Opinion: Once upon a time, once upon a Reuben Abati

by Dolapo Aina


Once upon a time, there was a Reuben who was at The Rutam House who was always livid and appalled by the way things were with the country in general and in particular the PDP-led Federal Government. This Reuben repeatedly wrote and called for the rule of the law amongst other issues.

Truth is bitter; writers who deliberately crave to be loved should not be pontificating on serious political issues – they should be writing, “love stories”. Dr Anthony Akinola in his article-ABATI CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE-2011

Moral failure is caused by the choices we make, and it will cause trouble probably to others and certainly to ourselves. One of the things that cause moral failure is when things go wrong inside the individual.

This article was hibernating for close to 8 months, not because this writer had no materials but because the writer wasn’t convinced the time was right.

Once upon a time, there was a Reuben who was at The Rutam House who was always livid and appalled by the way things were with the country in general and in particular the PDP-led Federal Government. This Reuben repeatedly wrote and called for the rule of the law amongst other issues.

Once upon a time, there was a Reuben who believed that journalists must report what the government does and did in the dark. This Reuben believed the government is accountable to the people, and any government serves at the pleasure of the people.

Once upon a time, there was a Reuben we knew; who was a man many thought would be outlived by his ideas. A man many thought would be his generation’s Peter Enahoro (Peter Pan), Alade Odunewu (Allah De), Lateef Kayode Jakande (John West), Bisi Onabanjo (Aiyekoto), Abiodun Aloba (Ebenezer Williams), and other heavy weights of Nigerian journalism.

Alas! That was once upon time. This Reuben’s diminishing returns caused by his Roca de Aso affiliation has completely erased the legacy he so laboured to build at Rutam House.  This Reuben might long be remembered as an apostate of Nigerian journalism and a propaganda Minotaur!

Samples of Reuben then; Abati on Dame Patience Jonathan August 27, 2010:

“The wife of the President of Nigeria, or a state Governor, or a local council chairman is not a state official. The same applies to husbands if the gender is reversed. He or she is unknown to the constitution or the governance structure … under Jonathan presidency, Dame Patience Jonathan even got a special allocation in the original budget for the 2010 Golden jubilee anniversary whereas she has no official, financial reporting responsibilities.”

“The Jonathans must be told that Nigeria does not have a co-Presidency. We have only one president and his name is Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. And by the way, what does Dame Patience Jonathan do for a living?”

“The new First Lady likes to travel, party, and talk outside script. People are beginning to read her lips in order to understand her husband. Dame Patience must not push her Goodluck.”


Abati on Democracy:-“Anyone in the corridors of power, either by chance or right, or appointment, is expected to behave decorously.”

“Democracy is readily associated with freedom: the freedom to be free in many respects and increasingly in Nigeria, many of our compatriots, particularly persons in positions of privilege and authority confuse this with the right to be disagreeable… The sober truth is that democracy is about rights and responsibilities…”


A large chunk of the aforementioned article was written by a seasoned writer in 2012 or 2013.


As a writer, I cant but add some thoughts on the subject matter.

There was a Reuben everyone loved so much for his writing skills. Write-ups that people loved to read on Fridays and Sundays.

There was a Reuben who transmuted thoughts into crystal-clear words; the bearer of the unpublished encyclopaedia/book of lamentations of average Nigerians.

There was a Reuben whose write-ups were dissected and analysed by the educated and the intellectuals at weekend gatherings and by university students and union members on Mondays.

There was a Reuben whose articles made this writer pick up from a neighbour or buy The Guardian newspaper on Fridays just to read his articles and discuss his articles with Harry Okoh( perhaps Nigeria’s most gifted young wordsmith-merchant who is on a self-exile from writing).

There was a Reuben, Oxford-trained political scientists like Dr Anthony Akinola wrote a piece on, confident that the columnist would uphold the high-standard opinions, Nigerians had known him for.

There was a Reuben that spoke the truth. O Lord! There was a Reuben.

Now, I can’t bring myself to read any article from the aforementioned name. The only time I did, I felt a betrayal and wondered if this was the same Friday columnist, whose articles I had read for several years. A mention of his name in public gatherings and people shake their heads like irritant Agama lizards, chorusing various lamentations of disappointment infused with unquantifiable betrayal.

When the low, middle and upper classes of a society all concur on a matter; they cannot be wrong. History is filled with stories that cannot dispute this salient fact. This betrayal is so real; you can’t miss it in peoples’ eyes. It is like a sharp knife cutting through butter.

Dr Akinola once mailed me wondering if I truly enjoyed writing and believe in the issues I write about or simply looking for popularity. An affirmative about what I believe in; was my response. But the question got me thinking, that there are people (young and old) who have platforms and whose messages can be heard and read by the apparatchiks. But you are left wondering if their political conscious proselytising isn’t just a charade/facade to get into the corridors of power and wine and dine with the same people they have constructively criticized or lampooned?

Like the veteran Nollywood actor Olu Jacobs in the old TV series called The Third Eye, I can only say; “I wonder; I just wonder”. I hope 2015 isn’t a déjà vu of pre, during and post 2011 elections.

You can Google the title of the article by Dr Anthony Akinola to read the full article but I leave you with some paragraphs of Dr Anthony Akinola article titled “Abati Can Make A Difference” written in 2011, which I had read in 2011 but stumbled upon it on the 17th of May 2013 and was shocked by the transformation we can all see. But I won’t forget the statement of Dr Chinyere Nwachukwu (Senator Ike Nwachukwu’s younger brother), who told this writer in 2011, and I would paraphrase him, “Reuben Abati has to pray so that he doesn’t get tossed by the winds”. The mail exchange between Dr Akinola and I; went thus.

Sir, on Reuben Abati, I was going through a file-(Anthony Akinola Articles) I saved with all your articles and the first one in alphabetical order is Abati can make a difference, written in 2011. I read it again and below are some of the poignant points I wanted to highlight.


“His integrity will remain intact if he remains on track with the standard society has come to associate him with”. Can this be said to be the case?


“In this regard it would be surprising to most of us if he ever permitted himself to be used as an “attack dog” – insulting and savaging those who may disagree with his boss on political issues”. Hasn’t he become one of the Rottweilers?  


“We expect Reuben Abati to be right there, speaking truth to power, albeit in the privacy of his boss’s office”. Hmmmm, if he has done so and he hasn’t seen any improvement by his boss, why not step down?


And Sir, has it occurred to you that Mr President could one day, reshuffle his cabinet and his Special Advisers could be changed. What next for Reuben Abati, a welcome back to the Friday column? But who would bother to read his articles?


Dr Anthony Akinola’s replied thus “thanks also for reminding me about the article on Reuben. Maybe one was a bit naive about the nature of the job he took, using the standards of political behaviour at this end of the world in articulating my advice, and maybe I was also assuming things from my own perspectives.”

Like I informed the prolific publisher and first editor of the Central Bank of Nigeria magazine called The Bullion, late Chief Pius Odebiyi several years ago and like a famous Ugandan female friend (name withheld) reiterated to this writer in 2013; the best option is to be a consultant to any African government. This way, your integrity is intact. This Ugandan should know better; for one of her parents was a seasoned diplomat.

If you are familiar with the Tom and Jerry cartoons, you would know about the ever ubiquitous hot frying pan. So when, the eventual tossing out; from Roca de Aso; like Tom and Jerry; our steamy frying pans would be returning serves like top ranking tennis players with their tennis rackets(back to sender style).

Truly, once upon a time; there was a famous Reuben; not the son of Jacob but whose betrayal feels biblical. You just need to ask the fellow Nigerian seated beside you.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail