldn’t put out thoughts today in the public space that you won’t be able to defend in the future irrespective of the side of the divide that you might find yourself just as you shouldn’t do so if you know you won’t be able to come out openly to admit that you have changed your positions on the same subject matter due to other circumstances that have arisen because for as long as the Nigerian polity remains, there would naturally and necessarily be many other Reuben Abatis, Olusegun Adeniyis, Oluremi Oyos, Dora Akunyilis, Nasir El-Rufais, Femi Fani-Kayodes, Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealas, Obiageli Ezekwesilis, Dino Melayes, Tunji Bellos, Ehimofe ‘Egghead’ Odewales, Ahaoma Kanus, and Kelechi Decas, it is therefore up to you – to determine how you want your story to be written or re-written in the future.
Then in closing, I wonder what Professor Pius was really trying to communicate with his self-contradictory stance in his earlier quoted interviews? He has suggested therein that “It is impossible for anyone to enter into government cycles and not be corrupted” yet he is the de facto leader of the Kick Out Siddon Look movement [KOSIL] that seeks to encourage people to be more politically active; picking the right candidates to seek elective offices; and of course seek to participate also as contestants for these offices; so it is quite interesting that he has made up his mind that no one can become a public officer without becoming morally bankrupt yet he is ever so willing to raise people to get into these same positions? Well there you have it – here lies my beef with these self-styled-Intellectuals of the ranks of Pius; they are much too intelligent for even their own good – if everyone held these sort of opinions and of course sold them very well, how would we have people like Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, possibly the best agricultural scientist from the continent come back home to lead the agricultural revolution that we are currently experiencing today?
How would Omobola Johnson, a serving Managing Director of Accenture Nigeria, that left such a plum job to become the Minister of Communications who is now leading the Software Technology/Venture Capitalism/numerous other initiatives in that sector come take up such a job; how would a serving Managing Director of the World Bank – Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala step down from such a role to come back and run the Nigerian economy even after she had been blackmailed out of the same job in the past; if all our best brains in the class of the infallibles of Prof. Pius Adesanmi were to stay away from taking public appointments for the fear of having their public persona tarnished, how would we ever be able to deliver this Nation from the same gory picture of ineptitude that folks like Adesanmi, Olumhense, Ndibe routinely depict within their articles? Or perhaps Adesanmi & Co are trying to suggest to Nigerians that they are better trained intellectually and morally than these other people who have chosen to take the route of “direct participation” rather than “egotistic absenteeism’’ – did they attend better schools than these ones or possess better relevance and status within the international community than these other people?
So it would appear that self-righteous folks like Adesanmi have nominated themselves to be the supra-ultra-judges of those that seek to enter into public service to try and make a difference as they the judges conveniently stay away from same – they have become the ones that would quickly begin to write articles of how these other ones have gone to chop as they continue to hide away from taking up the responsibility of rebuilding Nigeria only to continue to increase their profiles as invincible demagogues to both unsuspecting and intentionally gullible Nigerians who love to worship their articles within social media circles as though such were “bible chapters” rather than asking them the simple question of “Why can’t you go back home and seek to make direct changes as these other people you love to insult are attempting to do?”
Well, I have spoken in the past of the overpopulation of Nigerians in the Diaspora – a thriving army of people who have already decided not to return home to do nothing to help build this country yet keep coming up with more excuses of why they won’t be able to return home; these set of people are the ones that would intentionally target anyone that returns home to help to improve the fortunes of the Nation or those at home that step up from professional or public practice to take up public appointments – they know they won’t do nothing yet they won’t let those that would, do their jobs! Prof Pius Adesanmi, the truth is that NO ONE NEEDS YOU AT HOME; what exactly would be the jobs that we would offer you? What exact office would you be able to fit in other than that of a University Don that you already are in Canada?
About Favour Afolabi:
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