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Reuben Abati, the poison ivy of Goodluck Jonathan years


Reuben Abati,

One of the most influential persons in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration was not a member of the cabinet. Neither was he a member of Jonathan’s family. But as Jonathan’s personal publicist and propagandist, Reuben Abati [above] wields formidable clout. 

As the person responsible for Jonathan’s public image, Abati had to be involved, and could choose to be involved in anything that affects Jonathan as the president. Since everything that Jonathan did as president affects the country, Abati was an important man to the country’s 170 million people, even if most Nigerians haven’t the slightest idea of who he is.

The 50-year old Abati, however, is not a complete unknown in political and media circles. He’s acknowledged to be one of Nigeria’s savviest and slickest spinmeisters. He had a successful career as a columnist with The Guardian.

Nostalgia of Abati’s era as the erstwhile combative image maker of Jonathan trying to make a fresh face to the media brings bad memories flooding back. So far, I believe he has written two articles since he left Aso Rock the latest being on Edwin Clark, god father of Jonathan who publicly disowned Jonathan for lack of will power to combat corruption during his tenure.

In his rebuttal to Clark’s decision to throw Jonathan under the bus, Abati sounds like a chicken in search of his old support of Nigerian people. Abati said the timing of Clark’s statement “…is also auspicious: just when the public is beginning to worry about the direction of the Buhari government, E.K. Clark shows up to lend a hand of support and endorsement.” 

Far from the truth. Nigerian public is not jittery about where the country is headed under President Buhari. Clark – a political spent force – is the least person Buhari administration needs for endorsement or support. Clark has nothing to offer President Buhari. Clark is broke and he’s looking for avenue to recoup his depleted cash flow from Jonathan Aso Rock. Period!

Who could ever forget Abati years at Aso Rock? For Abati who was on Jonathan’s fool’s errand, it was perfectly right to bamboozle us with plausible-sounding factoids. He treated Nigerians like ignorant fools. He called critics a mass of miseducated idiots and lawless bastards. 

He defended Jonathan with all the arsenals in his PR kit rooted in Webern primitive, substantive rationalization. To him, verisimilitude mattered more than veracity. He became a lackey of Jonathan and the PDP party. As a great fabricator, he created stunts, lies, and mediated realities as facts trying to sell poison ivy of Jonathan administration to Nigerians.

Abati goes round and round like wheels spinning in the mud in an attempt to burnish Jonathan’s tattered image. Nigerian public became deafened and confused by a barrage of contradictory messages from Abati. His days as Jonathan spokesman was an unmitigated disaster in PR.  Abati provokes a moral philosophical question: why do good people turn bad? Or, to add some nuance: why do good people do bad things? Truth is, there are many reasons why decent human beings do ghastly things. But for Abati, his eyes are bigger than his stomach. 

The criticisms of Jonathan administration sparked outrage from Abati with a chorus of attacks on critics. His bombastic assertions were as offensive as it was nonsensical. When Nigerians on social media refused to swallow Abati’s hook, line and sinker hard-sell branding campaigns of Jonathan, he labeled them “collective children of anger” and largely sizzled. He snorted: “… cynics, the pestle-wielding critics, the unrelenting, self-appointed activists, the idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM – pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria.”

“They are ever so censorious, contrarian and supercilious…,” Abati continues his bashing of “collective children of anger,” “… it is dangerous to have such a navel-gazing, narcissistic group inflict themselves with so much ferocity on an otherwise impressionable public. We are in reality dealing with a bunch of hypocrites.”

He proved a dangerous political clown. His insidious brand of image making from his comfortable and privileged position in Aso Rock blinded him to see the uncomfortable position of disenfranchised and impoverished Nigerians. He estranged many of his admirers by describing critics as extremists, delusional, ragtag bunch of misfits, nobodies, and hangers-on.

His standard attitude as Jonathan’s publicist and propagandist was one of hardened ignorance. As Jonathan’s spokesman, Abati effectively nourished Jonathan’s plan and action on corruption. He spread egregious lies. He stuck his neck out for the reputation laundering of Jonathan’s brutal kleptocracy. Instead of being startlingly honest about his dishonesty in his days as Jonathan’s media lair, by apologizing to the Nigerian people and ask for forgiveness for deceiving and badgering Nigerians, he came out swinging at Clark.

The bombastic Aso Rock Abati was cutting and sarcastic. He broke all boundaries of custom and traditional morality. He dismissed the opinions of concerned Nigerians on how Nigeria was being governed by Jonathan. The sneering, snidely Abati looking down on the rest of us plebs and other nobodies, just couldn’t understand why the “Facebook addicts” were against Jonathan.

He accused Clark for publicly jettison Jonathan. It’s like the pot calling the kettle black. Abati is equally guilty of what he accused Clark of. Reuben Abati? Who would ever think Abati would publicly disclaim his loyal fans and readers? He disappointed them and told them in unequivocal terms that they were wrong to put their confidence in him, and to bet on him. If Jonathan had won reelection, Abati would still be taunting, harassing, tormenting, and scolding the “pestle-wielding critics.” But hey, we’re “free at last, thank God Almighty we’re free at last!”

It’s surprising therefore that for all Abati has done to sell his soul to the devil as it were, and as a jaded, dirty-minded, foul-mouthed, over-bloated, proud liar and fabricator now trying to rebrand and resell himself to Nigerians is to say the least, reprehensible. 

Nigerians beware of Abati masquerading as a repentant hypocrite of yesterdays. With the Jonathan era safely tucked behind us, Reuben Abati the poison ivy of Jonathan years is an animal of the past!


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