By the time this piece is published, it would have been known to all and in the news that the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan is back in Abuja, after spending about ten days in her state of birth, Rivers.
It should also be in the news – but of course those fellows in the media who either hate her face or only bent on reporting mischief would fail to highlight the fact – that as at the time she left Rivers state, the embattled state Governor, Rotimi Amaechi was still very much in power. There had not been any move, overt or covert, to unseat him.
Dame Patience Jonathan had not recruited thugs to harass the governor, or hired the state police command to chase the governor around, or lock down the state institutions, or motivated the so-called surreptitious group in the Rivers House of Assembly to impeach the governor. Rather, she successfully carried out all activities in her itinerary and returned quietly on her own to Abuja.
But while she was there in Rivers state, her media team was continuously battling with the press and the opposition about the motive or intent of the First Lady for daring to stay in her state of birth for over a week. Her media team had had to explain over and over again that Her Excellency was simply in the state, as a daughter of the land, to attend several events which needed her presence and which she felt obliged to attend.
Since she touched down at the Port Harcourt International airport, Omagwa, Dame Patience Jonathan had committed herself to those duties for which she left Abuja, even surprising everybody by not paying any attention, by herself, to the media campaign of calumny against her name. It was obvious some people were intimidated by the glamour and love that the First Lady attracted from her admirers while she was in Rivers.
She attended to the series of private and public activities lasting till this weekend. Immediately on arrival on Friday, 14th June, she commissioned the Yitzhak Rabin International School and Resource Centre in Port Harcourt, during which she also received an award from the Yitzhak Rabin Centre for African Development for her successful advocacy for women empowerment and her pursuit of peace on the continent.
The following day, Saturday 15th June, she attended the wedding ceremony of a member of the State House of Assembly, Evans Bipi, who is her junior brother. She was the Mother of the Day at the wedding reception which held at the Civic Centre in Port Harcourt and drew the attendance of prominent citizens of the state like former Governor Peter Odili and his wife, Justice Mary Odili, former Governor of old Rivers state, Chief Rufus Ada George, among other great sons and daughter of Rivers.
On Wednesday, 19th June, Her Excellency commissioned the zonal office of Women for Change and Development Initiative and distributed empowerment items to women in 23 local government areas of Rivers state, market women and non-indigenes.
On Thursday, 20th June, the First Lady received the audience of 135 chiefs from Kalabari kingdom. And while addressing them, she even stated it expressly clear that she was not in Rivers state to fight Governor Rotimi Amaechi, whom she described as her brother.
Her words that fateful afternoon and reported by the media need recall: “I am not here to fight the governor of Rivers because he is my brother. We should come together to develop the state. We shouldn’t play politics with our home. Our home remains our home, we shouldn’t play politics with our elders.”
She further made a statement that all wise thinking people should seriously ponder on, when she said, “the presidency was an opportunity for the people of the South-South to rule the country not to be at war with one another…We didn’t fight, we didn’t pay, but God willed it to us so we shouldn’t use politics to incite one another or destroy our kingdom.”
Finally on Sunday 23rd June, First Lady received well wishers at the burial of her grandfather before returning to Abuja. The event, like others, was attended by great sons and daughters of Rivers state.
One should expect that as the first lady has returned to Abuja without any incident contrary to the much hyped, much piped, surreptitious plot to remove Governor Rotimi Amaechi, those who had been heating up the polity with these claims that she was on a mission to unseat Governor Amaechi should now start coming out to eat their words.
Some of them claimed that Her Excellency even called a secret meeting of some members of the state House of Assembly and mobilized them to ensure Governor Amaechi’s impeachment from office, vowing never to return to Abuja until this was done.
But she has returned. But they will still not keep quiet. They have turned to another agenda, which is to use an innocuous statement to witch-hunt Her Excellency. While Her Excellency paid a courtesy visit to the Apiti of Rumueme and President-in-council of Rumueme Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, Chief Nyenwe-Eli Omunnakwe Nyeche Nsirim, on Tuesday, 18th June, the traditional ruler had called on the people of Obio Akpor to give President Jonathan massive support anytime he declares his interest to re-contest for the presidency in 2015.
While responding to what was a good wish of her host, Dame Patience Jonathan had told the gathering that President Jonathan had not told her he was going to contest, but thanked them all the same for a pledge made, which, to her, was a note of approval of his administration. Now this has become headline news. And even those seeking attention for themselves are already asking for her head, seeking INEC to sanction her.
What shocks one really was that of all the positive things First Lady did in her one week stay in Port Harcourt, none was recognized by this set of people. Of all the wonderful things she said, her conciliatory notes amidst the unnecessary tension created in Rivers, none was worthy of headline and response by the opposition. It is that she has begun to campaign for President Jonathan, even when President Jonathan himself has not come out to say he was running for Presidency in 2015.
One is even forced to ask: Is Dame Patience Jonathan the President? Why would INEC sanction her? INEC rules bars candidates from campaigning before 90 days to the election. But Dame Patience Jonathan is not a candidate, and if she actually expressed her opinion on her husband’s candidature, is it not the same way supporters of other candidates are expressing theirs?
As at the time of writing this piece, the posters of Sule Lamido of Jigawa and Rotimi Amaechi as President and Vice President respectively dot many Nigerian cities, same as posters of Gen Muhammadu Buhari. Why is the opposition not calling on INEC to sanction these people or those campaigning for them?
What is true is that the opposition and their media voices are becoming too desperate. They should be asked to look elsewhere and leave First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan alone. It is evident to the whole world that Dame Patience Jonathan’s one week trip to Rivers was not on a campaign train. It is not about 2015. It is only in Nigeria that good intentions are easily turned upside down to achieve selfish ends. But these people are advised to look at their own ambition, which is their right, and leave First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan alone.
Dr. Isiaka Aliagan is of the Office of the First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria