In a detailed statement, ABUSRC described Mr. Abati’s outburst as an embarrassment to Nigerians and the academic community.
Signed the ABUSRC’s president, Abubakar A. Rafindadi, the statement declared: “As an impeccably responsible students’ body, the Students’ Representative Council of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, notes with utter consternation and disappointment, the reaction by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati on a lecture delivered by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu during a One Day Public Lecture organized by ABUSRC on 8th June, 2013, in Assembly Hall of the Samaru Main Campus. With all due respect to the revered Presidency, the way and manner in which the Presidential Adviser came out and launched his characteristic campaign of calumny against perceived opponents to his boss, this time against Mallam Nuhu Ribadu in the national dailies, is very disheartening. It is also instructive to note that he did so on account of total misconstruction and deliberate distortion of the contents of the speech delivered by Ribadu.
“In the said lecture entitled ‘Political Engagement: A New Approach,’ Ribadu attempted to locate the role of all stakeholders in the Nigerian enterprise, particularly the youth, in rising up to the myriad challenges of national cohesion, entrenchment of democratic values, the increasingly rising tide of oligarchic tendencies in the nation’s politics, the divisive and exclusionist siren calls among parochial ethnic chauvinists, among other very important national issues including insecurity. We view as unfair as well as provocative, the statement credited to Abati by national dailies that ‘President Jonathan and his administration will not be distracted from the diligent implementation of the agenda by the falsehood and vituperations of Ribadu and his new friends’. It is disgustingly surprising that this statement was made as an attack on a paper presented which was tailored to address the aforementioned challenges.
“It is instructive to note that the lecture in question looked at Nigeria and its embarrassing predicaments, and not at any particular person or group. No mention was made of anybody’s name. Naturally, one wonders why the hoopla! In the lecture, this was, amongst others, what Ribadu said ‘...we need to come together to make our democracy work; let us drop any form of identity that introduces us as something other than ‘citizens’, and let us drop any citizenship that asks for anything other than ‘change’ for the better. Let us destroy any institution that preaches divisions and exclusions’. For goodness sake, fellow Nigerians, what is wrong with a paper (or for that matter, its author) that advocates for the much-sought-after ideals, as quoted above?
That Nigeria and Nigerians need take their destiny into their own hands is, in the opinion of ABUSRC, which is made up of true democrats, (and indeed the majority of well-meaning Nigerians), a right philosophy on the right track. Interestingly, this is the philosophy that pervades throughout the paper delivered by Mallam Ribadu.
“It is equally important to emphatically state here that the fact that Nigeria is in unfortunately ailing situation is not in doubt. Therefore, why should it become a crime when Nigerians are told that there is a problem with their dear country, with the intention that they may be spurred to wake up to clear the mess for the political and economic development which the nation badly needs?”
The students’ statement continued: “As true democrats, we strongly believe in intellectual exchange of ideas so as to move this nation and its nascent democracy forward. It will doubtless not augur well for this country and its politics when its leaders consider any attempt to enlighten the public politically as irresponsible and subversive. The ABUSRC believes in the great possibility of a greater Nigeria with the active participation of all and sundry, whether one is in government or not. In view of the above, we view as sine qua non for the achievement of the above goal, the entrenchment of freedom of speech which the Nigerian constitution guarantees. And it sounds paradoxical for a government that takes pride in ‘consistently (upholding) the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights’ to now come out berating a Nigerian who has lawfully expressed his opinion as guaranteed by the law of the land.
“On a final note, if Nigeria should move forward politically and otherwise (which we believe so), leaders should learn to tolerate opposition, allow the freedom of expression to be exercised and look at things in proper perspective. Decontextualizing issues for personal and/or political reasons will not help our drive for a more prosperous, egalitarian and united Nigeria.”