If there was any doubt that she is in charge of the country, it was dispelled last week with what could easily pass as a “presidential address” by Her Excellency, Dame (Dr.) Patience Faka Jonathan.
By Chido Onumah
From being the inconspicuous wife of a vice-president whose main job was not remarkable, Mrs. Jonathan has grown to the most powerful first Lady in the history of Nigeria and she is blithely usurping the power of the president.
When the first lady is more visible and vocal than the president, then something is wrong. We thought we had it bad with Turai Yar’Adua. While the late Umaru Yar’Adua was snoozing at the presidency, his wife and her cabal ran amok, almost imperilling the country. When that grotesque absurdity came to an end in May 2010, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief. Little did they know that they would look at the Turai Yar’Adua era with palpable nostalgia.
Of course, like all power-besotted individuals, it is easy for the first lady to attribute her power and position to some divine force. And that was exactly what she did last week when she gathered some “men and women of God” led by Bishop God-do-well Awomapara for a state visit at the presidential villa. Well, it looked like “God-did-well” for his faithful servants at the end of the circus.
A few months ago, when Mrs. Jonathan returned from her extended hospitalisation in Germany for an undisclosed illness, she told us that she had been to the great beyond and back. We were expecting “a new improved” and sober first lady. If we expected that experience to “teach her any lessons”, it clearly did not.
Rather, the first lady has thrown herself into the political fray, bestriding the political landscape like a colossus and committing one political faux pas after another with relish. Of course, as a Nigerian, the first lady has interests. And there is nothing wrong in seeking to advance those interests. But that desire has to be channelled through her husband, her elected representatives or relevant public office holders.
When Nigerians voted for Goodluck Jonathan, they did not vote for him and his wife. Mrs. Jonathan was not on the ballot box during the last general elections. That is the tough lesson the first lady has to learn and quickly too. It is sad enough that we have to live with the quirks of a rudderless presidency, to add the inanities and meddlesomeness of the first lady is undoubtedly “double wahala”.