I had dedicated Saturday, October 21, to two important events: attending to family duties and participating in a farewell funeral party in Abeokuta in honour of a doughty elderly woman whose paths and mine crossed for many seasons. She was the mother of a childhood friend, who became the mother of many others because she was a dependable ally in every battle.
But my day was constantly disrupted and my attention distracted by reports from known and unknown persons about a certain commentary that was purportedly going viral on social media, authored by one Reuben Abati, and affirmatively titled “Still on Okorocha and Zuma’s Statue: Reuben Abati’s epic reply to Rochas Okorocha”.
One fellow wanted to know if I authored the piece, others followed suit, and later close friends started bombarding me with enquiries. I promptly disclaimed the piece.
On Tuesday, October 17, I had written an article titled “Okorocha and Jacob Zuma’s statue”. It appeared in my column in ThisDay newspaper – Tuesday with Reuben Abati – and was also widely syndicated across the Nigerian media space. That essay remains the only commentary I have written so far on the public relations crisis that has emerged around Governor Rochas Okorocha’s decision to erect a statue in honour of one of Africa’s most disreputable contemporary leaders.
I have not had any reason to do an “epic reply” (whatever that means) to Governor Okorocha. I am not even aware of any response from him regarding my earlier intervention. I also don’t know that other Reuben Abati, who specializes in the writing of “epic replies”, and whose reasoning is so weak, conveyed in kindergarten prose, and whose use of English is so supremely incompetent.
With due respect, even if I wanted to write like the author of that epic reply, I would have been completely incapable of doing so. This is without prejudice, however, to the right of all right-thinking persons to criticise Rochas Okorocha and expose his folly, but they should do so in their own name and not borrow another person’s byline. I will not claim what is not mine. In my reckoning Rochas Okorocha is not that important enough to draw two major commentaries from me in less than a week. I made my point and I have since moved on to other important matters.
The fake Reuben Abati should have been courageous enough to write under his or her own name. Writing is an act of courage, not cowardice. Each time we put our thoughts out there, we grow a little, we gamble with our thoughts and reputations, we die a little too, but what matters is the courage to stand by our own version of the truth.
The worst crime a man can commit is to deny himself or herself, the right to exist and think. I sympathise with all those who like to appropriate my name, but I am sorry, I do not run a Reuben Abati franchise. I am not the author of that virus-infected piece on Rochas Okorocha.