No! Abati no!!

No! Abati no!!

By Ogbonna Nwuke 

Monday, I was glued  to my TV set. Somehow, I have since formed the nasty habit of watching the Morning Show. I guess my attachment to the show has been borne more out of curiosity.

Reuben Abati, one of the hosts on the Show hasn’t been a regular front of the camera broadcaster. He has however, been everything – Chairman of the Editorial Board at the Guardian, author, columnist, Senior Media Aide to a president in this country, etc.

There is equally Rufai Oseni, witty, frank and an okay guy who is down to earth. Not much is known of Oseni who seemingly dropped out of sight after shining like a million stars years ago. Now, he is back on Arise.

Together, both men deeply opinionated, trendy, determined and focused have managed to hold Nigerians spell bound, some say thanks to Nduka’s ingenuity.

Nduka, publisher of the all-colour-ThisWeek-magazine which failed on arrival; publisher of ThisDay newspaper which has blazed a trail of its own; and proprietor of Arise News that’s making waves; may not be your ideal gentleman.

No matter what you think about the top flight journalist who once loved the idea of getting richly endowed persons, including state governors, to pick up bills for his well known penchant for flying private jets, the Delta born maverick deserves our understanding.

He has finally made it big. Look at the demography for example of who is watching what TV station. Arise News is pleasantly enjoying quite a lot of followership just like Atlantic Television.

It is proof, experts insist, that Nduka’s investment plan, the kind of hands he has attracted and the packaging of the programme schedule have been overtly realistic.

Try as much as they can, Abati and Oseni have not been able on the Morning Show to hide who they are.
They have shown and continue to show very strong preference for Atiku Abubakar and his quest to govern the country.

Abati and Oseni may truly think they are merely being objective on the show. Many who are watching from their TV sets at home are probably seeing the emerging slant.

The emerging slant is typified by the way the duo on the Morning Show come down on opponents or perceived opponents of the former Custom officer.

Obviously, Governor Nyesom Wike, the Rivers strongman who is applauded nationwide for speaking up, standing up to certain cult personalities in this country and fighting for democracy, isn’t an apparent favorite of the two men.

While Abati calls Wike names at will, describing him most of the time as “Donatus”, Oseni on the other hand repeatedly warns Nigerians of the influence of money.

These comments seen as fair in some quarters and offensive in others, happen anytime Wike’s action poses a slight threat to the sale of a dull and mundane product that the PDP and its support base are seemingly marketing.

On Monday, Abati was at it again. He alleged on the Morning Show that Wike and the G5 Governors who do not appear to support Atiku’s presidential bid are embarking on anti-party activity.

It would have been perfectly okay if the men in the studio had drafted guests of their choice to discuss the matter. Instead they acted as class prefects and did a yeoman’s job.

Admittedly, no one can take away the right of Dr. Abati and Oseni to free speech and free association. Our constitution guarantees that for all citizens. Not even the constitutions of political parties can take away these rights from those who engage in politics.

Above all, our constitution guarantees the right of the press to hold opinion, transmit knowledge and impact ideas without let or hindrance.

So, why is it difficult for Abati and Oseni to understand that the right by citizens to hold dissenting views is protected by law? Why are they attempting to pour new wine into old wine skin?

The presidential system that we have copied from the Americans fiercely defends individual rights. Those rights, we are told, are inalienable.

We have seen so-called blue states in the United States turn red and vice versa. We have seen both Democrats and Republicans in that country vote against candidates of their own parties, particularly where decisions that throw up candidates fly in the face of public opinion.

We have not heard that those who disagree with choices made by their party, have been forced to change their party platforms in the US as a result.

This is what makes Abati’s insinuation concerning so-called anti-party activity dangerous and injurious to our evolving democracy.

For years, we have struggled in this country to turn away from the vice grip of authoritarian structures. We have similarly, battled to embrace libertarian ideals. Today, we are increasingly finding ourselves in the era of social responsibility.

Surely, Abati and Oseni, both media gurus that are respected across the country should understand this better than anyone. How can Abati, in good conscience, talk about anti-party activity in these times when men are attempting to defend rights that they hold dear?

It may be that Abati woke up on the wrong side of his bed that Monday morning.

I admit it will not be the first time that he has suggested anti-party punishment for Wike and his friends on account of their stout resistance to what they see as injustice and the abuse of principles which guarantee fairness and equity.

Wike and all those who are members of the G5, who see integrity as their watchword, have refused to buckle under pressure. They have refused to leave a party that they collectively labored to build.

I imagine that PDP which hasn’t towed the path of a witch hunt thus far may have an understanding of what is likely to happen should it engage in such a misadventure.

All said, I fell in love with Arise News and its Morning Show. Even now, the show will remain a must watch for me.

For me, Abati has proved that in the practice of journalism, retirement following several accomplishments is not an option.

Many years ago, I voluntarily quit broadcasting to pursue a career in print journalism. Today, Abati who has climbed several heights in print is now contributing to the advancement of a profession that he obviously loves on the broadcast stage.

Maybe, after publicly displaying a fit of anger when a hapless reporter simply addressed him on first name basis on air, he has come around to understand a few more things about the nature of broadcasting.

Critical as I may be of his attempt to invoke authoritarian thoughts, I still cannot ignore the great strides that our Abati has made in the world of journalists. Kudos Reuben! Kudos Abati!!

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