Nduķa Obiagbena, Arise TV: Media, Morality and Good conscience
By Kassim Afegbua.
I have watched with keen interest the potpourri of broadcast exchanges between anchors of Arise TV’s The Morning Show program and members of the Tinubu/Shettima Campaign Organisation. I have noticed Reuben Abati and one Oseni Rufai, trying effortlessly to defend their employer, Nduka Obaigbena in the wake of serious undercutting allegations of financial profligacy in the not-too-distant past. The exchanges compelled me to revisit my notebook from the Journalism school when we were made to draw a distinction between how to balance the interest of the media owner when faced with certain incongruous situations and the expectation of the public, as the ultimate Judge; between the message and the messenger, there is the media owner. How do you ensure that the bias of the media owner does not impugn the objectivity which is expected of every news reportage? Many a time, media owners go scot-free even when their conduct is clearly unacceptable and somewhat underwhelming. They hide under the cloak of their media platforms, finding protection from the binoculars of the interrogating public. Even when their public life falls short of the conditionalities of etiquette and ethical conduct, they are protected by a system that tends to shield them away from public ignominy.
Watching a card carrying member of the PDP, Reuben Abati voice his criticism of Tinubu’s refusal to appear on Arise TV’s scripted Town Hall outing, reminds me of the several contradictions that bake the human mind. In taking Tinubu on for refusing to honour Arise TV’s invitation, the anchors throw decency to the wind as they poise as though they are the only existing binoculars or ethical compass from where Tinubu should be psychoanalysed. Sadly, the contradictions in these persons and their promoters make the moralist content of their emanations laughable but more seriously, insulting to our senses.
Reuben Abati, an ex inmate of the EFCC dungeon, who was arrested over N500m public funds which he was accused to have collected like The Godfather on “behalf of Journalists”, from the arms deal funds during Jonathan’s Administration. Wonders shall never end! He was one of the nemeses of Jonathan’s electoral failure. His abusive style against opponents and critics of Jonathan’s drab leadership produced so many enemies against his principal. He has now picked on Tinubu. Having first criticised Jonathan and his wife over many issues, he quickly ate his humble pie when the carrot of appointment was dangled at him. From that day, I knew that Reuben Abati was finished. Maybe this is his way of wooing Presidents. He may be using his attacks on Tinubu to apply for a spokesman job, getting ready to jump ship when Tinubu wins. His latest employment in Arise TV is a deliberate rehabilitation provision by Nduka Obaigbena for this guy who shared in the largesse of the arms deal funds. Probing further, it seems most likely that there is more to the establishment of the television station than meets the eye.
On ethical grounds, Reuben Abati is a failure. On morality, he still fails the test. On the credibility of someone interrogating another, over crimes which he himself is also alleged to have committed, he fails yet again. Reuben Abati, as a member of the PDP, ran as running mate to Late Kashamu; may he find rest. Kashamu was reputed to be drug baron who used the instrumentality of the law courts to prevent his extradition to the US. At that time, Reuben saw nothing wrong with his political adventurism, but has suddenly become livid with anger and rage over frivolous allegations against Tinubu. This, to me, is the height of contradiction. Abati’s position exists vicariously through other members of the PDP like his employer, and he is trying hard as he can to be one of The PDP’s inchoate salesmen working against other presidential candidates; using his own structured so-called Town Hall Meeting as bait. For sometime now, Abati, who prides himself as one of the intellectual warehouses of the Journalism profession has been breaking all known ethics of this same profession; largely by unleashing his subjective sentiments on his supposed victims. In self immolation, his casual bravado against Governor Wike some time ago over Wike’s stance on the imbalances in the opposition PDP was most contemptible; to say the least. Abati took precious airtime to lambast the Governor, simply because his employer is in court with Wike; therefore, they wouldn’t want to objectively interrogate the kernel of Wike’s reservations against the PDP. As far as Abati was concerned, Wike had committed an unpardonable sin, for daring to interrogate the abnormalities of a system within the PDP that is manifestly skewed against the South.
