To all Nigerians, Dame Patience Jonathan, the wife of the president is so many things put together in one person; her way of life (not minding she's the first lady), the way she talks and many more will come across to you as someone who would not take a 'no' for an answer.
In this new opinion piece, Olusola Fabiyi, who writes for The Punch, recounts the style brought to the political space of Nigeria by the wife of President Goodluck Jonathan, during the outgoing political dispensation. He recounts how the first lady gallivanted around during the pre-election period, saying some very surprising things that ought not to come out of a president's wife. Read the engaging opinion below:
The wife of President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience, was not a contestant for any political office in the just concluded general election. However, she was more prominent at the various campaigns of her political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, was involved in – during the countdown to the polls.
She was optimistic that her intervention in the campaigns would save from defeat her husband, who was the presidential candidate of the PDP – and whose public rating had plummeted.
Popularly referred to as ‘Mama Peace’ by admirers, Patience was a delight to watch as she danced to various songs by popular musicians on magnificently decorated podiums draped in the party ’s green-white-red flag colours. And she had no patience when lambasting the opposition All Progressives Congress, which was at the receiving end of her outbursts. Indeed, Patience poked direct verbal attacks and innuendos at the presidential candidate of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari.
At a campaign rally organised in collaboration with PDP women in Lokoja, Kogi State, Patience appealed to her audience to vote en masse for the PDP and her husband. She said that Buhari’s brain is dead. Urged to speak further by her supporters who shouted, “Mama Peace, tell them,” she described Buhari as unfit to govern Nigeria.
The retired permanent secretary from Bayelsa State, who is more at home with Pidgin English than Standard English, said, “Wetin e dey find again? E dey drag with im pikin mate,” in Pidgin English. “Old man wey no get brain, him brain don die pata pata.” Shaking her heads with contentment because of the approval she got from the cheering crowd, she further told the crowd that their days of freedom were numbered if they voted Buhari. “If you vote Buhari, na your prison; if you vote APC, na your wahala.” Taunting them about the catchphrase of the APC which is “change,” Patience said, “What is change? Why did you not change things when you were there? Is it now that you want to be doing the things you weren’t doing before? “Jonathan looked at us and said, ‘Women, I am giving you the position of the Chief Justice of this country.’ Okonjo-Iweala is a woman, Diezani is a woman. 70 per cent of his cabinet is women. He also gave us the opportunity to start enrolling for the regular combatant course at the NDA (Nigerian Defence Academy). He wants continuity because he has vowed to do more. He places Nigerians in his mind and if he says he will do this, he will do it. So what are we looking for? If we women of Nigeria don’t appreciate Goodluck and we are looking for (a) bus conductor? It is left for us.”
After appealing to voters to obtain their Permanent Voter Cards in order to participate in the election, she told them that she did not come to them with empty hands after all. “I thank you very much the people of Kogi. This time around I came to thank you very well. I brought some gifts for you, I brought rice, I brought meat, I brought brocade. I brought many things for you. These things are not for election but to thank you very well.”
In another rally in Calabar, Cross River State, Patience said that anyone chanting “change” should be stoned. “I’m telling you, anyone that comes and tell(s) you change, stone that person. What you did not do in ‘19 kikilili,’ is it now that age has caught up with you that you want to come and change? You can’t change rather you will turn back to a baby.”
At the Akwa Ibom PDP women rally, Patience took time to teach the women the meaning of “corruption.” Her decision to speak on the topic, it was gathered, was informed by the APC’s anti-corruption campaign. In the countdown to the presidential election, especially, the Jonathan administration was accused on many occasions of being weak to wage war on corruption. But Patience said the APC’s promise to fight corruption should be discarded, describing it as a lie.
