Reuben Joins the Yesterday’s Men

Nothing with the exception of nothingness lasts forever. The curtain has finally been drawn on the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, and with that has come a watershed for the men and women who were once the movers and shakers of Aso Rock. In many ways, they were larger than life, dreaded in several quarters and revered with the kind of reference that should only be reserved for the infinite. Alas, a certain change has come and the plot has taken a new dimension.

Reuben Abati is one of those that have become ‘Yesterday’s man.’ This is a phrase he once coined while in the euphoria of power to describe those he termed ‘The shoe-givers’ of yesterday who will not let his boss be. In his article titled ‘The Hypocrisy of Yesterday’s men’ Abati described the critics of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as ‘a group of power-point technocrats who have mastered the rhetoric of public grandstanding.’ The jury is still not out in determining the stint of Abati in the corridor of power but we might not even need the jury’s verdict on this one. It is difficult not to see that Reuben Abati did not cover himself in glory while he had a chance to demystify a certain myth that power ultimately erodes value in our clime. Abati’s dexterity in doing the job in the first place was never in doubt. In truth, he was one of the best pen-pushers around. He wrote with panache, his sentences inspired, his back page column in the Sunday Guardian newspaper was a reference point for most readers. As Abdul, my friend, once told me, ‘Abati’s writings and character makes me believe that the pen can inspire genuine change and will, someday in Nigeria.’ The detractors argued when GEJ dangled the carrot before Abati that the position will change him. In their case, they maintained that they had seen men of undefiled character become filthy once in such terrain. They feared for Abati and for all his convictions, they maintained that we will lose one of the nation’s conscience in no time. The apologists pleaded Abati’s case. After all, we say that to get the change we so desire, we must bring men of reputable character into the corridors of power to effect this.

The criticism against Abati’s tenure as the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, was not just that he was a stalwart in trying to enforce down our throats the ‘good deeds’ of his boss, after all in his defense, that was his primary job. However, it was the manner in which Abati attacked his principal’s opposition, critics and even well-wishers that destroyed his job. Abati was quick to hurl stones on any one that dared to question Goodluck Jonathan. In moments when he ought to be responsive and proactive in the discharge of his job, he was reactive. In many ways, he did a poor job in managing his boss’ image. In the bid to protect Goodluck Jonathan’s image, Abati enmeshed it more in the mud with his unguarded responses and character assassination. It has to partly fall on Abati that his boss was largely perceived as a weak president who could do nothing while impunity and uncommon malpractices thrived around him. Abati fought too many distractive petty wars of words; most famous was his squabble with Dele Momodu.

Today, Abati returns as another Yesterday’s man, who has tasted his own slice of the Nigeria power cake. We will probably hear more of how he ate that slice and the manner in which he did it in the days ahead. As is the path of his predecessor, Abati will most likely publish an autobiography of his own, accounting his stewardship. No doubt, this will make for a good read any day. Yet, the point here will be: To what name does Reuben Abati return? As I reflect on this, I wondered if Abdul’s hope of the pen inspiring change in our country someday has been eroded. I wondered if the convictions he had on Abati’s writings and character will have now gone to Siberia. I wondered if he would have now given up on the integrity of today’s journalist in our country. Yet, Abati will most likely return to us and we will forgive and accept him into the fold, but with a subtle sense of loss.

There must be something our system does to a man. There must be a default programming not to excel in our polity, and if there are any men who have defiled it in our part of the world, it must have been because they choose to go against the tide, defy the odds and were ready to inherit the scars that came with such attitude. We had hoped that Reuben Abati will become one of such men but alas, he has just become another Yesterday’s man.


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