Reuben Abati: Aso Villa and the audacity of rats


by Reuben Abati


“What’s that sound I am hearing?”

“What sound?”

“I thought I heard something like miaow, miaow…”

“Oh my cats…oh yes…”

“Are you now breeding cats?”

“Not really. But I have just joined a group of concerned Nigerians who are planning to go to the Presidential Villa in Abuja to help sort out this issue of rats that invaded the President’s office and chased him out of his office as the BBC reported.”

“You mean you believe that story?”

“Nobody knows what to believe in this country anymore, but we are patriots, and Baba’s loyalists, and we are determined to make our own contribution. Why don’t you join us?”

“To go and kill rats in Abuja?”

“Yes. Can’t you see that those rats are irresponsible elements? The President travelled for three months and they just took over his office, ate up the furniture in the office and now Baba has to work from home for 3 months while his office would have to be renovated, all at public expense.”

“How on earth would rats invade the President’s office?”

“You like to ask questions. Garba Shehu, the President’s spokesman and an experienced journalist who knows a story is not a story except it is accurate has told us that they are having a problem with rats in the Villa, who are you to doubt him? Have you been to the Villa before?”


“So, join us. Those rats have crossed national red lines. They must be destroyed relentlessly because they are terrorists and criminals. They are in fact guilty of treasonable felony. What they have done is the equivalent of an attempted coup d’etat! We, the concerned citizens, will not take it. We have a duty to defend this democracy.”

“But why are you bothering yourself? The President has met with the Security Chiefs. And he gave them a marching order to ensure national security. They should know what to do”

“But did they obey the marching order? After their meeting with the President, the other day, they just addressed a press conference and returned to their offices. Not a word about the breach of national security by rats. I was shocked. I expected the service chiefs to march straight to the President’s office and deal with the rats with immediate effect. This is the problem. Baba has around him, people who are not ready to help his administration. Even the Generals, with all their epaulets and combat experience, are running away from common rats! You now see why some of us have decided to take up this matter as patriots?”

“I don’t think anybody will allow you to take cats into the President’s office, though. That may even be more of a threat to national security than the rats invasion.”

“Okay, what do you suggest, we go to the zoo and get lions, jackals and hyenas to attack rats?”

“What will a lion do with rats?”

“That is my point. It is actually a job for cats. Rats flourish in the absence of cats. Don’t you know it is only when the cat is not at home that rats become bold enough to take over the house? As the Yoruba people put it, a i si nile ologinni, ile di ile ekute.”

“Abasi mbok. I could never imagine that a day will come when Okon Calabar will take over Nigeria’s seat of power.”

“Okon Calabar. Who is that?”

“Okon Calabar.  That is what we call rats in Calabar. Okon Calabar is not an ordinary rat at all. It has the appetite of about ten men. Have you ever seen a rat that has a pot belly, the effect of pathological gluttony?”


“That is Okon Calabar. Not even rat poison can kill it. And your cats had better be capable. Okon Calabar’s jaws are like this… strong, frightening. Ugh. In those days, Okon Calabar’s specialty was the family pot of soup. If you left your soup pot carelessly in the kitchen, Okon Calabar will lick all the soup and leave for you a clean pot.  The real story is that Okon Calabar has very strong spiritual powers; it is an agent of demons and spirits.”

“Thank you. I think from now on, I will just be very careful. Anybody at all who bears Okon whether a rat or a human being… You now see why Baba had to abandon his office and work from home?”

“But is he actually working from home? I think he is working from the office.”

“The same office where the rats have taken possession?”

“I saw the photograph of the President’s meeting with the Service Chiefs. That is actually not the office in the residence. The office in the residence is small and private. I don’t know why we have to be told he is working from home, when he is actually using a second office which is part of his main office.”

“The people working for him say he is working from home, you say he is actually working from his office, another office. You and your over-sabi.”

“Well, I may be wrong. But the last administration extended the President’s office, by erecting in the green space between the President’s office and the residence, a mini-conference/banquet hall, which has a hall, a diplomatic reception room, a fully fitted kitchen, a Presidential office, a stage, a control room, a newsroom, and a broadcast room where the President can either record or have live broadcast.”    

“They may have changed the design of things since you last visited the Villa. So you don’t know”

“But I saw the photographs in the media. The office in that Presidential office extension is just about 3 minutes walk from the residence.  Once the President goes there to hold meetings, he is already effectively in the office. And in any case, was it even necessary to tell us the President is working from home or that rats have chased him away from his office? If they want to change furniture, let them do it. There is no point creating unnecessary news.”

“Your oversabi is getting too much these days.”

