Opinion - Much Ado About Patience Jonathan’s Absence By Kunle Fadipe

I have written so much about the provocative grandstanding of those women that call themselves First Ladies just because they want to join their husbands in plundering the country’s resources. I have condemned the overbearing disposition of Patience Jonathan and repeatedly counselled that she should recoil into her shell and leave the public space to her husband, since Nigerians did not vote for her.
It would seem to me, right or wrong, that Patience took our admonition seriously. She beat a tactical withdrawal from the public domain and for once chose to be her husband’s wife only, no more no less.

Surprisingly, the same Nigerians to whom she deferred by recoiling into her shell have continued to search for her. They are worried that she is no longer available just for the asking. They keep probing and insinuating. First, they said she was critically ill because she had eaten poison. Every day the spin doctors made us to believe her health was deteriorating. They pummelled ceaselessly the rather taciturn Presidency to mention her whereabouts. First, the Presidency remained indifferent and unperturbed by the busy body inquisitiveness of Nigerians. Later, it saw the need to address the concern of Nigerians.

The more the Presidency tries to explain, the more the controversy assumes new and dangerous dimensions. All the critics of Mrs. Jonathan want to hear is that she is lying critically ill. Even when we were told that she was away on holiday, Nigerians were still not satisfied. More disappointing is the position of the Action Congress of Nigeria on the matter.

The same party that previously insinuated that she was becoming too much of a problem because of her visibility had pestered the Presidency about the disappearance of the First Lady and diverted our attention from the major challenge facing the nation; lack of fuel at petrol filling stations and the deteriorating security situation that saw several innocent students massacred in their prime.

The curious lost every modicum of decency and honest intention when Nigerians continued to make cynical remarks, even after the President’s wife was shown on television to be healthy and beaming with smiles in a manner orchestrated to put meddlesome interlopers to shame.

I cannot fathom any reason why we should continue to make an issue of the absence of President’s wife from the country. She is entitled to her privacy and for all I care, can remain outside Nigeria for the rest of her husband’s term as the President of Nigeria. That is how it should be. We should be wary of legitimising the excesses of first ladies by encouraging them to remain in the public domain.

It needs be said that until the advent of late Mrs. Maryam Babangida, there was no office of the First Lady. If at all there was, it remained anonymous without an atom of the glamour or revelry associated with it today. There was no struggle for space between the president and his wife as we have today.

If it has pleased God to make Jonathan to change the course of events by delivering us from the tyranny of first ladies, we ought to applaud the President. We should refrain from doing such things that would make him to regret his action or decision to banish his wife from excessive publicity with its attendant negative controversy.

During Chief Bisi Akande’s tenure as governor of Osun State, a few people knew or heard of his wife. The man made it clear that there was nothing like the first lady and that the woman who should have been was exclusively his wife and no more.

In the days of the late Bola Ige, Adekunle Ajasin, Bisi Onabanjo, Lateef Jakande, et cetera, how often did we hear about their wives? How often did their wives harass us with their idle, provocative and unsolicited presence? Why have things suddenly changed to the point that those who even castigated Maryam Babangida vociferously, the author and/or inventor of that office, soon empowered their wives to follow suit, even as mere governors? The virtues of those days became completely eroded to the point that roads are known to be closed for hours because the ‘First Lady’ is in town.

Even former President Olusegun Obasanjo saw nothing wrong in the office. His Excellency sufficiently reinforced it and propped it up to an annoying height. Nigerians had assumed that he would reenact the discipline of his days as the Head of State where no one heard of any first lady, just as it was in the days of his predecessors. He proved us wrong totally to the point that it became a major source of controversy between him and his erstwhile bosom friend, Prof. Wole Soyinka.

We should allow Madam Jonathan all the time in the world to be her husband’s wife, without the unnecessary shenanigan of an office absolutely unknown to our law and which, to all intent and purpose, is a colossal drain on our dwindling resources already overstretched by the weight of corruption and indiscipline in high places.

I can imagine how much Nigeria would have saved by reason of Madam Jonathan’s present sojourn outside Nigeria. Our roads and airspace too are heaving a sigh of relief. It is certain that no roads are likely to be closed endlessly on a busy working day as would have been were our First Lady to be around. Doesn’t that alone call for celebration and a veritable reason to stop making her absence an issue?

It is my view that Nigeria will be better off if all the first ladies would take a cue from the First-lady-in-Chief by jetting out of Nigeria for a ‘well deserved rest,’ provided it is at their expense. For that is the only time we too can have a “well deserved rest” from the attendant display of opulence in the midst of excruciating poverty, which is the lot of the ordinary people that voted for their husbands.
Patience Jonathan 3019468352695035537

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