By Eric Elezuo
Different strokes for different folks, so the saying goes. In 1991, December 11 to be precise, the seat of Nigerian government shifted from Dodan Barracks and Ribadu Street in Lagos to Aso Rock in Abuja. The move initialed by General Murtala Mohammed in 1975 was completed and carried by General Ibrahim Babangida. Since then, a total of eight heads of state and government has occupied the exalted edifice.
But with the death of two heads of states and one first lady while in office, with other deaths attached, many have come to associate the first choice home with ghost stories.
However, it is important to note that as haunted as the villa may have been said to be, no president, military or civilian has ever left the villa in a hurry; the all left against their will, except for General Abdusallam Abubakar, who did only 11 months before handing over to a civilian government.
Recall the General Ibrahim Babangida was forced to ‘step aside’ after he annulled the June 12 1993 that supposed to take him out of office, Chief Ernest Shoneka, who was installed afterwards was booted out in a palace coup by General Sani Abacha, who himself died in office after five years of trying to translate to a civilian president and perpetrate himself in power.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo completed an eight years constitutional term, and attempted to go for third term before being frustrated out of office, and his successor, Alhaji Musa Yar’dua, died in office less than two years after coming to power. Dr. Godluck Jonathan, who replaced him, was voted out of office while going for a second term, and today, President Mohammedu Buhari is in charge.
Two seasoned media advisers once responded to the alleged ghost stories associated with Aso Rock Villa. Enjoy their well crafted write-ups:
Rituals, Blood and Death – The Spiritual Side of Aso Rock
By Reuben Abati
People tend to be alarmed when the Nigerian Presidency – Aso Rock – takes certain decisions. They don’t think the decision makes sense. Sometimes, they wonder if something has not gone wrong with the thinking process at that highest level of the country. I have heard people insist that there is some form of witchcraft at work in the country’s seat of government.
I am ordinarily not a superstitious person, but working in the Villa, I eventually became convinced that there must be something supernatural about power and closeness to it. I’ll start with a personal testimony. I was given an apartment to live in inside the Villa. It was furnished and equipped. But when my son, Michael arrived, one of my brothers came with a pastor who was supposed to stay in the apartment. But the man refused claiming that the Villa was full of evil spirits and that there would soon be a fire accident in the apartment. He complained about too much human sacrifice around the Villa and advised that my family must never sleep overnight inside the Villa.
I thought the man was talking nonsense and he wanted the luxury of a hotel accommodation. But he turned out to be right. The day I hosted family friends in that apartment and they slept overnight, there was indeed a fire accident. The guests escaped and they were so thankful. Not long after, the president’s physician living two compounds away had a fire accident in his home. He and his children could have died. He escaped with bruises.
Around the Villa while I was there, someone always died or their relations died. I can confirm that every principal officer suffered one tragedy or the other; it was as if you needed to sacrifice something to remain on duty inside that environment. Even some of the women became merchants of dildo because they had suffered a special kind of death in their homes (I am sorry to reveal this) and many of the men complained about something that had died below their waists too. 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.
I recall the example of one particular man, an asset to the Jonathan presidency who practically ran away from the Villa. He said he needed to save his life. He was quite certain that if he continued to hang around, he would die. I can’t talk about colleagues who lost daughters and sons, brothers and uncles, mothers and fathers, and the many obituaries that we issued.
Even the President was multiply bereaved. His wife, Mama Peace was in and out of hospital at a point , undergoing many surgeries. You may have forgotten, but after her husband lost the election and he conceded victory, all her ailments vanished, all scheduled surgeries were found to be no longer necessary and since then she has been hale and hearty.
By the same token, all those our colleagues who used to come to work to complain about a certain death beneath their waists and who relied on videos and other instruments to entertain wives (take it easy boys, I don’t mean any harm, I am writing!), have all experienced a re-awakening.
Everyone who went under the blade has received miraculous healing, and we are happy to be out of that place. But others were not so lucky. They died.
There were days when convoys ran into ditches and lives were lost. In Norway, our helicopter almost crashed into a mountain. That was the first time I saw the president panicking, The weather was all so hazy and he just kept saying it would not be nice for the president of a country to die in a helicopter crash due to pilot miscalculations. The president went into a prayer mode. We survived.
