The appointment of Reuben Abati as federal government spokes-person and his hasty acceptance of that ignoble post, which in effect makes him the chief spin-master and defender of a federal government that thrives on deceit and whose main purpose in governance is the massive looting and consequent dehumanisation of her own citizens came as no surprise. The red flag was raised a while ago that Abati was in an intense lobby for a government position when he wrote a ten- part article on the Jonathan Presidency. The article was a well rehearsed display of sycophancy designed to market himself to the presidency for a government post from whence he can join the cabal of executive robbers in the infamous looting of the nations coffers.
I know that some would argue that accepting an offer to serve as Abati has done, could be an opportunity for a critic to bring the change he has variously written about on the simple logic that if all good men stay away from service, the change we all crave will never come. Yet that logic falls flat on its face in Abati's case for the simple fact that he will not be managing any ministry, state, board or parastatal where he can directly implement transformative reforms. Unlike a parastatal like NAFDAC where Dr Dora Akunyili was able to introduce transformative reforms or the ministry of Finance where Dr Ngozi Iweala was able to implement her programs of debt cancellation during the erstwhile Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Abati's role as government spokes-person is purely and simply a government propagandist that spins the fairy tales of deceit from the presidency from which capacity he has no bearing to implement any change. This is a fact which Reuben Abati himself must have known before accepting that position out of greed and crass opportunism.
But beyond Reuben Abati's paradoxical acceptance of a government position that clearly contradicts his long years of caustic criticism lies the real issues of hypocrisy and opportunism which has led to the death of the Nigerian media. Nigerian journalists have since become seasoned hypocrites and opportunists who send critical anti-government articles from their stables on a regular basis only to end up jumping into the same government at the slightest opportunity. Once in government, they become apologists of the same government they had spent years criticising. This has had the effect of diminishing any pressure such critical articles could ordinarily have exerted on the government as every journalist is now seen as a rabble rousing opportunist hypocrite who is only criticising because he has not been offered a position in government.
In other parts of the world, journalists are ideological professionals with an unwavering commitment to the struggle for social justice. Jumping into government as is the case with Nigerian opportunist journalists is unheard off. They remain at their stables in most cases as a lifelong venture, holding the government accountable to the citizens. Journalism is a noble profession and has remained so in saner climes populated by rational persons, but in Nigeria the same destructive factors have not surprisingly devoured the profession and populated it with opportunistic charlatans who use their stables as a means of negotiating their way into government for self serving purposes. Thus, in accepting a government position, Reuben Abati has only acted in the true traditions of hypocrisy and opportunism for which Nigerian journalists and media have become infamous.
Another issue that demands close examination is Abati's actual moral fitness for a government appointment. Nigeria needs nation builders not bigots. Reuben Abati has written many articles in the past which bothered clearly on ethnic bigotry. On several occasions he abused his position as a senior editor and later chairman of the editorial board of the Guardian newspapers by writing hate-filled articles. In France, Rwanda and other serious nations, racist or ethnic insults incur jail terms. Abati's bigoted articles would be enough to end his career and send him to jail in saner climes but he escaped scrutiny and got away with such narrow mindedness, irresponsibility and abuse, because Nigeria is a self destructive mockery of a nation.
The government on its own part has a responsibility to exhaustively verify the backgrounds of individuals before appointing them to government. A narrow minded bigot adds no value and is least desired in a deeply diverse nation like Nigeria that faces increasing challenges from her ethnic and religious contradictions. But it comes as no surprise that on one hand Reuben Abati somersaults from his pretentious criticisms of the government to accept a position that defends the same government and on the other hand the government appoints a journalist who has a background in bigotry, after all both Abati and the federal government are immoral birds of a feather who must necessarily flock together .
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu