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Public Ridicule is a bitter lesson for Abati, Obanikoro, Fani-Kayode etc

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Dr. Reuben Abati
Dr. Reuben Abati, ex-presidential aide

December 18. One A.S. Aruwa shared a photo of some detainees of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) pictured together in their cell while being detained by the anti-graft agency.

The detainees are former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Bala Mohammed; ex-presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati; Goodkuck Jonathan’s presidential campaign spokesman, Femi Fani-Kayode; ex-Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro; and Bashir Ushaq Bashir.

Pictures like this one don’t ever truly disappear. Not on the Internet nor in people’s minds. Each man in this picture was either queried or is still being investigated for allegedly looting or mismanaging public funds.

Judging by the way all the others looked straight into the camera, smiled and waved without shame or remorse, you are tempted to say that for them – being accused, arrested or publicly disgraced is no big deal.

Their wives and children may see them like this in EFCC cell, and their children’s friends too. And heck! It doesn’t matter.

But for my friend and media colleague – Dr. Reuben Abati – who looked away from the camera without a cheer or jeer, you can tell it’s a big deal. It is bad enough that the bad news already made headlines in social and conventional media that he’s been accused of stealing millions, which upon his last interrogation he denied convincingly.

To now have his photograph in concert with these cell tenants being accused of stealing billions in Naira and dollars thrown all over the Internet is a straw that could break his camel’s back – a whole Abati the doctoral thespian, whose numerous readers when he was a columnist and editorial board chairman at The Rutam House of the Guardian newspapers still haven’t forgiven him for ‘dining with the devils of Aso Rock’ rather than remain on the populist side of ‘aluta continua’ as his writings depicted him.

Of course Abati’s EFCC predicament is big deal. All these men were picked at different times in connection to allegations linking them with cases of corruption including the famous Dasukigate arms scandal. Aruwa, who shared the picture via his twitter handle @Musadiqz, opined that the picture should serve as a lesson to other Nigerians in public office.

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Abati: Democracy is tricky
Abati: Democracy is tricky; a parody

But it is one bitter pill Abati would rather not have to swallow. I know him. He is intellectually proud, but not arrogant. Perhaps he has reasons to be so.

Almost 10 years ago, we both met at a unique celebrity edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire! Abati’s immediate predecessor, Olusegun Adeniyi who was late President Umar Yaradua’s spokesman, was there too. Star artistes Joke (Silva) Jacobs, Bimbo Akintola and Chief Chika Okpala (Chief Zebrudaya alias 4.30) were there too.

We were invited along with other public figures to compete against each other for money, which we would then donate to charities of our choice.

Abati was a bit restless. I wondered why. He walked up to me and said: “Hamilton, you aren’t even perturbed in anyway.”

Then he let me into his secret fear. “I don’t like this at all. I can’t stay cool like you. What if I get on national TV and Frank Edoho asks me a simple question I can’t answer? I don’t want to make a fool of myself on national TV.”

I looked at him and smiled. I understood him perfectly. He had to maintain appearances. Everyone acknowledged the newspaper brilliance of Reuben Abati. He even anchored Prof. Pat Utomi’s now rested TV talk shop ‘Patito’s Gang’ sometimes. He had to maintain the facade of being ‘all-knowing’.

I had nothing to lose. I said to him rather calmly: “I’d rather look like a fool on national TV than miss an opportunity to win a million or more for the less privileged.”

That day, I won the ‘fastest fingers’ pre-contest and was paired with Joke Jacobs. Together we won N500,000 for charity. Whether we won or lost, nobody looked like a fool on TV that day. We all had fun trying to be selfless and to win money for much poorer young Nigerians.

If Abati cringed at the remote possibility of being seen as a fool on TV, believe me, he would seriously hate being paraded as anything in a common EFCC cell. I feel for him. He is a man of the pen. A darned good writer. A husband and father.

As former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s spokesman, Abati wasn’t in any position to steal public funds like a minister or governor or LG chairman. His office would normally receive a steady budget to “keep the media happy.” That is a wide field to play and safe latitude for whatever is done with the budget.

As he himself wrote in Vanguard newspaper on November 11, 2016 – two weeks after his release by EFCC – in an article titled “The sad news of Trump’s triumph,” Abati stated: Democracy is tricky; it sometimes ends up as a parody of itself! True. Now we all know that managing other people’s money, especially in public office, is tricky and often damning!

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Abati and wife, Omolara
Reuben Abati and wife, Omolara

The 2016 good news for the Abati family is that unlike the judges and ex-this, ex-that currently being tried in court and risking sentences, Dr. Reuben Abati is a free man with no criminal record or conviction.

However, pictures like this won’t go away. Bitter. Lesson. Warning.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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