Our friend, Reuben Abati, is a brave man.
Surely he must have known, when he wrote his latest opinion, that he would become the recipient of vehement ridicule for daring to voice, to an intelligent audience, a thought that anyone who has had conversations with Aso Rock inhabitants, or who has listened to Pentecostal pastors talk about principalities and powers, knows is popular talk in many quarters.
He dared to say that there are actual spiritual forces – demons – that control the affairs of men once they arrive at the Presidential Villa in Aso Rock, Abuja.
The last time anyone dared to suggest such an outlandish idea, it was former minister, Femi Fani-Kayode (and he was so giddy today after Abati’s corroboration, he quickly wrote another of his endless pieces). But everyone already knows Fani-Kayode will say anything for attention, and so we just laughed like Nigerians are wont to do when a nude moment begins to perform vigorously in the market place, and we went about our business.
But Abati is a serious-minded man, an intellectual even, many would say – and we are used to taking him seriously.
So how does such a man end up saying something like this:
In our days, a lot of people used to complain that the APC people were fighting us spiritually and that there was a witchcraft dimension to the governance process in Nigeria. But the APC folks now in power are dealing with the same demons. Since Buhari government assumed office, it has been one mistake after another. Those mistakes don’t look normal, the same way they didn’t look normal under President Jonathan. I am therefore convinced that there is an evil spell enveloping this country. We need to rescue Nigeria from the forces of darkness. Aso Villa should be converted into a spiritual museum, and abandoned.
And the ridicule has come fast and furious, including on this site. That a serious minded man is making a frivolous, even demented argument has led to shock across the length of the Nigerian internet.
But isn’t that the entire point of it? That, this one time, it is a serious-minded man making a public case of a thing he has thought carefully and deeply about and thinks we must pay attention to?
Indeed, if you are, say, Christian and you believe in an unidentified place called Heaven, obey a book written by men on everything from abortion to sex, and speak daily to yourself all in the name of talking to a God that no one has actual seen or recorded audio of his existence.
If you believe in the existence of God and Satan, of demons and angels, then – for Jove’s sake, why is it so difficult to think that those spiritual unseen forces that you actually believe in and profess have the power to attack mere mortals who live and work in government quarters?
Abati is possibly a hypocrite. It is also entirely possible that, all that happened, was that he and his cohorts got drunk on power while in office, in a country where presidential powers are wide, and checks and balances are few, and they rode that wave.
He is back to the real world, he cannot believe how contemptuously he treated Nigerians while in office, and in trying to reconcile his penitence with his conscious has chosen to outsource responsibility to forces we cannot see. It is possible. In fact, highly probable.
But that doesn’t at all the things he claims to have observed as fact for himself: people falling ill while in that office, many losing family in that office, and then the many who suddenly – according to him – recovered once they were out of that place.
And for whatever its worth, Abati believes so strong in what he is saying that he has braved the ridicule of Nigeria’s intelligentsia, including the unforgiving Twitter commentariat of which he is a part, to suggest, from deep within his soul that we do something about this problem.
He feels so strongly about it, he actually recommends re-locating Nigeria’s seat of power.
“Should I become President of Nigeria tomorrow,” he says. “I will build a new Presidential Villa: a Villa that will be dedicated to the all-conquering Almighty, and where powers and principalities cannot hold sway. But it is not about buildings and space, not so?. It is about the people who go to the highest levels in Nigeria. I really don’t quite believe in superstitions, but I am tempted to suggest that this is indeed a country in need of prayers, We should pray before people pack their things into Aso Villa. We should ask God to guide us before we appoint Ministers. We should, to put it in technocratic language, advise that the people should be very vigilant. We have all failed so far, that crucial test of vigilance.”
You can say whatever you want to say about the former presidential spokesman whose phones no longer ring, but you have to at least pay passing attention to what he is saying – because we have always taken him seriously, because he is a direct witness of the things he speaks of, and because it is incongruous in one breath to believe in the supernatural and in other to dismiss the power and effect of that same supernatural
The hypocrisy can cut both ways.
Thought Experiment is a section on YNaija.com where we flip the coin of public opinion, and explore a minority view on important news, issues and ideas. Because society wins when there are many different angles of a debate finding space in the public consciousness.