Mrs Patience Jonathan, former first lady, is no pushover. During the campaigns for the reelection of her husband, then president Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015 she was all over the place, microphone in hand doing what politicians do best, which is get out the votes, however possible. Her very visible campaigns, beamed live on television, were not just public shows of some staid political performances; they were colourful, and in pidgin English they connected well with her target audience. Even if you didn’t like her language and style, you couldn’t miss her passion and connection skills, if you were not in her line of fire. Patience Jonathan was the fun element for me and her electrifying performance with Gov Ayo Fayose, another of the tribe of the grassroots communicators, in the last days of the campaign, was a good show for evening of beer and pepper soup. Again, if you were not in her line of fire. Of course, she got all the vilifications and upbraiding you could get from the opposition in that politically charged timeline, with many members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) calling her unprintable names. Then came the probe of the Jonathan regime and insinuations and allegations of corruption against her and her husband’s government.
Through all of it, Mrs Jonathan did not seem like one under fire for which some remorse, however minor, is necessary. As soon as the court unfroze her bank account, she got to her bank to make withdrawals. Not one to delegate such matters, making sure she saw for herself, like we say. I have had it said among friends that Patience is the politician in the Jonathan home – daring, bold and aggressive – an image that riled many in the opposition more than their public claims of Jonathan’s failure. She showed that quality of the unputdownable on Monday when Senator Dino Melaye launched his book on corruption in Abuja. Her dramatic entrée into the venue and the rather affectionate uproarious receptionshe got must have baffled many. As newsdiaryonline.com reported: “Barely 30 minutes into the program, the former first lady, Mrs. Jonathan, made a glamorous entrance into the arena, which led to a loud and resounding ovation that brought the event to a pause, for minutes.” Thereafter she was invited to the high table and took part in the photo ops for the book. It is important to understand that this book presentation had the national assembly leadership in attendance, senators, representatives and former high ranking government officials, among them Senate President Bukola Saraki, House Speaker Yakubu Dogara, former Speaker Ghali Na’Abba, Labour minister Chris Ngige and the FCT minister Bello Mohammed. In brief, the cream of the APC, not minding whatever anyone says of the acceptance of the national assembly leadership by that party.
Dino’s book, ‘Antidotes for corruption: the Nigerian story’, and the crowd that came to herald its launch sure makes for some critical comment but my concern here is not on the pun that the book and the setting represent, it is the sanctification of Mama Peace, barely two years after she and her husband were swept out of office. The political fermentation did not begin in Abuja this Monday. The weekend before, the Jonathans were in Minna for the wedding of Halima, daughter of former military president and power broker, General Ibrahim Babangida. There, they were sandwiched between political foes such as APC leader Bola Tinubu and Senate President Saraki, among others. Yet, in that setting, political foes stopped by to greet the former first couple amid a lot of backslapping. If the images we saw were insincere, the kind we call film-trick, the reception for Patience Jonathan should have erased that, for in that reception was an acknowledgement of the political power, if irrepressibility, of the former first lady. It is indeed message enough that alignments are afoot as Nigeria recalibrates for another season of political horse-trading.