Abati Vs Doyin: Who Commands Aso Rock Media High Command? By Taju Tijani
Recently, mound of evidence emerged of dumb Dame Patience Jonathan's ugly descent into gratuitous attack on Reuben Abati over his arse-kissing type of image laundering. The unspeakably powerful wife of the president is not a woman who respects piety, formality of language and the incomparable intellectual chasm between her and Reuben Abati. Confessional stories from newspapers and gags from Facebook and other social media sites agreed that Patience Jonathan - Nigeria's newest perm sec - fell to the dictate of her colossal ego and had Abati all strung up on charges of dramatic mutation from being an abrasive journalist to a comical scribe. While the formalities and privileges of First Lady thrill Patience endlessly, Abati could not provide that tragic balance of reining in the murky meanness of Nigeria's commentariat communities that respect no restraint in the kind of things written about the president and his stentorian and self-promoting wife.
The short, squat and buffoonish Patience is a study in grumpiness. She is famed to be the woman who holds Jonathan's wobbly balls, brain and even birthright in captivity. With no grace of expression, charm of personality and rustic decorum of a once village girl, she is left to wild ravings, crafty deceit and bootstrap authoritarian subculture that flare up frequently in the corridors of Aso Rock. She is a true daughter of the bullshit breed. Thank God, Patience "Umblella" Jonathan has unmasked Abati's illusion of a cosy, safe journalistic harbour. At last, Abati's cloudy and smudged vision of the job of a spin doctor has come to haunt him. The old historical scoops of a giddy intellectual environment of an Editorial Boardroom, the ecstasies, the patriotic flourish of combative writings have all come to epitomise the hubristic catastrophe of poor career judgement.
What kick-started Abati's diminishing returns could be located in Patience original impulse for protection from scurrilous media hounds and relentless negativity of her many criminal excesses. First, she was hounded and criticised for her appointment as a Permanent Secretary in the Bayelsa Ministry of Education. Then, in her own unique resource optimisation strategy, it was alleged that she is building a 200-roomed hotel in Lagos. Thirdly, an Abuja street was named after Patience. To prove that she bestrides the African political landscape like a colossus, she enforced the gathering of Africa's Spoilt First Ladies - at a huge cost!.
With a mixture of impunity, lawlessness and disdain, Patience plundered the treasury of billions of naira to purchase 200 cars for the gathering jamboree of Africa's most wicked high class witches. The answer to her monumental lawlessness is beyond our ken to understand. Patience arrogance, her contemptuous rather than contrite spirit provoked the nation's anger. There was a raw outpouring of polemical rage, insults, name calling and criminal culpability for high treason for stealing state money to stage a bizarre event at a time of national soul searching. Nigerians for the first time are seeing a new, despicable gem of invention from a proudly illiterate First Lady. Patience's parasitic proclivity reinvents itself as apologia for licensed stealing. Naked and vulnerable, Patience relies on Abati who happens to be her husband's spin doctor to stem the tide of criticisms questioning her unfolding immoral vanities. However, she is unaware that the best safeguard against bad publicity is not the emergency recruit of an attack dog, or bulldog, or junkyard dog for that matter. But when like Caesar's wife she begins to live above board, that choice will naturally encourage good report.
Aging Doyin Okupe, the so-called attack dog, must know that the arc of time has imported a paradigm shift in the temper of public discourse. During Olusegun Obasanjo's incumbency, the Owu combatant - an apostle of muscular democracy - coated himself in the hideous finery of authoritarianism, sink estate rascality, military chutzpah and do-or-die audacity. These attributes shed their own reflected glory on the success of Okupe as the mad dog of Obasanjo. Like master like servant, so to say. But Jonathan is a stark contrast to Obasanjo. He is the ugly antithesis of the demons that lived, possessed and drove Obasanjo. Unlike Obasanjo who has many finest moments to count as achievements - EFCC, NAFDAC and Telecom deregulation - Jonathan is a disastrous aberration. Worse, his wife Patience has been left to steal far more integrity-sinking limelight since the beginning of Jonathan's presidency.
