Reuben Abati, the once fiery columnist with The Guardian newspaper is the current Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria on Media and Publicity. Recently, he published a widely criticized article titled “The Jonathan they don’t know”.
In this piece, Abati who has a doctorate Degree in performing arts and therefore respected as one of the firebrand articulate writers of his generation by virtue of his once prodigious and extensive outpouring of rich articles whilst he served as the Chairman of the editorial board of The Guardian [the flagship of Nigerian press media], rather deviated from the kernel of the said article and instead dwelt extensively on what I may call ‘the kitchen etiquette of President Jonathan and his official house hold in the formidably fortified Presidential mansion in Abuja, the Nigerian political capital city.
In this treatise on the kitchen etiquette of the Nigerian President by Dr. Abati, a man who has worked in the Presidential mansion for the last fourteen months, Nigerians were inundated and unnecessarily embarassed with the claims by Dr. Reuben Abati that President Jonathan, contrary to the widely held belief that as a man born in the riverine community, that he [Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, the husband of Patience] may be deeply interested in consuming daily, some good measures of original whisky or what is called ‘kainkain [SAPELE WATER]. But Abati, who was my boss while I worked in The Guardian stated uneqivocally that President Jonathan nevertheless is a great fan of fresh fish pepper soup but that he [Jonathan] does not drink hard wine.
The Presidential spokesman wrote in that piece thus; “…Okay, he drinks coffee. And yet there are people out there who keep claiming that there is a feast in the Villa every day. They say at every meal, the table is decorated with roasted turkey, and every delicacy under the sun. Lies. Lies. ThisPresident is not a glutton. We have a disciplined, hardworking President who enjoys his privacy, and the company of intelligent people….”
Well, few days after this controversial write up hit the news stands all across the country, President Jonathan paid a one day Presidential visit to Anambra State to among other engagements, to commission the first ever crude oil refinery East of the Niger since Nigeria discovered Crude Oil in huge commercial quantties over half a century ago.
The occasion also marked the berth/emergence of Anambra State into the exclusive class of States in the Federation that are now Crude oil producing and therefore entitled to receive the constitutionally approved thirteen percent derivation from the Federation Account of Nigeria.
During that event, the Nigerian President who is said not to be in the company of unintelligent persons nor is he a glutton, however made a statement that questioned the credibility of the kitchen etiquette of Mr. President regarding consumption of alcoholic wines as affirmed by Dr. Reuben Abati. There were also an unrestrained outpouring of unintelligent statements by some politicians at that consultation forum with Mr. President staged by the Anambra state Government in which virtually all those puritanical kitchen etiquette claimed by the Presidential spokesperson collapsed like a pack of cards.
There is little doubt in the minds of independent observers that President Jonathan was impressed by the half-baked praises showered on him by some political contractors including an unintelliegent counsel by one of the speakers at that exclusive meeting which goes to say that the Igbo race should forego their political aspiration of vying to become Pesident of Nigeria in 2015 but should allow Jonathan to vie in 2015 to complete his constitutionally guaranteed two terms of four years each after which the North should have a go at it for another eight years before the South East can dream of assuming the mantle of political leadership of the federal republic of Nigeria.
In his own remarks, President Jonathan vigourously attempted to over perform the deceitful feats of his predecessors who had lied to the people of the South East that if they voted in the Peoples Democratic Party’s Presidential Candidates right from 1999, that a second Bridge would be built to compliment the collapsing first Niger Bridge built for five million pounds in December 1965. Three successive civilian Presidents under the current democratic dispensation since 1999 have come and gone without fulfilling this slemn pledge to the people of the Igbo speaking South Eastern States.
Jonathan indeed surpassed the flowery and sugar- coated language used by both Olusegun Obasanjo and the late Umaru Musa Yaradua who had promised but failed to deliver the second Niger Bridge when he told his select audience made up of contractors and politicians that he [Goodluck Jonathan] of Bayelsa State would go on exile if his administration fails to complete the second Niger Bridge before 2015 when his tenure in office would terminate.
His words; “If I don’t deliver second Niger Bridge at the end of my tenure, I will leave this country and go and live elsewhere because the failure cannot be defended”.
President Jonathan in this statement has indeed set a World record even far above one gentleman, a retired military General who made several billions from crude oil well licence who said prior to the 1998 Presidential election that if Chief Olusegun Obasanjo did not win the Presidential election that he would go into exile.
But the South East political elite who are so largely selfish have not learnt from these torrents of politcal lies about this second Niger Bridge concocted by ambitious politicians who seek national office and who are indeed aware that the votes of the people of the South Eastern Nigeria were necessary if they will ever become elected as President of Nigeria. Even some supposed elder statesmen who ought to querry the commitment of this Government to equitably provide amenities and facilities with enduring quality to the South Eastern zone, have all but compromised and are already going about with what may pass as ‘idiotic adoption’ of President jonathan for 2015 election when it is very clear that the Igbo people have suffered several deaths in the hands of Islamic rebels in the North under this Government of Goodluck Jonathan more than any other ethnic nationality.
