The Unspiritual Side Of Aso Villa By Femi Adesina

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Femi Adesina with President Buhari at the Aso Villa
Let me begin with two clarifications. Aso Villa is not my home, I am
just passing through. Even this world is nobody’s home, we are just
birds of passage. So, let nobody turn up his nose in derision, and say;
“he’s writing like the landlord of Aso Villa, defending a place where’s
he’s just a tenant.” Yes, nobody is landlord in the Villa, not even
rational presidents. They can only live there for maximum of eight
years, if Nigerians so decide. And for me, my treasures are laid up
somewhere beyond the blue. The angels only need to beckon me from
Heaven’s open door, and I wouldn’t feel at home in this world anymore.


The second clarification. Let nobody, particularly on social media,
begin to insinuate that Femi Adesina is at war with Reuben Abati, his
immediate predecessor as presidential spokesman. This piece you are
beginning to read is not about Abati as a person, it is about his
spiritual ideas and convictions, which I think need some appraisal, as
they are rather unspiritual. Abati and myself have been professional
colleagues for almost 30 years, we have a lot of mutual friends, and
know how to reach each other when necessary. So, this is not a case of
Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman being at war with Goodluck Jonathan’s
spokesman. What for?

In his piece in The Guardian of October 14,
2016, Abati wrote under the headline, ‘The spiritual side of Aso Villa.’
What were his conclusions? For the benefit of those who did not read
the highly entertaining piece (in fact, there were moments I had my two
legs in the air, laughing, as I read), let me do a brief summary. Call
it ‘gospel’ according to Abati, and you would be right: There is some
form of witchcraft, which causes occupants of Aso Villa to take weird
decisions. Working in the Villa makes you susceptible to some sort of
evil influences, because there is something supernatural about power and
closeness to it. Some of those who lived or worked in the Villa had
something dying under their waists (for the men), while some of the
women became merchants of dildo, because they had suffered a special
kind of deaths in their homes. “The ones who did not have such
misfortune had one ailment or the other that they had to nurse. From
cancer to brain and prostate surgery and whatever, the Villa was a
hospital full of agonizing patients,” Abati posited.

Reading the
piece through, you would think Aso Villa was nothing but what Godfrey
Chaucer called “a thoroughfare of woes.” In fact, Abati submitted that
the Villa “should be converted into a spiritual museum,and abandoned.”
Holy Moses! Jumping Jehoshaphat!
If Aso Villa was such a haunted
house, why then do most occupants like to stay put, right from the first
tenant, Ibrahim Babangida, who was virtually forced to step aside in
August 1993? And why did Goodluck Jonathan, Abati’s principal, spend
money in trillions (in different currencies of the world), just to
perpetuate himself in a house that consumes its occupants? Being a
literary scholar, Abati would remember the doctor in Macbeth, that work
of William Shakespeare, who was detailed to cure Lady Macbeth of the
neurosis that afflicted her, after she had been party to the deaths of
King Duncan and Banquo, so that her husband would be the king of
Scotland. A spiritually troubled Lady Macbeth sleepwalked every night,
trying to wash her hands of the innocent blood that had been shed. The
doctor was so fed up with the terrifying atmosphere, that he said to
himself:”Were I from Dunsinane away and clear, profit should hardly
again draw me here.” Did Abati ever say the same of the Villa, a place
where men became women “after something died below their waists?” We do
not have it on record that Abati showed a clean pair of heels, or that
he would not have stayed if Dr Jonathan had won reelection, and had
asked him to continue in his position as adviser on media. Or was it the
case of eternal fascination for the thing that repelled and terrified
you? Mysterium tremendum et fascinas, as it is called in Latin.

For
me, what Abati did in the October 14 piece was simply a glorification
and deification of superstition, something that attempted to elevate
works of darkness above the powers of God. The writer merely fed the
cravings and propensity of people for the supernatural, in a way that
stoked and kindled the kiln of fear, rather than that of faith.


Let’s take the issues one after the other, and look at them against true
spiritual principles. Christianity is the one I am most familiar with,
and that would be my benchmark.

In Aso Villa, houses were haunted,
people were oppressed into taking curious decisions, they fell ill,
died, or suffered the losses of loved ones, so Abati claimed. Are such
peculiar only to the presidential villa? Should all those who live or
work there automatically enjoy immunity from the vicissitudes of life,
simply because they walked the corridors of power? Wasn’t President
Umaru Yar’Adua right inside the presidential villa, when he told us on
national television: “I am a human being. I can fall sick. I can
recover. And I can die.” That was a practical man for you. Abati
unwittingly wants his readers to believe that once you operated in or
around Aso Villa, you became a superman. No. You are as mortal as can
be. The Holy Bible does not even give us such leeway. “There hath no
temptation taken you but such as is common to man…”(1 Cor 10:13).
There are certain things common to man, and they can happen to you
wherever you are. At the White House. At 10, Downing Street. Buckingham
Palace, Aso Villa. Wherever. “But such as is common to man…” Let no
man feed us with the bogey that such things happen because of where you
live or operate from. There are some things that are just common to man,
and which may happen to you as long as you are on this side of
eternity.


