A PhD graduate who specialised in Dramatic Literature, Theory and Criticism, Reuben Abati started as a romance fiction writer.
The Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, in an article, referred to young social media enthusiasts who criticise President Goodluck Jonathan on the social media – twitter, Facebook, etc- as “collective children of anger.” Besides Abati’s well-known reputation as a veteran columnist, these are some specks of his eventful career that the “collective children of anger” should know.
1. Smart Kid – Reuben Abati graduated from Theatre Arts department of the University of Calabar with first class honours. He was reportedly the youngest in his class and he completed his PhD from the University of Ibadan at the age of 24, specialising in Dramatic Literature, Theory and Criticism.
2. Hints Magazine stringer: While at Ibadan, 1989 to 1991, he was contributing editor to Hints and Channele, Lagos- based romance magazines. Hints was a soft sell gossip and romance magazine that titillated its readers with pictures and sketches of nude women and racy stories.
Up until mid 90s when porn was banned from public consumption, Hints’ readers enjoyed a mix of porn and stories of sexual escapades written by Reuben Abati.
Between 1994 and 1995, he was a contributing editor of Hearts, another racy romance magazine which he assisted in setting up. For eight months, he maintained two columns under a pseudonym.
Occasionally, Reuben wrote a few stories for the mainstream media.
3. Fuji and Juju music apostle: Reuben Abati alongside peer, Dele Momodu, emerged as Ideological and intellectual captains on the Lagos popular culture scene, especially the Fuji and Juju pop corridors.
Thus, they earned the bragging rights as the abstract thinkers that conjured the emergence of Fuji musicians like Shina Peters into national limelight.
While Dele Momodu – Bob Dee – went ahead to float the spectacular celebrity magazine, Ovation, Reuben Abati moved to Guardian newspapers to begin a full time journalism career, under the tutelage of watchful eyes as Olatunji Dare, a grandfather of opinion writing in Nigeria.
4. A professional foxtrot: Reuben Abati joined Guardian Newspapers as a member of the editorial board. In 1994, the military government of Sani Abacha appointed Alex Ibru, the Guardian Newspapers publisher, as interior minister. Reuben Abati and other members of the Guardian editorial board openly opposed Ibru’s appointment, but the publisher went ahead.
Guardian newspaper was eventually shut down by Abacha. The dictator’s condition for reopening the newspaper was an apology from the Guardian. All the more principled editors rejected the condition and subsequently resigned. Reuben Abati stayed back and eventually became the chairman of Guardian newspaper’s editorial board.
His new position gave him tremendous powers, he could shape public opinion in relation to any government in power. And he did just that.
5. The journalist, the lawyer: While he served on the Guardian newspaper’s editorial board, Reuben Abati won a Hubert H. Humphrey journalism fellowship to the University of Maryland, United States where he did a masters program in Journalism. On returning from America in 1997, he also obtained a law degree from the Lagos State University, LASU.
Despite the diversions, Reuben Abati brought value to his job, maintaining two columns, unfailingly, in the Guardian newspaper for years.
6. Abati the Award winner: As a first class honours graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Calabar, he won the Vice-Chancellor’s prize for the best overall graduating student. He also won The Cecil King Memorial Prize for Print Journalism in 1998, The Diamond Award for Media Excellence for Informed Commentary in 1998, and The Fletcher Challenge Commonwealth Prize for Opinion Writing in year 2000.
7. Opinion for premiums: In the run up to 1999 and a little into 2000’s, Reuben Abati thought he saw a chance that could bring him into the Olusegun Obasanjo government and wrote a series of sycophantic articles about Obasanjo. His peers say this was a disastrous deep of his professional trajectory. Once it was clear Obasanjo would not admit Reuben Abati into his government, he made a 180 degree flip, lambasting the government till it expired in 2007.
This role gave him his recent fame and is the part most “collective children of anger” know about him.
8. Abuja land grab: Reuben Abati grew in the business of government criticisms to the point where governments courted him. In 2008, Reuben Abati was fingered in an Abuja land grab scandal. He was alleged to be among the editors the former minister of Federal Capital Territory, Aliyu Modibo, issued choice land plots in Abuja to, in order to buy editorial favour for the Umar Musa Yar’Adua administration.
Reuben Abati screamed and kicked at the allegation, insisting that he, like all Nigerians, was entitled to own a property in the federal capital territory.
9. The 10 part series on President Jonathan: In the build up to the 2011 presidential elections, the ruling People’s Democratic Party set up a media subgroup within its presidential committee think tank to coordinate media favour for the Jonathan 2011 campaign.
The group was led by Mike Omeri, former chief of staff to the senate president, David Mark. Mr. Omeri is now the Director General of the National Orientation Agency.
One of the activities the group erected, in its media strategy, was to select talented media icons with huge advocacy value who would launder the president’s image. Reuben Abati was one of those penciled for the job.
He went ahead to deliver a 10 part series on President Goodluck Jonathan in the run up to the 2011 presidential elections.
The series was the icing on the cake for the fluid critic whose excellent CV matched the job. His recent opinion, “The Jonathan they do not know” is seen as the eleventh part of that series.
10. Uniquely modest: Growing up, Reuben Abati was uniquely modest, never seeing greatness in himself but the other person. He never could call Shina Peters by name, rather, he would refer to the Juju musician as “Mega Star” or “Star”.