Many Igbo traders and investors who have life investments and assets in the far Northern Nigerian States of Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe and Bauchi States, have lost them to the atrocious terror-related activities of these armed Islamic insurgents under the very watch of this Government but yet some persons with selective memory are already beating the political drum in support of the imaginary political ambition of President Jonathan in the 2015 Presidential election. What a big shame?
Have the Igbo speaking people forgotten so soon that the South Eastern States have suffered systemic neglect since after the fratricidal civil war in which children, women and young men totalling three million by some estimates were massacred by the might of the Federal force alongside foreign fighters from some of the Western World and that the South East is one place in the whole wide World where war has happened that did not get facelift and reconstruction of the destroyed infrastructure?
In Afghanistan, Irag and much of Kuwait and Libya which suffered series of wars, there have been concerted effort on the part of the parties especially the developed western World that constituted the allied forces [NATO], to bring about enduring reconstruction of the war ravaged infrastructure of those communities that suffered monumental damage similar to what the former Eastern Nigeria faced during the thirty months civil war and yet some political contractors with enormous wealth that can not be defended have already started betraying their people on the alter of huge contracts. Have these contractors forgotten so soon how hundreds of thousands of children of Igbo origin were left to starve to their untimely and cruel deaths by the policy introduced by the then Finance minister under General Gowon- Obafemi Awolowo which embargoed food assistance from abroad into the then Eastern Nigeria? The ghosts of these murdered martyrs are crying out for justice and fairness in the running of affairs in the federation of Nigeria.
These persons who are now campaigning for jonathan for 2015, shameless as they are, should please cover their faces in shame and demand equity and justice from this federal administration for the South Eastern Nigeria which has become the den of armed kidnappers that are scaring away willing investors and thereby complicating the massive youth joblessness and restiveness.
The South Eastern states are shamelessly known as the place where there are more hotels than there are manufactring firms because the federal Government of successive administraions have never come under consistent and intense pressure by the elite to do the needful by providing infrastructure to the South East geo-political zone. The only Federal presence seen today in much of South East are military, police barracks and derelict prison facilities. Our Federal Roads have all but collapsed under the heavy weight of poor maintenance even as erosion and heavy traffic is threatening the integrity of te fifty year old Niger Bridge.
How come that the South East is the only political zone in the whole country with less number of States even when the law of demography have shown that there are more actual populations of human beings in this zone that is richly blessed with rain forests? Do we now have more populations of human beings in the deserts much more than in the richly blessed rain forest belts of South East Nigeria?
Recently, the Federal Government claimed that N325 million contract has been approved for what the Federal Government under Jonathan called trasactional advisory design of the second Niger Bridge and that this project awarded to an unknown company called Roughton international limited would be completed in 16 months after which what the Government minister of works Mr Mike Onolememen called groundbreaking of the project would be done by the Federal Government in the third quarter of the coming year.
Government at the Federal level is interested only in telling the people lies regarding the actual completion date of the actual second Niger Bridge. Government of Jonathan should be told in black and white that the people are not interested in knowing when the drawing/design of the second Niger Bridge would be completed but the people want to know when the actual second Niger Bridge will be completed in the World of reality and not in the World of political fantasy and dreams.
This Government will never learn to start telling the people the whole truth and nothing but the truth and I am not too sure that they are aware of the saying in the Holy Bible that knowing and saying the truth shall set us all free as Nigerians.
In their usual political lies, the Federal Government has started dancing around with self praises over the award of contract for the design of the second Niger Bridge when the same Governmen has not told Nigerians the simple truth about when the second Niger Bridge would be completed practically.
The Works minister has already praised the President to high Heavens. His words; ” The Government is desirous of taking immediate action to construct the second Niger Bridge that will provide a smooth movement of traffic that will link South West and South East”.
He also confirmed that the project would be carried out under what is called Public Private partnership [PPP].
In 2008, Governor Peter Obi told Journalists that the second Niger Bridge would be constructed under the Public Private Partnership agreement meaning that Anambra and Delta States would contribute 20 per cent of the cost at 10 per cent each while the Federal Government contributes 20 percent and the contractor would borrow 50 per cent of the total contract sum.
The question on the lips of most South Easterners is why do this project under the so-called public private partnership [PPP] when other bridges are constructed fully by the Federal Government and why does the Federal Government intend to impose this hardship on the people of the zone assuming the job is completed and the operators start taxing users prohibitive amount of service charges?
+Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, blogs @ www.huriwa.blogspot.com.