“Unnecessary news always generates unnecessary questions. Now, we have been told that N2 billion was actually earmarked for the cleaning and fumigation of the Villa. So, who is responsible for keeping the Villa rodent-free?”

“N4 billion actually. I hear Julius Berger is in charge of the maintenance of the Villa.”

“So, Julius Berger would have to explain to Nigerians how rats invaded the President’s office. Is it that they locked up the place and stopped cleaning it? Ordinarily, every part of the Villa must be kept clean every day. I still don’t believe this rat story. Rats in the President’s office? The BBC in its report was practically laughing at Nigeria. I imagine when next any foreign diplomat is posted to Nigeria, one of his briefing notes would be the need for him to watch out for rats in the Villa. Oyinbo people too like akproko.”

“Do you want to keep writing an essay on this matter or you want to join us? Any small thing, you will just start vibrating.”

“We need to raise questions. But since you insist that the rats story must be true, could that also be the reason why the Federal Executive Council meeting for this week was cancelled?”

“I don’t think so. You should stop worrying about whether a Council meeting is held or not. It is not an issue. There is nothing in the Constitution that says FEC must meet every week or on any particular day. The President can choose to hold cabinet meetings on a- need-arises-basis.  It is a matter of choice or style.”

“Okay, if I must join your rat-catchers gang, what is in it for me?”

“Must you always expect to be paid for every service rendered? We are a group of volunteer patriots going to Aso Rock to save it from rats. Oh when the saints/Go marching in/Oh, when the saints go marching in/Oh how I want to be in that number/When the saints go marching in/Oh when the drums begin to bang…/I want to be in that number…. Are you joining us?”

“Wait first.  I think before we go to the Villa, we should take Lassa Fever vaccination as a form of protection and candidly, I think everybody in that Villa should be tested for  Lassa fever. As you well know, rats are vectors of Lassa fever.”

“I don’t think this matter is that serious.”

“Still, it is better to take precautions.  Doctors can be imported from either the UK or the US or the Medecins san frontieres can be called in to help.”

“We have doctors in Nigeria who can administer vaccination if need be.”

“Which Nigerian doctors?”

“It is even the job of a nurse. Vaccination is a simple procedure.”

“If you want me to join the rat-catchers league of patriots, you will first arrange a trip for me to the UK to take a Lassa fever injection, and then I will be prepared.”

“Obviously, you are also afraid of the rats, so, you have to find an excuse to dodge. And to think I have a role for you in this all-important and urgent national assignment.”

“What role?”

“I want you to be our Pied Piper.”

“Pied Piper. What is that?”

“Don’t tell me you have never heard of the Pied Piper? The Piped Piper of Hamelin”

“No. Why should I know him? Does he know me too?”

“Kai. What are they teaching you people in school these days? And you go about pretending to be educated? Kai. Well, I can’t blame you. What should we expect when the universities are running epileptic programmes and the teachers are on strike almost every year?”

“Don’t insult me. What is your point?”

“Okay, I want you to be our Pied Piper, right? You will dress up colourfully, and play a pipe, a flute or a saxophone or a mouth organ, whichever one you can play. You will also carry our company colours”

“Are we a company and what has colours got to do with it?”

“We are a brigade. In military terms, a brigade is also a company.  And when you go to war, you must carry your colours. That is another word for the flag. In this case, you will carry the Nigerian flag.”

“But music? Why the music?”

“The Pied Piper of Hamelin played music for the rats that invaded Hamelin in medieval Germany, and led them out of the city and thus saved Hamelin from an epidemic.  But you are not going to play music for the rats in Aso Villa. No. No. No. Our strategy is different. We are not going to play music for those rodents and terrorists. We are going to destroy them. The punishment for treason in Nigeria is death, not music. You will play music for the kyanwas and muzuru, to motivate them.”

“And who are those?”

“Cats. Kyanwa- female cats; muzuru- male cats. We did some research and found that cats respond positively to music. No stone will be left unturned on this mission”

“So, how soon are we storming Aso Villa? The whole thing is beginning to look interesting to me.”

“As soon as we finish working out the logistics. See, our strategy is simple. The operation will be codenamed “Operation Kyanwa” by the Hamelin Brigade. The cats will attack and destroy the rats. Then we will fumigate the entire Villa. The furniture will be moved out and replaced. And by God’s grace, the President can return to his Main office, by this time next week, to continue the noble work of leading 190 million Nigerians, without any threat from irresponsible rats.”


“I take it that you are with us, then.”

“Ye-s s-ir.”

“Thank you. Let us go and teach the Okon Calabars of Aso Villa, a lesson. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

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



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