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I lost my sister in a road crash last year. She was a
professor of Dramatic Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife.
Abati knew her well, as they both did post-graduate studies at
University of Ibadan in the 1980s. Abati was among those who called to
condole with me. My sister never visited the Villa in her lifetime. Even
if she did, that could never have had anything to do with her death on
the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. To believe and teach otherwise is to carry
superstition to ridiculous level, and venerate the Devil, granting him
omnipotence, an attribute that belongs to God only. For the Devil, doing
evil is full-time business, and whether you had anything to do with Aso
Villa or not, he continued with his pernicious acts. Does that then
suggest that mankind is helpless before evil? No. God still has ultimate
powers. He can spare you “as a father spares the son that serves him.”
(Malachi 3:17). If you are under the pavilion of God, sleep, wake and
operate daily in Aso Villa, you are covered, no matter the evil that
lurks around, if any. There is a better covenant established on greater
promises, and that is the canopy under which you should function. God
can spare you from all evils, and if He permits any other thing, it is
“such as is common to man,” and not because of Aso Villa.

If houses
catch fire in the Villa, how many conflagrations occur in other parts of
the city? If some men in the Villa suffered erectile dysfunction in
Abati’s time, doesn’t the Journal of Sexual Medicine tell us that about
20 million American men have something that has died under their waists?
It is one thing that became prevalent in the last two to three decades,
due to modern lifestyle. Causes range from age, to stress, depression,
anxiety, alcohol, medication, and several others. Even, a study showed
that watching too much television kills something under the waist. So
why does Abati make it seem as if it is a copyright of Aso Villa?


Now, another clarification. Don’t I believe in demonic infestation and
manifestation? I sure do. I wouldn’t be a student of the Holy Bible if I
don’t. Jesus talked of the man who got delivered from demonic
possession, and because that man did not yield himself to a better
influence, the evil spirit that inhabited him came back with seven more
powerful spirits, and the end of the man was worse than his beginning.
Abati wrote of persons in the Villa, “walking upside down, head to the
ground.” Let me share this story I heard over 20 years ago. There was
this young Christian who gave scant regards to demons and what they
could do. In fact, he almost didn’t believe demons existed. One day, as
he walked along the ever busy Broad Street in Lagos, God opened his
spiritual eyes. Some people were walking on their heads! And not only
that, as they passed by other people, they slapped them with the soles
of their feet. If you got so slapped, you developed an affliction, which
you would nurse for the rest of your life. Yet, you never knew where it
came from.

As the young man saw that vision and got its spiritual
explanation, he began to s-c-r-e-a-m. Was that in Aso Villa? “Such as is
common to man…” Evil exists everywhere. Trying to source and locate
it in Aso Villa is disingenuous. You need God everywhere. In Europe,
Asia, America, Oceania, Aso Villa. There is evil everywhere, and we need
not make fetish of any place as being more evil infested than other
places. Since Satan got thrown out of Heaven due to his inordinate
ambition, evil had resided in the world. “How art thou fallen from
heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the
ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12). The Devil lives
in the world, but God is never helpless before evil. He will never be.
Let the Devil commit suicide if he is not happy about that fact. God
rules!
If every principal officer including the President and his
wife suffered series of tragedies as Abati claimed, and he himself had
breathing problems, and walked with the aid of crutches for months, it
was ” such as is common to man” and not necessarily because they were in
Aso Villa. But of course, if such people put their hands in evil,
possibly to gain some things in power or perpetuate themselves beyond
the time heaven granted, then “he who rolls a stone, a stone shall be
rolled back to him. He that digs a pit, shall fall into it.” That is
what the Good Book says. You can then hardly blame Aso Villa for such
payback time, can you?

To avoid getting sucked into what Abati calls
“the cloud of evil” that hangs around power, what to do is to hold
ephemeral things loosely. Know that they are temporal, and will truly
end. Power is one of such things. Will anybody be a permanent landlord
at Aso Villa? It would be foolhardy to have such mindset. A couple of
times I’d had some private discussions with President Buhari, and he had
lamented the state of the nation, he invariably ended with the
statement, “while we are here, we will do our best.” It shows a man who
knows that he’s not a permanent landlord at Aso Villa, and can never be.
He would use the opportunity he has to do his best for Nigeria, and
then move on. That is a good mindset, and a safety valve from getting
sucked into “the cloud of evil.” Daily, I tell myself that I am just
passing through Aso Villa. And while there, just like my principal, I
will do my best. It could be long, it could be short, depending on God
and the man who appointed me, but one day, it would be over, and some
other people would come in to do their bit. It is inexorable. The real
treasures are laid somewhere beyond the blue.

Abati says we should
pray before people pack their things into Aso Villa. I say not just Aso
Villa, but everywhere. Pray before you pack into any place, because
there are some things “such as is common to man.” It is only God that
keeps from such. And He is sovereign in terms of what He prevents, and
in what He allows. Ours is to pray, and believe. Prayer works.

“Aso
Villa is in urgent need of redemption. I never slept in the apartment
they gave me in that Villa for an hour,” wrote Abati. Well, different
strokes for different folks. Hear what the Good Book says: “It is vain
for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows;
for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” Here am I. For over one year, I
have lived in the house allocated to me at the Villa. I sleep so
soundly, I even snore. In fact, I snore so loud that at times, I wake
myself up with the sound.
Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari

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