Patience,Turai: Sad tales of first ladysm,By Zainab Suleiman Okino

Mrs. Zainab Suleiman OkinoIn contextualizing the Patience Jonathan and TuraiYar’Adua’s rivalry, even after the latter left office, full disclosures are appropriate. The two are uninspiring and are not my idea of women who should be celebrated. They are not women who are proverbially said to have broken the glass ceilings, to overcome all odds to get to the top. Patience and Turai are lucky spouses
that providence has bestowed upon influence and powers.

not get me wrong, I have nothing against them and I’m not jealous, but I’m concerned about their legacies, and how they will be remembered by posterity; whether the opportunity they had was used for the betterment of the or for them. So, much as I try to identify with ‘our own’, it is disheartening to note that these ladies have not lived up to our expectations of what women can offer the nation they have the instrument of authority. It is reason why I write about women like them sparingly, and had refrained to write about Patience and Turai so far. Well, until today.

If powers were bestowed on them by God gratis, what they with it is purely their own decisions and not guided by providence. In other words, their actions, (and inactions), good or bad, are a reflection of their own being, their character and attitude to life; as such they should be wholly responsible for their own deeds.

This rambling preamble is a reaction to last week’s landmark judgment by an Abuja high court in the land dispute between the current and former first ladies. Even though the press chose to play it up as a case of defeating the other, some of are not excited and not see it as a win
or lose situation. I wish this contest were about who liberated and uplifted more women, between Patience and Turai, and who got more women cured of debilitating or treatable ailments. I only wish Patience and Turai had educated themselves more to know why they should seek to educate more women, empower them economically and make the family, the and the government more socially responsible. I wish Turai’s Cancer Centre had become a full-fledged cancer treatment and research centre. I wish Patience’s Women for Change Initiative had come up with ideas to better the lot of women, and truly change their lowly status. Hmm…if wishes were horses!

Unfortunately, the Patience/Turai tussle is an elite war and I pity those who pitch tent with against the other. It all began with the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator BalaMuhammed’s indiscretion, or is it ‘eye service’? I do not know what came off him. Perhaps, overwhelmed by his choice as minister of the FCT, after he invoked the doctrine of necessity to make the then Vice President GoodluckJonothan acting president during the notorious days of the Yar’Adua cabal, the minister has been going head over heel to appease the first family, even against public interest. On this basis, it was the senator’s overzealousness that started the face-off between Patience and Turai in the first place. The minister then confiscated the land allocated to Turai’s NGO, Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation(WAYEF), and allocated same to Patience’s African First Ladies’ Peace Mission under the guise of ‘overriding public interest’.

In his judgment, Justice Peter Affen of the FCT High Court says: The defendants (FCT and Patience) failed to adduce evidence to support their claim that the allocation of the land was revoked due to overriding public interest. The allocation given to the plaintiff(Turai) was for the building of a vocational training centre. In line with Section 28(1) of the Land Act, the vocational centre is for public purpose and the title cannot be revoked on the premise of overriding public interest”.

Justice Affen’s declaration bordered on the legalese but the politics in the minister’s intention became manifest immediately. Soon after the judgment, the office of the first lady and the FCT went to town with denials of Dame Patience’s interest. In a desperate machination to exonerate the first lady of allegations of greed and overbearing influence on the institutions of government, her press secretary, Ayo Osinlu, and the special assistant on media to the FCT minister, NosikeOgbuenyi, quickly did a yeoman’s job, but it was not good to solve the riddle. And because public sympathy was with Turai, the spokespersons tried in vain to take the heat off the first lady. That is beyond the point. There are still questions that are begging for answers. Why did the FCT go into this legal tussle in the first instance if it was not remote-controlled from the presidency? Why Turai’s plot or her NGO’s if First Lady Patience had no (old) score to settle with her former boss (?). Why did the FCT or the first lady’s office wait to lose the case before the‘full disclosures’ of her non-involvement in the tussle? And why couldn’t the two powerful ladies settle of court if there was no-love lost between them?

Patience’s move reminds one of ex-President OlusegunObasanjo’s laughable declarations that he never sought for a third term after the project was defeated by common consent by the Nigerian people through their representatives at the National Assembly. If the court had conceded to
Patience and the FCT’s demand, will she have rejected the verdict? Common, let’s stop kidding ourselves; the first lady was neck (and head) deep in the land tussle, notwithstanding her latest denial.

For Turai, the verdict is only a temporary reprieve. Henceforth, all eyes will be on her, and what she does with the plot she (cleverly) acquired as first lady in the name of a civic centre. Ever since she lost her president-husband and position as first lady, not much has been heard from
her and her much-hyped pet projects, for which interest she acquired the plot. How she will now manage to revive those ideas remain to be seen. However, let it be known to her that the plot in question does not really belong to her. She is only holding it in trust for the public, as she
claimed in the court papers and as was affirmed by Justice Affen. This ‘victory’ has put a moral burden on Turai more than ever before.

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