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Rhythms of the Abati effect(2)

By Douglas Anele

Where are the blueprints from the Ministers? Three months have gone already, when will Jonathan start working? He should read the mood of the Nigerian people more carefully, the ordinary people, I mean. They are impatient.” Now, in essay B, the ‘new’ Reuben, having followed Jonathan “everywhere” and eaten at the President’s sumptuous table (and developed a follow-follow mentality as a result) says that Mr. President “is doing his utmost best to transform Nigeria… President Jonathan is a clever, methodical and intelligent man, who is very adept at wrong footing all the persons who make an effort to second-guess or underestimate him.

He understands the complexity of Nigeria. Ordinary Nigerians know and appreciate this.” The issue now is that if Jonathan, after Abati joined his cabinet, has stopped dancing and is actually working to transform the country, why is he losing very fast the tremendous goodwill he enjoyed from Nigerians at the beginning of his presidency?

Assuming that Jonathan is a clever, methodical and intelligent man who is keen to transform Nigeria, how many corrupt former heads of state, governors, ministers and prominent business tycoons have been jailed since 2010? Why is Abati’s St. Jonathan unwilling to declare his assets publicly?

Is Mr. President morally justified in habitually hobnobbing with greedy oligopolists whose shady deals almost decimated the capital market and messed up the fuel subsidy regime? Moreover, Abati needs to tell us how and when ordinary Nigerians who, according to him, are impatient and have been waiting for the “dividends of democracy,” came to know and understand that Jonathan “is doing his utmost to transform Nigeria.” Of course Reuben’s claim about ordinary Nigerians is false: the average Nigerian is very conscious of the fact that his existential condition has worsened especially after the latest increase in fuel price.

In “Hurry up, Jonathan,” Abati sermonised that “Jonathan is expected to run a Presidency that is driven by a policy of ‘business unusual’….Early signs indicate that Jonathan may find it difficult stepping up to the game. He has fallen so early into the error of doing business as usual.

He is the ultimate pacifier …Nothing has been more sordid than the silly politicking that has so far attended the appointment of a new Vice President…By allowing every matter to drag, Jonathan slows down his government and loses momentum.” But in “The Jonathan they don’t know,” Abati recants his earlier, largely correct, observation above: he now claims that President Jonathan“…understands the complexity of Nigeria.

He is acutely conscious of the historicity of his emergence as Nigeria’s No.1. He is determined to promote the country. And he is doing so already.” For Abati, Nigerians should not complain since their President is already telling and directing so-and-so to do this-and-that – and mere telling and directing without appropriate monitoring and penalties for non-performance will improve power, agriculture and general infrastructure!

No wonder, then, that most contractors handling federal government projects across the country, who are among the cabals dominating Nigeria’s political economy, have continued the criminal practice of abandoning such projects after collecting huge mobilisation fees.

Needless to say, Abati’s defence of his master on the issue of infrastructure is unconvincing. Remember, before his present appointment Abati had lamented that instead of real positive change in the lives of Nigerians President Jonathan’s wardrobe is about the only thing that has changed. Jonathan, he alleges, oscillates between “the Ijaw gear, the Arewa cap and the complete Yoruba agbada.

One of these days he will get round to the Igbo red cap, the Tiv black and white cap and the Efik/Ibibio wrapper.” As a Special Adviser, “levels have changed:” Abati now sees Mr. President as a detribalised leader. Jonathan, he claims, “sees himself as the President of all Nigerians. He is at home with every group.

He is focused on the challenges of nation building….He wants to unite the country.” Reuben is just engaging in eye service here, considering his earlier sarcastic caricature of “the change and oscillations” in Mr. President’s mode of dressing. Enough has been said in the preceding passages to demonstrate that Reuben Abati has, since he was appointed Special Adviser, completely abandoned his earlier, well justified, critical stance towards President Jonathan.

The question now is: what is responsible for Abati’s complete change of attitude towards Mr. President? Some commentators have hypocritically argued that pecuniary considerations did not play a role in the matter. Abati, they allege, is merely doing his job.

But considering the fact that the federal government is the ultimate profligate paymaster and that federal appointment is the easiest and fastest means of becoming a multimillionaire, it would be difficult to rule out completely the probability that Abati accepted Jonathan’s offer mainly because of its financial benefits, not because of genuine patriotism and admiration for the President himself.

Be that as it may, his reference to the sort of food and drink that feature in the President’s table implies that Abati has little of substance to tell Nigerians about his boss. Furthermore, claiming that he has followed the President everywhere and enjoyed the privilege of eating at his table is a fetid instance of name dropping unbecoming of an experienced journalist like Abati.

Who was he trying to impress anyway? What is so special about following the President everywhere and eating at his table? Finally, it is appalling that Abati had the audacity to surreptitiously categorise President Jonathan alongside iconic figures like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Kwame Nkrumah.

Aside from the irritating imprecision in Abati’s use of the terms “simple man” and “simplifying what others have complicated,” no one who has painstakingly studied the lives and political activities of the four men Abati likened Jonathan to would describe them as “simple men,” or claim that they simplified what others have complicated, much less put them in the same class with our President.

To take just one example: on the spiritual plane, comparing Gandhi to Jonathan is like comparing diamond to bronze – the difference is too obvious. Reuben and other oti mkpus scattered across the country should do proper research and think deeply before making hasty sacrilegious comparisons between their paymasters and respected paradigmatic individuals.



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