Therefore, the canine-like hero worship been thrown at Okupe would eventually turned out to be ensnaring. Okupe as an attacking mad dog in the midst of millions of unhappy, desperate and sworn adversaries of his paymaster is quaint irony to this writer. Before the canine hunting begins, Okupe is already defeated, beaten and eaten alive by madder dogs out there. We are waiting for Okupe's first canon shot. Watch this space! Patience is the queen of the South-South coast raised through sheer stroke of fortuitous happenstance to judge and condemn crtitcs of her uncontrolled impulse for ephemeral and primordial vanities. I urge every critic of this profligate fat mama to raise the tempo of her condemnation before an open world. She is unravelling as a slow motion tragedy in a nation that ships almost daily into travesty and disgrace. Jonathan and his wife stand out today as harbingers - they are the harbingers of their own luckless pull to venomous publicity.
Reuben Abati on the other hand is living a lie. Reputation management requires instant result. That is his major role from the start but hidden from him. Goodluck Jonathan, The Presidency and PDP administration are threesome disaster. To wash off the stench, a decision was made to hire a professional-in-the-know who has unquestioned integrity and is popular among the reading public. The mantle fell on Abati and the rest is now tea party. So, image laundering, or to use its quaint new expression, reputation management, has zero tolerance for failure. Realising this, I wrote an article titled "Aso Rock Media High Command: From Dream To Nightmare " (www.ttsoundings.com) advising Abati to seize the moment and offer a more engaging, robust, proactive and feedback-driven media to the president. Stung by his own inaction, Abati sprung into action and offered interviews to online media portals based in the Diaspora. His scorecard was abysmal. He achieved a mere 35% penetration. He failed in the most important area of saturation. His saturation score was mere12% from a possible score of 75%.
In the West, Abati would have been on his way back to his desk at Rutam House -The Guardian. Andy Coulson, the former editor of the defunct News Of The World was hired by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron to fend off malicious Tory revelations getting to the public. Tough luck, Coulson was not up to the task. He lasted less than two years before he was relieved from the job. The lesson here is simple. To manage damaged reputation requires more than round tripping to exotic places with the president. It requires all the savvy, creativity and aplomb of a feared, engaging and respected personality.
This moment Abati is entrapped in a capsule of confusion. He made a wrong career decision by gathering his soul with sinners and bloodthirsty men who are practising voodoo democracy against Nigerians and whose hands and toes are bloodied with bribery and corruption. Aso Rock does not require a media spokesperson. It does not require jaded public affairs geniuses. These kinds of maps do not describe the territory of Aso Rock at all. What Aso Rock dreams is to devalorise or castrate our passion for rebellious rebukes against erring thieves in government and turn critics into fainthearts. What Aso Rock dreams is the birth of shallow, depthless and compliant journalism in contrast to the current form of robust, reckoning and rebuking tradition that is in high ferment. Let the muckraking, pushing, pulling and pummelling continue.
The Presidency and the accidental First Lady cannot hide their vulnerability, villainy and voluptuous appetite for vanity. A year ago when Reuben Abati lost his journalistic virginity to Aso Rock, I wrote an article titled "Abatimania: All Hail Abuja Spin Doctor " warning of the danger of bringing the rod on his back. The mythologies enacted in that piece are today's prophetic reality. The orthodoxy of public advocacy, mad doggism or dogmatism ascribed to Doyin Okupe and the pathetic pragmatism of Reuben Abati's cannot provide any galactic shield for the stationary treasury bandits managing our fourth republic. Like David, I pray, O Lord, turn the media counsels of these Ahithophels - Abati and Okupe - into foolishness. For the time being, I am rolling my eyes like a smilling Buddha and waiting for Doyin Okupe's first dirty, doggy defence of a president who flies to Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to watch dangling boobs of semi-naked Kambule Street carnival revellers at a time when his nation burns. Come on Okupe, it is time to sunbathe. E be like say my Waffi don do for now!