By Paul Omoruyi
Some months ago, I wrote an article titled “Reuben Abati and the Intellectual Dishonesty of Nigeria Intellectuals”. In that piece, I attempted to look into the man, Abati, before and after he went to Abuja. Undoubtedly, there is a gargantuan chasm between who Abati was before and after he joined the GEJ Government.
I have often argued that I have no qualms with supposedly intelligent and professional Nigerians serving their country. Nigeria needs them now more than ever. They ought to serve in whatsoever capacity they can make meaning impact. So, Mr. Abati serving as the mouth-piece of the GEJ administration is a good thing as far as I concerned. Maybe, GEJ would have done far worse than he did in his recent CNN interview if the likes of Abati have not brushed him up a little. The disgrace would not have been only to Jonathan but to all Nigerians.
Last year, Mr. Abati wrote an article that caused intellectual diarrhea to so many Nigerians. If you missed it please find the article titled “The Jonathan they don’t know”. Obviously, you can tell that GEJ Administration has public perception and image issues and does not know how to turn it around. It appears Abati is also frustrated and has no iota of idea of what to do about it. The marshaling of Mr. Okupe to join the publicity-polishing stunt seemed not to be working either. The public perception of GEJ administration is still at all time low.
One would have thought that Mr. Abati learned his lessons last year when he penned his frustration by indirectly insulting Nigerians for having such a low perception about GEJ. But it appears he did not. In fact, Abati is apparently sliding further into the abyss of un-intellectual and unprofessional miasma.
I read with dismay Abati’s recent raucous and lackluster article titled “The Hypocrisy Of Yesterday’s Men” published in Nigeria media outlets. I could not believe the language and tone of the article so much so that I had to read it one more time, line after line.
Here goes the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to Nigeria President, Goodluck Jonathan:
“A loosely bound group of yesterday’s men and women seems to be on the offensive against the Jonathan administration. They pick issues with virtually every effort of the administration, pretending to do so in the public interest; positing that they alone, know it all…….Nigerians must not allow any group of individuals to hold this country to ransom and no one alone should appropriate the right to determine what is best for Nigeria. The accidental public servants who have turned that privilege into a life-long obsession and profession must be told to go get a life and find meaningful work to do”.
“….go get a life and find meaning work to do”? I find this as un-intellectually comical as it is preposterous. Don’t Nigerians have the right to express their views anymore? Is Mr. Abati insinuating that only jobless Nigerians express their views and participate in the governing process? If that is the case, then the GEJ administration will soon have millions of questions to address from the more than 70% of Nigerians who are currently not gainfully employed in the country.
I agree with Abati that those who contributed to the present rot that Nigeria is in should not suddenly become saints and social critics because their hands are also full of Nigeria’s blood money. However, Abati should advise GEJ to open the files and let Nigerians know of the pilfering committed by these critics. If that is not done, then we will see their criticism as piously legitimate.
In the other parts of the article, one can see that Abati is just being reactionary in the fury of emotional eruption because legitimate questions are being asked. That is what I call the Nigerian factor venom. Instead of taking proactive initiatives to shape things, Nigerians simply wine and dine. When the shape has finally been defined and we do not like it, then we react and start shouting.
Nigeria officials also display this attitude in the international arena. They hardly have time to sit and engage in proactively formulating global policy that is good for Nigeria. After other countries have formulated the policies to their advantage, Nigerians simply sign-off on them. They tell us not to build factories because of global warming, we comply in a jiffy. Tomorrow, put scanners in your airport, they say yes sir. The next day, they tell them to take away all the scanners from the airport, yes sir. In fact, the Western world has come to know African leaders for that. They do not consult with them anymore when shaping global policies. They only call them to answer “yea” and implement them when it is time. When the policies start biting them, then they begin to cry wolf.
It was the same reactionary attitude Nigeria officials displayed years ago when the United States government released a report that Nigeria will likely fail by 2015. Instead of Nigeria Government officials to sit tight, analyze the report and ask for pertinent intelligence that led to that report, they went into emotional and reactionary outburst. Today, we see that report almost happening in what OBJ then called the “prophet of doom”.
For too long, the venom of no one should question the “Nigeria big man” has tamed the hearts, minds and creativity of our people and have reduced us to beggars. Those in position of authority in Nigeria do not like anyone to question whatever they do. It is an attitude so ingrained in our culture and a recipe for societal backwardness and retrogression. And that is exactly what Abati is still preaching to Nigerians. Let President Jonathan do whatever he likes. Just sit down, look and smile. The days of unquestionable “Nigeria big man” has gone. Nigerians will henceforth start questioning everything and anything that involves their government. That is the only way they can hold the government accountable.
In the past three decades, if Nigerians have been questioning and engaging their government, the thievery by past and current rulers would have been drastically reduced.
Again Abati is right that “Nigerians are wiser”. Yes, we are. Our mumu don do and that is the reason we will continue to beam the light on the activities and decisions of the government. So please do not attempt to shut down outspoken Nigerians that are beginning to ask pertinent questions.
I will provide a piece of advice to Abati. The panacea to GEJ’s credibility, image and public perception is not in writing capricious, scathing and reactionary articles. It just does not work. Using derisive words to address public issues is too unbecoming and uncivil for the rational and intelligent minds. The remedy is in listening, learning, consulting, executing and delivering to the people.
Abati should please endeavor to tell the truth to the President even though he might not be interested or happy to hear the truth. Abati should be a man with chutzpah and integrity. Look into the President’s eyes and tell him how to be presidential in the public domain and on the world’s stage. There is nothing wrong with that; after all learning is life-long. I believe Jonathan can do better if he surrounds himself with good advisers – those that would tell him the inconvenient truth instead of saying “yes sir” to everything even though they know he’s heading in the wrong direction.
In any case, if it was the President that pressured Mr. Abati to write the “The Hypocrisy Of Yesterday’s Men”, then I will question Mr. Abati’s purported astuteness and position as the “Special Adviser”. I wish Abati all the best as he serves his country. May God bless Nigerians and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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