Since the publication of Reuben Abati’s testimonial piece on the “spiritual side of Aso Villa” on October 14, I have taken time to follow the reactions of key personalities to Reuben’s article. Quite significantly, a former Minister of the Federal Republic and presidential spokesman, Femi Fani-Kayode, a predecessor of his in the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity (Segun Adeniyi), and his successor (Femi Adesina) have taken different positions on the very crucial matter articulated by Reuben.
Besides these insiders in the Aso Villa matter, a brilliant and compelling columnist of the Punch newspaper, Abimbola Adelakun, also wrote a rejoinder wherein she wondered if Reuben needed help. Abimbola’s piece can be easily dealt with in that she committed the social scientific error of ranking a philosophical/theoretical paradigm above another. A confessed agnostic, Abimbola committed the error of declaring as irrational and superstitious the existential reality of the spiritual experience of the theistic Reuben. Having confessed that “some of us have struggled to reconcile our agnosticism with curious phenomena for which we could not find immediate answers in scientifically tested knowledge”, Abimbola should have retained herself in the arena of her competence. There is a whole realm beyond the reach of science and empiricism as we know them today.
The empiricist is no more rational or saner than the rationalist philosopher/theorist or vice versa. To suggest that Reuben needed help just because he narrated an experience which Abimbola’s empiricist mind could not relate with is an offense to the basic tenets of social science precepts which anyone who underwent sound undergraduate training in any of the social sciences mustn’t commit.
Before attending to the viewpoints of the Aso Villa gurus, I need to make some clarifications just like Femi Adesina did in his rejoinder to Reuben.
I’m 54 years old. Like Reuben I taught in the University (I put in 7 years). Like Segun, Femi and Reuben, I have practiced journalism for about 30 years, 3 out of which I was Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of a national newspaper. For 8 years, like the two Femis, Segun and Reuben, I worked for governments and closely with two governors, within which I served as a State Commissioner. For 19 years till date, I’ve been involved in local and international businesses. And like all the Villa writers, I’m a Christian. But unlike all the aforementioned, I contested to be governor of Ogun state in the 2015 election.
Now, I stated the personal details above to underscore the viewpoint I’ll be advancing in this rejoinder that in my varied professional, political and economic endeavours, there is no where I have encountered grave evil forces and fetish practices and occurrences as in government and politics.
Because Femi Fani-Kayode wholly endorsed and even amplified Reuben’s narrative, there’ll be no need for me to touch on his own article.
While Reuben raised the alarm that “Aso Villa is in urgent need of redemption” from forces of darkness that make many who worked therein to suffer strange ailments and commit inexplicable errors, Segun and Femi posited, while not denying that evil forces exist and may actually be in operation in the Villa, that their own experiences did not conform to Reuben’s of spiritual attacks and strange ailments.
Femi’s and Segun’s central thesis is that if evil forces operate in Aso Villa, so they do in all spheres of life and human endeavours. Very true. According to Femi, “such as is common to man…” is whatever evil occurrence that may happen to anyone in the course of their sojourn in the Villa.
Nothing in Reuben’s testimony suggests that evil happens only to those in the Villa. He spoke about ‘degree’ and ‘quantity’. But Femi must know the truism that “higher levels bring higher demons”. Like Femi and Segun, my “waist bellow” worked throughout my journey in government and politics. And I didn’t suffer any strange ailment. For me to be insulated from the spiritual vicissitudes of government and politics here in Nigeria, I prayed and fasted “beyond measure”. Close relations and brethren in the church prayed for me without ceasing. And as much as lied in my power and the abundant grace of God, I made efforts to live a righteous live.
Besides Reuben who is a close friend, I’ve heard many former functionaries of the federal government relate to me the pervasiveness of rituals and fetish practices. My experiences in my tour of duties in government and politics confirm them. And Segun was right on point when he affirmed that “when people seek power in Nigeria, whether in the political or spiritual realms, not a few of them go for diabolical means.” This is truest for government and politics in Nigeria.
It would be unnecessary to begin to reel out all that I heard, saw and witnessed especially in the two years I actively campaigned to be governor of Ogun state.
And the reason why government houses across the country are so demonized is not far-fetched. The Nigerian state, like all other African states, as vividly described by the eminent political scientist, Professor Mammoud Mamdani, is a “veritable Mount Kilimanjaro surrounded by a Lilliputian environment”. The state is the repository of the scarce resources that all crave for. Government leaders are those in the institutional positions to dispense the resources. To have access therefore becomes what the late Professor Claude Ake described as “warfare” in which all arsenals – physical and spiritual – are deployed.
At the physical realm, why is it that Aso Villa is the most fortified spatial enclave in the country? As it is in the physical realm so should it be in the spirit realm because of the sheer quantum of evil arrows that get shot into the place. Because of the sheer power and enormous resources reposed in government houses, it can’t be correct that the evil forces that will be operating in them would be “as is common to man”.
Yet, I do not subscribe to Reuben’s tone of surrender to those evil forces. And he sounded a little funny saying that the current Aso Villa should be abandoned to overcome dark spiritual forces. A sound Christian, as Femi correctly says, must have dominion over them and not yield an inch to them. Being acquainted with the Christian lives of Femi and Segun, I know for sure that they wouldn’t have been imperiled by those dark forces. But Femi should tell us his activities in the realm of prayer and fasting that afford him to “sleep so soundly” and “even snore” in his apartment in the Villa. Ditto Segun. I would be extremely surprised if Femi is not praying and fasting more now than when he was Managing Director of the Sun newspaper and President of the Nigerian Guild of Editor. It is the same way that I’ld be surprised if Segun didn’t witness less spiritual tension after his exit from the Villa.
Now I’m not suggesting that those who had ‘strange ailments’ were not right with God; neither do I say that being right with God makes one immune from those “things that are common to man”. The scriptures don’t advice me so and I have no competence to make such judgements. The scriptures actually have a few examples of good people (Job, the man born blind in John chapter 9, and our Lord Jesus Christ) who suffered bad occurrences.
Having an acute awareness of the presence and operations of dark spiritual forces, however, should never make us abandon rational and indispensable scientific means and actions that will make us overcome our development challenges. As Apostle James said, faith without works is dead. So also is anyone walking through this world without faith in the almighty God dead even though he may be physically alive. It is for this realization that the United States of America, in spite of its great scientific and technological advances still inscribes on its currency that “In God we trust”. The superpower has the last Thursday of every November as a national Thanks Giving Holiday. It is for the same reason that the former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, organises prayers for this country.
Reuben did well by pointing our attention to a serious aspect of our national life: there is gross spiritual evil going on in the seat of power more than anywhere else. We do well to transcend empiricism and living in denial and cry onto God to deliver us from men and women who use evil powers to keep us down as a country. God admonishes us in the Holy Bible that we should pray especially for those in authority so that we may live a peaceful (and good) life. Why? Because they are more susceptible to dark spiritual forces.
May God deliver us and our beleaguered country from the hands of Satan, demons and their human agents in high places.
-Kawonise is a former Ogun state Commissioner for Information and Publisher NewsScroll. Email: email@example.com