There is this saying from early ages that goes thus, “ if the owner of the farm tarries unnecessarily in identifying a thief, the thief will conveniently label the owner of the farm as the thief”.
This would aptly describe Mr. Abati’s and latest, rather disingenuous, attempt at testing the waters of public response to his piece on Mr. Edwin Clarke.
Mr. Abati summates, in familiar fashion, the flawed character and personality of a man who was undoubtedly a major beneficiary in almost every way conceivable of the Jonathan administration and who was widely recognized as his adoptive father. I read in quiet amusement at Mr. Abati’s attempt beguile the Nigerian public in a piece that was a disdainful condemnation of the person of Mr. Clarke for what in Mr. Abati’s noble view is a disgraceful and seismic shift in allegiance away from his benefactor former President Jonathan by Mr. Clarke’s assertion that President Jonathan failed Nigeria as a leader in being too gentlemanly and lacked the capacity to tackle widespread or endemic corruption.
In the interest of clarity, Mr. Clarke is a career politician, a First Republic federal commissioner in Nigeria. Aside from politics in Nigeria the man has done very little else if anything at all. It is popular in our political culture for politicians to exhibit unconscionable attitudes and brazenly swap loyalties for personal mileage gains, and favour with zero regard for public perception of their personal integrity.
Mr. Clarke could be said to be acting true to type of politicians in our time. Having said that however, I strongly believe that Mr. Clarke wished to unburden his conscience. He is in the twilight years of his political life, and most likely wished to finally expose the damage done to the Nigerian economy by President Jonathan. A man with his political experience no doubt expected some sort of reaction from President Jonathan’s camp.
The response came in the form of Mr. Abati’s column. The column portrayed Mr. Abati as a social critic who campaigned for social justice at the highest echelons of the Nigerian government.
I commend the judgement of President Jonathan to appoint Mr. Abati as a government spokesperson for no other reason than it took guts. As we say in Nigeria, “they get Liver”. What if Mr. Abati, with the level of personal integrity we believed he possessed decided to resign after a few months claiming as a matter of principle he could no longer defend the outrageously grotesque and obscene corruption that pervaded the Jonathan administration.
But alas this did not happen. Instead Mr. Abati morphed into the unrecognisable. A turncoat, turning the full 180 degrees in a manner only very few if any could have imagined he was morally capable of.
Indeed like someone commented long ago “We lost Reuben”. Mr. Abati, vigorously defended the positions of a government he knew were squandering, with wanton abandon, the commonwealth of all Nigerians and willfully sanctioning corruption to defile all institutions from the army to judiciary. Yet Mr. Abati, the former indefatigable former social critic defended that administration with purpose, poise and energy.
Mr. Abati accused Mr. Clarke of betraying Mr. Jonathan but he has betrayed self. Mr. Abati betrayed his conscience and as a young man will probably live with that for a long time. In the process, he has become a case study, a reference point almost an enigma of sorts. If you disagree with me I invite you to read at random just 10 of Mr. Abati’s Guardian columns and compare them to 10 of his press publications as President Jonathan’s spokesman and then tell me these are not the actions of a dual or multi personality character.
This piece though is by no means a personal attack on dear Mr. Abait, far from it. It is however an indictment on the values of a man with longstanding significant credentials as a formidable social justice critic in the Nigerian political sphere. Indeed had Mr. Abati kept his hypocritical views and sentiments to himself he would be free from attack. After all Mr. Abati did not hold executive power and had no prerogative over government funds.
It is logical however to deduce that for Mr. Abati to make a complete back to front volte-face switch in personality the attraction must have been of such lofty proportions as to make him happy to undermine his ideals, conscience and integrity with little compunction. Mr. Abati allegedly acquired 2-3 digit millions of Naira in the last five years from grace and favor lucre obtained from diverse sources as was the norm in that administration, allegedly. For him therefore, the burden of inner turmoil in engaging his demons may well be a worthy or at least bearable price to pay. No matter what, that he will escape not.
As far as the upwardly mobile progression of career prospects for Mr. Abati, nature abhors a vacuum and since he has regaled with dexterity of words no matter how ridiculous the situation, he may leverage on his most recent antecedent performance to ply his trade with a certain former minister with a distinct view to convincing Nigerians that the scale of corruption in that ministry was by no means colossal and reiterate this with some “LEST WE FORGET…” captions to drive home his points. He would be on known terrain.
Lest I forget, I understand there is a comprehensive compilation being made of Mr. Abati’s columns while at the Guardian and his publications while special adviser on media to President Jonathan to be published in due course. It is expected that the compilation would be recommended to university students of human psychology in the theatre of research and development.
Finally I put readers on notice, for this case study may yet turn full circle and return to criticizing the actions of the present administration and beyond, even actions that he spinned, condoned and embraced with customized practice while serving as special adviser on media. Such is the tragedy of the unmitigated disaster of this enigma of sorts called Mr. Abati. Only this time, at least for this particular Mr. Abati, his number is up. Indeed we lost Mr. Abati. Please Mr. Abati, crawl back under that rock, hastily.
Dr. Adeleke Olayiwola, a consultant writes from London