She said she was at the rally to say the truth. In a peculiar voice, she said, “Akwa Ibom people, judge o, because we are not here for lies. We are not here for propaganda; because their own number one campaign is (anti) corruption. As if they are not corrupt. They are not corrupt. What do you call corruption? He has a house. You, are you living outside? Are you living in the forest? It’s corruption. In abroad, if a young boy works so hard and buy(s) a copter, we praise the boy. But in Nigeria, if a young boy works so hard and buy(s) a copter, we say he’s corrupt. Why? Why can’t we encourage the young ones to grow? Why can’t we encourage them to do better? We, our mother born us and train us, why they trained us is that we should be better than them. Are we to bring the young ones down? It’s not our portion.”
In unison, the women shouted, “Amen!”
She urged the electorate in the state not to throw away the opportunity of returning her husband to power, saying that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Besides, she warned that the opposition was planning to build prisons where she said criminals would to be kept.
Buttressing her illustration with one of her hands behind her, she said, “A bird at hand is worth a million in the bush. Nigerian women, let us shine our eyes. Women of Nigeria, are you ready to go to prison? Are you ready to go and give your father food in the prison? It is not our portion. We reject it.
“Akwa Ibom State is a PDP state. It’s not for expired drugs, because APC cannot heal you, outdated drugs cannot heal you. Let them call it any name. Just like as my husband younger brother (Governor Godswill Akpabio) have (sic) said, they will continue changing name until they will reach (sic) Ebola. And they will call it Ebola.
“You know what Ebola normally do? Although Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has said Nigeria is not Ebola country. So, they cannot bring Ebola to Nigeria because Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and PDP government will wipe it off. And they will bury it because it cannot stay here at all. So, let them continue changing their name. If they fail this time, because I know they have failed, you will hear they will change their name again. They will change it and answer another name.”
Her many references to prison in the course of her campaigns suggested that Patience dreaded jail. At Ibadan, Patience stated that the APC was planning to send her to prison. But in order to avoid this, she invoked the ‘Holy ghost fire’.
She said, “I want to warn you not to listen to the APC. The APC does not have materials to match what the PDP has on (the) ground. Their candidate was there in governance initially. What did he do? They only sent your fathers to prison. They are planning to even send me to prison. Holy ghost fire! Holy ghost fire! Holy ghost fire! They have nothing to offer.”
As she prepares to vacate Aso Rock with her husband on May 29, Nigerians will still recall how she burst into tears when she realised that Hajiya Nana Shettima, the wife of Borno State Governor, was absent at a second enlarged stakeholders’ meeting on the abducted schoolgirls. The President’s wife burst into tears after she took a roll call and discovered that the governor’s wife and the other people she invited refused to honour her invitation. Before she shed tears, she said repeatedly, “There is God in everything we are doing. There is God in everything we are doing. Those bloods that are sharing in Borno will answer. God will answer. What of two teachers that can tell us that they conducted that exam, do you come with any, Principal? No, too? Na only you waka come? Chai, chai, there’s God, there is God , there is God!’’ And Patience wept.
The wife of the President had summoned the governor’s wife, officials of the West African Examination Council, security chiefs and other government officials to her ‘office’ to seek clarification on the conflicting issues about the exact number of the missing schoolgirls from Chibok. She was, however, astonished that the majority of the officials refused to turn up. This action infuriated her. She didn’t hide her displeasure as she said in anger, “I asked her to come with the principal and parents: she did not turn up till today. She is the mother of these children, I am their grandmother. She should be more concerned and come to her grandma. The police, Army, WAEC, government officials came with a few of their own but no parent was present to tell us their child was kidnapped or among those who escaped. It is because we are pained and crying, that is why I am doing so. Why should I cry more than the bereaved?”
PDP women leaders such as Amina, the wife of Vice-President Namadi Sambo; Helen, the wife of the Senate President, David Mark; and PDP national women leader, Kema Chikwe, among several others, will miss the enthusiasm and fun Patience brings to politicking.
Even her fellow African ‘First Ladies’ are getting set to bid her goodbye as she prepares to quit her position as the President of the African Ladies Peace Mission.
Nigerians are patiently waiting to see if her successor, Aishat Buhari, would surpass the records set by the Rivers-born politician.