In Kenya once, we had a bird strike. The plane had to be recalled and we were already airborne with the plane acting like it would crash. During the 2015 election campaigns, our aircraft refused to start on more than one occasion. The aircraft just went dead. On some other occasions, we were stoned and directly targeted for evil. I really don’t envy the people who work in Aso Rock, the seat of Nigeria’s presidency.
For about six months, I couldn’t even breathe properly. For another two months, I was on crutches. But I considered myself far luckier than the others who were either nursing a terminal disease or who could not get it up.
When presidents make mistakes, they are probably victims of a force higher than what we can imagine. Every student of Aso Rock politics would readily admit that when people get in there, they actually become something else. They act like they are under a spell.
When you issue a well-crafted statement, the public accepts it wrongly. When the president makes a speech and he truly means well, the speech is interpreted wrongly by the public. When a policy is introduced, somehow, something just goes wrong.
In our days, a lot of people used to complain that the All Progressives Congress, APC, people were fighting us spiritually and that there was a witchcraft dimension to the governance process in Nigeria. But the APC folks now in power are dealing with the same demons. Since Buhari government assumed office, it has been one mistake after another. Those mistakes don’t look normal, the same way they didn’t look normal under President Jonathan. I am therefore convinced that there is an evil spell enveloping this country. We need to rescue Nigeria from the forces of darkness. Aso Rock should be converted into a spiritual museum, and abandoned.
Should I become president of Nigeria tomorrow, I will build a new Presidential Villa: a villa that will be dedicated to the all-conquering Almighty, and where powers and principalities cannot hold sway. But it is not about buildings and space, not so? It is about the people who go to the highest levels in Nigeria.
I really don’t quite believe in superstitions, but I am tempted to suggest that this is indeed a country in need of prayers, we should pray before people pack their things into Aso Villa. We should ask God to guide us before we appoint ministers. We should, to put it in technocratic language, advise that the people should be very vigilant. We have all failed so far, that crucial test of vigilance.
We should have a Presidential Villa where a president can afford to be human and free. In the White House, in the United States, Presidents live like normal human beings. In Aso Villa, that is impossible. They’d have to surround themselves with cooks from their villages, bodyguards from their mother’s clans and friends they can trust. It should be possible to be president of Nigeria without having to look behind one’s shoulders. But we are not yet there.
So, how do we run a presidency where the man in the saddle can only drink water served by his kinsman? No. How can we possibly run a presidency where every president proclaims faith in Nigeria but they are better off in the company of relatives and kinsmen. No. We need as presidents men and women who are wiling to be Nigerians. No Nigerian president should be in spiritual bondage because he belongs to all of us and to nobody.
Now let me go back to the spiritual dimension. A colleague once told me that I was the most naïve person around the place. I thought I was a bright, smart, professional, doing my bit and enjoying the president’s confidence. I spelled it out. But what I got in response was that I was coming to the villa using Lux soap, but that most people around the place always bathed in the morning with blood. Goat blood. Ram blood. Whatever animal blood. I argued. He said there were persons in the Villa walking upside down, head to the ground. I screamed. Everybody looked normal to me. But I soon began to suspect that I was in a strange environment indeed. Every position change was an opportunity for warfare. Civil servants are very nice people; they obey orders, but they are not very nice when they fight over personal interests.
The president is most affected by the atmosphere around him. He can make wrong decisions based on the cloud of evil around him. Even when he means well and he has taken time to address all possible outcomes, he could get on the wrong side of the public. A colleague called me one day and told me a story about how a decision had been taken in the spiritual realm about the Nigerian government. He talked about the spirit of error, and how every step taken by the administration would appear to the public like an error. He didn’t resign on that basis but his words proved prophetic. I see the same story being re-enacted. Aso Rock is in urgent need of redemption. I never slept in the apartment they gave me in that Villa for an hour.
The Unspiritual Side of Aso Villa
By Femi Adesina
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 to the landlord of Aso Villa, defending a place where’s he’s just a tenant.”
Yes, nobody is a landlord in the Villa, not even rational presidents. They can only live there for a 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 Banq 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 the 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.
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 the 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 a ridiculous level, and venerate the Devil, granting him omnipotence, an attribute that belongs to God only. For the Devil, doing evil is a 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 won’t be a student of the Holy Bible if I don’t. Jesus talked about 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.