Reuben Abati is under fire for making a biassed statement about the Wado City Movement.
The alluring power of the white cloth is embedded in its incandescence. Once a white cloth falls into palm oil or is stained by other substances, it loses that alluring power, glow, and integrity of whiteness.
There is an Urhobo adage that admonishes us to apply the same care and effort made in keeping a white cloth away from palm oil to keeping palm oil away from white cloth.
The Nigerian system is a graveyard of conscience. Its landscape is littered with the bones of many erstwhile consciences.
It is practically impossible to have a stint in government and not come out with a stained conscience. Reuben Abati’s post-government persona remains distinct from the one we knew before he entered government.
Since his stint in government as Presidential Spokesperson to President Goodluck Jonathan, Rueben Abati’s writings have lost the punch, verve, and ring of integrity that made his writings as a columnist and chairman of the Guardian Editorial Board a must-read. His writings now drip with partisanism and a lack of conscience and attention to facts.
Perhaps the only thing that still makes Abati’s writings a compelling read is his mastery of the art of writing, burnished with expert use of sharp wit and humour delivered in delectable language. His writings are mostly now all about beauty rather than substance.
Rueben Abati’s piece titled “The Brewing Crises in Warri,” published on Tuesday, September 28th, 2021, is a typical example of how low this once great conscience has fallen.
I could hardly read past the place where he said in that inglorious article that the word Wado in Urhobo means “gentleman”! Gentleman ni, gentlewoman ko! Someone should also please tell Mr. Abati that there is nothing like “Mimi Waddo” in the Urhobo language. By the way, the word is Wado, not Waddo.
In his haste to do the bidding of his paymasters, this emergency history expert on Warri history did not even bother to research the correct meaning of the word Wado, which he claimed was about to cause a crisis in Warri.
I am sure that Mr. Abati has a lot of friends and colleagues who are Urhobo. He could have simply called any of them and asked what Wado means in Urhobo and a brief history of Warri, saving himself the embarrassment of spewing ignorance and half-truths on a subject about which he knows little or nothing.
It is called balancing the story. Mr. Abati appears to have been under some kind of publishing deadline, or he would not have gone to town with this low piece that is unworthy of his craft and towering credentials as a journalist’s journalist.
Mr. Abati also uncharacteristically misrepresented a crucial fact in his article by saying that the Wado “group’s message is simply that there is no such thing as an Olu of Warri but an Olu of Itsekiri and that the way to settle the matter this time around is to change the name of Warri to Waado City.” If Mr. Abati had followed the Wado advocacy, which he agrees is all over social media, with an unbiased mind, he would have seen that this is not so.
What the movement is simply saying is that there is indeed an Olu of Warri, and he rules over his Warri kingdom and not every part of Warri metropolis as the world has been led to believe. There are large areas of this same Warri metropolis inhabited by indigenous people, whose government recognises kings of equal status with the Olu and uses their chieftaincy systems and methods of traditional administration.
These people simply want to rename their areas of the city whose owners are not in contention. They do not intend to rename every part of Warri city, the kingdom, or any parts that belong to the Olu and his people. They are simply saying we don’t want to be called by our good neighbours’ father’s name. Call us Wado.
Rueben Abati’s recent interest in Warri affairs is also telling. During the heat of recent arguments preceding the installation of the present Olu of Warri, he co-anchored an Arise TV discussion programme on the then-brewing controversy.
Unbiased observers of that programme would have noticed the questions he asked. the ones he conveniently failed to ask. The follow-up questions he asked, the ones begging to be asked that he failed to ask, and the unequal time allotted the discussants with and without interrupting questions
When Mr. Emmanuel Efeni made it clear to him that he misrepresented facts in his article during the Morning Rise programme on Arise TV, Mr. Abati tried to make light of his gaffe by saying to Mr. Efeni:
“Do you mean with your level of education in journalism, you still have to go to the village?” conveniently forgetting that, despite his high academic and journalism credentials, Abati indeed went to “the village” first. He went to another person’s village, whose history he knows nothing of or deliberately tried to misrepresent.
Mr. Abati also claims to “have no dog in the fight” for Wado City. He does, and he should tell us which dog is which in this imaginary fight of his. He should thereafter be made to understand that there is no fight whatsoever over the matter. It is people like him and his paymasters that are imagining or “brewing crises” where there are none.
And should any crises arise therefrom, Mr. Abati and his co-travellers should be held responsible for miseducating the public, raising a false alarm, and creating apprehension among the people.
For his education, Mr. Abati may need to come and take a walk in the streets of Warri and ask questions for him to understand why the advocacy for a change of name for certain areas is a creative solution to an age-long problem and a panacea for lasting peaceful coexistence rather than a “brewing crisis.”