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Reuben Abati: When Snakes Change Skin

By Kali Gwegwe  
 Published July 15th, 2011

I grew in an environment surrounded by thick forest on all sides. Seeing snakeskins was therefore not strange to me because there was never a week I did not stumble on one or more while playing in my dad’s then beautiful and serene landscaped compound. In my childhood innocence, snakes meant just one thing to me: a shy crawling creature that loves changing cloths always. I was however not jealous because my father succeeded in making his children to accept the fact that unhealthy desires were sin against God and man. Mind you, not many parents were that lucky.

As years continue to take the better part of my sojourn on earth, my childhood opinion about snakes began to melt like ice-cream on a sunny afternoon in Kano or Sokoto. Interestingly, I have come to realize that snakes mean different things to different people. While some snakes are poisonous, others are not. Even though, many will detest the presence of snakes around them, some keep them as pets. There are others- snake charmers who are believed to possess the ability to manipulate the mind of these multi-specie creatures.

Since I appreciate how much space religion occupies in the consciousness of Nigerians; let me take a plunge into the deep waters of the Bible to appraise the unique place of snakes in the lives of Christians, which I am one. While commissioning His disciples in readiness for the task of spreading the gospel of hope and salvation in an unfriendly world, Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” What will you find if one takes down the walls surrounding this counsel? Two mysteries. The first one is wisdom if in the midst of unfriendly people. The second mystery is magnanimity in victory.

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This brings me to the foundation of my piece. There are usually two camps in human life. You are either on the defensive or on offensive. Whichever camp one finds him or her self, there is a moral code of engagement. This is where many people- especially newspaper columnists have failed. The fact that the media is the conscience of the society is no longer in doubt. The problem has been that many newspaper columnists and reporters only celebrate failures and ignore excellence. They believe that it is unprofessional to clap for political leaders even when the need becomes obvious. Those that sing praises of the excellent efforts of politicians are quickly tagged “corrupt” or “derailed.” Funny enough, the apostles of “anti” and “attack” brand of journalism will not bother to point their high beam torchlights to dry grounds in order to enable the masses walk through hard grounds. This does not make sense.

As a commentator on contemporary issues, I do admire the philosophy behind the “attack” brand of journalism. I however do complement writings with quite a handful of “how tos.” Every criticism must come with one or more alternative ideas. This makes it positive and healthy for the growth of democracy.
Unarguably, Reuben Abati is among the small community of Christian journalists that heeded the counsel of Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew 10:16. He has lived most of his public life as a snake when the situation demanded and like a dove if it was necessary. This is one reason snakes change skin.

Now that Reuben Abati has just changed skin, I want to hope that the unambiguous job prescription of a spokesperson of the president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the federal republic of Nigeria will not make him live all his days in Aso Rock only as a dove. No doubt, the snake in him will help his charmer- the president to be on his toes always. Benefit? Democracy would be energised and the masses will have many reasons to rejoice.

However, while I was on the last paragraph of this piece, a close friend of my family called to inform me that a snake has just bitten its charmer at the market square. I tried to find out what happened afterwards but his line went dead. Each time I made attempt to get back to him, a mysterious feminine voice kept on reminding me that my friend’s number has been switched off. Because of the nature of his job, my friend will never switch off his phone. Could it be a problem of flat battery? Immediately, my mind flashed to PHCN. Abati- sorry, God help Nigeria!

Kali Gwegwe
CEO, Nigeria Democracy Watchtower
2, Greenvilla-Customs Link Road
Bayelsa State.
0806 407 4810

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