By Dele Sobowale
“Conscience nurtured by truth”, Guardian Newspaper’s motto.
For years, Reuben Abati, the President’s Senior Special Adviser on Media, was the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the paper which was the self-proclaimed “Flagship” of the print media. As such, it was generally expected that he would embody the spirit of that paper; he was, at least we believe, expected to have a conscience and to uphold the truth at all times. And for a long time, most people reading the Guardian, thought he fulfilled the two conditions.
Now, we are not so sure. Today, many of us shudder when we read statements issued by Abati, some of which are deliberate fabrications, so much so, we wonder if someone’s conscience has not gone to bed. I will present the evidence based on his latest piece sent to all the print media houses – Hypocrisy of Yesterday’s Men. For now, it is merely sufficient to call that stuff ill-advised, cowardly, very untrue in some respects and unpatriotic in others.
First, let me take on the matter of cowardice. In a full page article, Abati, a formerly courageous columnist and opinion maker leveled accusations at various individuals without having the guts to name a single person. Only a man without balls engages in shadow boxing; real fighters enter the ring with known opponents. Second, he published some deliberate falsehood; and to prove that, permit me to call, as my first witness, a former close associate of Abatis – Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; ex-this, ex-that.
Once upon a time, and it looks like light years ago now, Femi Fani-Kayode and Reuben Abati, were comrades in arms. They were card-carrying members of Patito’s Gang led by Pat Utomi who was also the host of the TV programme called by that name.
Most of the erudite and we thought idealistic guys who were contemptuous of government officials, at the time, had gone on to serve governments at Federal and states levels. From the records available to us, none had lived up to the reputations they had established on Patitos Gang. Indeed, if Utomi were to call his gang together again, he might need armed policemen to keep them from murdering each other. Nigerians, meanwhile have been sold false gold.
Now Fani-Kayode calls Abati a liar; and Abati tells us that Femi is one of “yesterday’s” men; who failed to discharge their responsibilities as public servants – when they had the chance. As it turned out, they are both right; as far as the mutual accusations are concerned.
However, since last week was devoted to carpeting a “yesterday’s” woman and her supporters, this week will be devoted to roasting “today’s men”; with Abati, as spokesman representing the lot. In many respects, Abati earns my sympathy.
Given his reputation as critic of government who, incidentally, often punctured the lies of government officials, he accepted the wrong job. Already, the reputation is in shreds and “Hypocrisy of Yesterday’s Men” has shredded it even more. There is a message for President Jonathan in that statement. But, I will come to that later.
Apart from the obvious lack of guts, which the piece amply demonstrated, it sent out a stench, so powerful, thinking readers should be wondering how a government’s spokesman had released the foul ordour on its behalf. Let me point to two out of several self-admission of irresponsibility and lack of patriotism.
First, the response to Dr Ezekwesili was bi-focal; she was accused of exaggerating the amount left in the kitty by the Obasanjo administration. Fine But, they failed to tell Nigerians what they did with what they met in the kitty. That was totally irresponsible and unacceptable.
A government accused of squandering trillions of naira cannot exonerate itself merely by stating that “we had less money than alleged”; to gain the people’s confidence and establish credibility, which this government lacks, they should have made a full declaration. That they have deliberately failed to do that suggests there is an intentional cover-up somewhere. So, if yesterday’s men are hypocritical; today’s men are no better.
The second prong of the attack against the former Minister and her supporters consisted of pointing to a lot of questionable deals during the administration of Obasanjo. Again, that was fine; except for the fact that the records of possible frauds were there right from the first day the Yar’Adua/Jonathan and, later, the Jonathan/Sambo governments took office.
Every president of Nigeria, on inauguration day, swears to uphold the constitution of Nigeria and, by extension to enforce her laws. Given that constitutional and moral obligation, every president must mandatorily investigate every suspected case of large scale embezzlement of public funds.
If today’s men are now telling us that “we were robbed” from 1999-2007 and they neither investigated nor prosecuted, they are also admitting that President Jonathan was guilty of serious dereliction of duty. This time they are indicting their own boss that he had, once again, been irresponsible and unpatriotic.
If they have any evidence, this is the time to place them on the table or shut up. They can start by starting another probe of the $13-16 billion which went down private pockets without the promised increase in power generation to show.
LAST LINE: Is Hypocrisy of Yesterdays Men the best Abati can do? The man no longer convinces anyone. The President still has to learn that “the medium is the message”. If the messenger lacks credibility nobody believes what he says – even when it is the truth. Nobody believes Abati anymore.
REMINDER TO MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE
Two weeks ago, I asked for proof of the achievements you have been claiming. So far, there has been no response from your office. If by the end of February you fail to substantiate your claims, rest assured you will be branded a liar. That is not a threat; that is a promise. Ask your colleagues.