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Patience Jonathan: What Manner of First Lady is This?

An old African saying goes thus ‘At times life does not prepare a man for the notoriety ahead, and when the lime light eventually beams on such man, the glitz and all the attendant complexities could overwhelm him.’ The chronicle of how President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan earned the reputation of becoming the world’s ‘luckiest’ politician is well known. While political fortune played a pivotal role in his voyage, one must accord him some eulogies for at least being in the right political place at all times. However, to entirely ascribe Jonathan’s political career to the sheer stroke of luck is to be stretching the truth. Perhaps not the genre of politician we are used to in this turf, he has been a political dinosaur of some sorts.

However, with the rise and rise of Goodluck Jonathan, fame by default accompanied his better half, Patience Jonathan. With this reality has come a national burden. Patience Jonathan means many things to many people. Not much was known about her in the days of her husband’s teething beginnings in politics. The equation was overhauled with the ascension of Goodluck Jonathan as president of the most populous black nation. Also referred to as the Dame, Patience Jonathan became a cynosure of controversies and in some ways, a national comic relief to a vast majority of Nigerians. To put it mildly, it is a known fact that speaking proper basic English is not her greatest strength. However, while it is pardonable to bypass wrong usage of tenses, her brand of grammatical blunders has exclusivity about it. The reckless abandon with which she makes utterances beggars believe, and one wonders how she has not been bundled to belong to a ‘Toastmasters’ speakers club by those who should know better.

Yet, there is more to Patience Jonathan’s excesses. Today, there is an exalted public office in the country, the Office of the First Lady. In this new vested position, the Dame wield untold power. She has personal assistants and advisers that rival that of her husband. In this Office, the governors of many states have become her subject. It should be stated unequivocally that there is no place for the Office of the First Lady as exercised today in the Nigerian constitution. While previous first ladies such as Maryam Babaginda, Maryam Abacha, Stella Obasanjo and Turai Yar’Adua have all brought the place of the first lady to exalted prominence, the Dame has raised it up in no small measure. Patience Jonathan has been at loggerheads with a lot of governors since she became what she currently is, but none come close to the rivalry she has constituted with the Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi. Her revered interest in the politics of Rivers state is simply legendary. While she is an indigene of the state, she has become a demagogue in the affairs of the state. Little wonder some political gladiators in the state now refer to her as their ‘Jesus Christ.’ Without rehashing the show of shame, many will remember that Patience Jonathan once snatched the microphone from the Rivers state governor at a public forum in the state and made a mockery of some of his policies. Only recently, in Okrika where she hails from, there was mayhem of gunmen clashing with the opposition party (APC) at a planned rally. While no official findings have connected her with the incident, there is just too much that goes on in her patch that makes one wonder.

Those who memory serves right will recollect the lack of courtesy displayed by Patience Jonathan during the visit of the President to the United States. She breached protocol by disembarking from the aircraft before the President, and shaking hands with officials waiting on the tarmac while her husband was still coming down from the plane. One-offs could be forgiven but when there is a pattern, it gives concern. Her colossal excesses have transcended the bounds of the country and has (and is still) put(ting) us in bad light before the rest of the world.

In this season of electoral horse-trading and campaigns, Patience Jonathan’s utterances have left many gob-smacked. In a campaign rally, she referred to the main opposition’s presidential candidate as ‘brain-dead’. As if the vituperations were not enough, she called on her husband’s party supporters to ‘stone anyone that preaches change to them’ (Change is the mantra of the APC). This latest utterance has made the APC to resort to the International Criminal Court on her case. At a time when the nation should look up to a mother-like image, she has become just the opposite of any such thing. Rather, anytime she goes around with her exotic entourage, the public suffer, activities are grounded and word must hit town that the Dame lurks around.
In truth, there is nothing first lady-like about Patience Jonathan. She lacks the grace, mannerism, finesse, carriage, piety and reverence that follow first ladies. Her brashness and excesses are simply unbecoming and this nonsense has become a national concern. With her, there are no bounds to extremities. It is for people like Patience Jonathan that Dorothy Parker once said “If you want to know what God thinks about money and power, just look at the people he gave it to.”

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