TV anchors are not trained with such temperament, and are not expected to display such personal sentiments against persons they may detest. An anchor ought to know where to draw the line between his own warped sentiments and what ought to be shared to the public. Abati’s often misplaced anger clearly exposes him as one who tries to cover up personality gaps. He brags about being cerebral and brilliant. He brags about being one of the earliest columnists. He brags about his first class in UniCal. He brags as though he has become the barometer for measuring the conscience of journalism and its appurtenances. As a Spokesman to Goodluck Jonathan, Abati was a poor seller; he did not only become part and parcel of a rotten system that pervaded the public space, he was also an actor and shared in the loot that dominated that regime. The same man now poses as the moral compass of a TV station that ought to be a platform for nurturing a healthy society. Each time these categories of ego-defensive ideologues try to wear the moral badge of courage to interrogate persons and factors in the system, their previous sins push against their conversations and shame them. For a society that wears the garb of chichidodo, such a beautiful bird that feeds on maggots but hates the smell of faeces, their contradiction portends sour grapes. I keep asking myself, does Abati have the moral ground and ethical nuance to accuse anyone of being corrupt? Not in this clime!! Does he have the morality to accuse anyone of falling short of the conditionality of ethical conduct? Not in this clime!! A man who is on bail from the EFCC dungeon over profligate consciencelessness is as guilty and maybe even more guilty than those he tries to castigate.
In my Literary Criticism course during my undergraduate program, I was schooled to look at the behavioural tendencies of the critic to fathom their position and decide if they (critics) truly deserve to be taken seriously. In doing that, my Lecturer told us to psychoanalyse the critic and detail their trajectories in order to properly situate the socio-economic and political milieux surrounding them. In psycho-analysing Abati, he failed the seriousness test abysmally; his failure is deeper than the sheol. It takes a Pope to criticise a congregant of impiety. Also, it takes a moralist to accuse another of immorality. You cannot be condemning a man for lethargic offenses, when your conduct falls within the realm of subterfuge. You cannot accuse a man of incest, when that has been your hobby or accuse another of infidelity, when you flirt about unbridled. These were part of the tools we were equipped with in dissecting the critic both in real terms or fictive consideration. So, Abati and his co-travellers in Arise TV do not possess the morality to interrogate another. They behave like a fellow who laughs at another’s ragged clothings without knowing his own clothes are exposing enough to show his backside. Reuben Abati, that you have a platform where you engage on issues on a daily basis is not a license to suddenly wear the moral garb, knowing full well that you were one of the shortcomings of a system that was high in corruption and low in morals. For serving in a government with a high corruption index which corruption you also partook of, you lost all the morality to accuse the APC government or its operators of corruption. That we overlook certain undercurrents of banalities does not mean that we don’t know what is baking your cake for you.
Those who behave like the chichidodo bird, often think others are unaware of their stained clothings or fabrics. This is the Abati approach. Typical of a land of sins without sinners, every soul wants to vent the moralist dirge to stay afloat, albeit pretentiously; to score cheap points like members of the Jacobian scandal club. They may get away with their narratives with some; but for those of us who know them well, its all utter rubbish !! Bravado I will call it. His trajectories are fresh in our memories. We see and we know. Abati and his ilks should know that those who live in glass houses should look well before they throw stones. When you lack morality, you CANNOT preach it. When you are guilty as charged, you lose the moral ground to point fingers at well meaning citizens. There was nothing Abati did not write about former President IBB at some point, accusing him of corruption and profligacy, but when Abati had the opportunity to serve the country, he helped himself with easy money in the name of collecting money for Journalists. That is the beauty of history. A “moralist” Abati did not remember to tell the National Security Adviser that taking tax payers money isn’t a healthy game. At the time, he lost his voice, lost his advice, lost his brilliance and his intellectuality. He ended up in EFCC cell, with his gang of sinuous fawns, clothed in familiar T-shirt of repentance. In EFCC cell, they were all announced as members of the same thieving club. Today, because of the illness that has befallen Nigeria, largely caused by him and his like, Abati has the guts to interrogate candidates; even spitting fire for that matter. What impudence!!.