Every introductory year student of Political Science is told that power is central to any political discourse. Once you have political power, you are told, you have everything. There are many things you can do when in power others can’t do. You are made to understand that if you are not in power, you are really an endangered species. While you are in power, you make important political appointments (and terminate them in some cases); you write a book which almost certainly becomes a Bestseller; you have guaranteed news coverage on daily basis; you are made guest of (dis)honour at social functions; your community proudly associate with “our son’s” accomplishments; somehow, everyone gets your number and the phones are always ringing!
These are some of the things that make power exciting. How dare you tell Robert Mugabe to consider retirement at 90? Where do you want him to go? Activities in political spheres keep the likes of President Mugabe eternally young so there is no question of living the boring life outside power. let’s face it, will he still be physically active if he retires to Matibiri, his village even to enjoy his loot? Will he not die before his time if he leaves Harare?
At this point, let us bring in our dear Reuben Abati, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Media, when he wrote recently what can be best termed, a post-power “lamentation”, “The Phones no Longer Ring”.
For someone like Abati, power can be an interesting adventure, just as it can intoxicate. You get away with a lot of things just because you are in power. There is a saying in my village that if you want to know a man’s true character give him two things-money and power. All you need to test a literary giant like Abati to come up with a fat lie like one of his articles in The Guardian, “For the Attention of General Buhari” is for him to be appointed Presidential spokesman. For those who do not know, it was in the said article that he accused Genaral (now President) Muhammadu Buhari of being the cause of post-election violence having earlier said he “…will make Nigeria ungovernable for President Jonathan”. The General quietly approached the Courts for a libel suit against him, and the rest, as they say, is history!
Still on the article, “For the Attention of General Buhari”, Mr Abati may just be trying hard to be seen working hard defending his clueless boss. Like I have argued somewhere else, his job then was a very delicate one. As Abati himself admitted in his “The Phones Are No longer Ringing”, he is to act as an attack dog against perceived opponents of his boss and in some cased falsify facts just so as his boss should not look so clueless. He digested his job descriptions perfectly, little wonder insults, ridicule and in some cases outright verbal abuses on his boss’ “enemies” were prominent features of his regime as Presidential spokesperson. Does he still wonder why his phones stopped ringing?
Insults don’t win arguments; just like propaganda do not win wars. Insults can only exacerbate the issues, leaving several scars, not heal it. If propaganda ever wins, with the monumental German propaganda machine put in place by Joseph Goebbels during the World War II, the World should probably have been living under a Nazi rule today. If the former columnist is still wondering why his phones stopped rigging, he needs a definite lesson in history!
I happen to be one of those that believe that former President Jonathan was the architect of his own failure. Praise singers, flatters, court jesters and the likes were enough to damage the ground for him. Working with people like Femi Fani-Kayode and Doyin Okupe in his media team, a professional like Mr Abati is sure to be sorely embarrassed. What could he have done to save the drowning ship?
As I made this point I remember Ron Ziegler, United States’ President Richard Nixon’s spokesman. With all his sound credentials as a media genius, he was made to look silly working hard to defend his boss during the Watergate scandal that rocked and brought down the Nixon administration in 1974. This is sometimes the sacrifice you pay for being a spokesman. What could Abati have done to save President Jonathan, save for his enjoyment of the melodies of his ringing phones?
Since Mr Abati wrote that I must confess I have had to sympathize with him. Maybe if he had worked with better people, his phones will still be ringing, if not louder by now, I thought to myself. I don’t honestly share the view that he should have rejected the offer to serve President Jonathan. After all, there are others who served the same administration, like Dr Akinwunmi Adeshina, the former Minister for Agriculture, whose phones are still ringing today as President of the African Development Bank(AfDB). I still do not share the view that he should have avoided the public service like a plague because it is the same service that produced eminent persons like Simeon Adebo, Jerome Udoji, and the likes whose phones were still ringing long after their retirements from service. I still do not agree with those who said his phones stopped ringing because he didn’t do his job effectively (perhaps for Jonathan’s loss). In my opinion he did his job very well, to the extent he was ready to go down with his boss, so there was no question of loyalty. If there is any reason his phones suddenly stopped ringing, it was because he came up against the Nigerian people. This one lesson, Mr Abati must learn, and quickly!