It can’t be easy being a presidential spokesman. Not now. Not at any time in history.
Whether you speak for a well-loved president, a man of history like President Goodluck Jonathan, or a much-hated tyrant in the tower of power like the late maximum ruler of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha, the challenges are more or less the same. Sleepless nights. Frequent travels. Tackling journalists. Dealing with all kinds of intrigues and interests. Speaking the master’s mind whoever’s ox is gored. Risking hard-earned reputation to defend the master, sometimes defending the indefensible.
All these and more are the reasons why not a few Nigerians were confounded when Dr. Reuben Abati, sizzling columnist and erstwhile chairman of Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspapers, accepted to serve as Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Jonathan.
Many of Abati’s dyed-in-the-wool fans wondered how a prolific critic like their man would want to imprison his pen and imperil his hard-earned reputation in the ever-spiking political voltage of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
However, one and a half years down the line, Abati, who holds a PhD in Dramatic Literature, Theory and Criticism from the University of Ibadan, has dispelled all fears, as he continues to soar on the job. Stating that there is no fundamental difference between his beat as a journalist and his current beat as the president’s mouthpiece, he declares: "I am glad that I took the assignment."
Although he admits the job has its peculiar challenges, there has never been a time he felt like throwing in the towel. "I have never felt like taking a walk," he continues. "You can’t go to the river and you are afraid of cold. Once you are in the river, you know that you are inside water and you can catch cold. And you must be ready to swim because if you don’t swim, you will sink. I have never thought of walking away. I have taken the assignment and, as I told you at the beginning, when I look back, I am glad that I took the assignment."