The Presidency has reacted to an editorial by the Punch newspapers which criticizes the First Lady, Patience Jonathan’s penchant for obstructing traffic and inconveniencing people with her elaborate security arrangements during visits to Lagos, Warri and Port Harcourt.
An obviously rattled presidency scrambled to the First Lady’s defence, describing the July 1 publication as “outright falsification” and “calculated exaggerations”.
The reaction however did not address the fundamental issues raised by the editorial.
The editorial titled “Patience Jonathan’s excesses must be curbed” condemns Mrs Jonathan’s extravagant security arrangements when visiting other states.
The newspaper says during the First lady’s recent visit to Port Harcourt, her security arrangement completely paralysed activities in the Government Reservation Area (GRA) of the city for the four days she was in town.
“Armoured personnel carriers were deployed at two points, while gun-wielding operatives manned the points leading to her private residence. Many people missed their appointments because they were prevented from moving in and out of their houses.”
The editorial also noted that the Port Harcourt incident was not the first time Mrs Jonathan would use her larger-than-life security details to make inhabitants of towns she visited suffer unnecessarily.
“When she came to Lagos last year, on a “thank-you visit” to some women groups for electing her husband president, she enacted a similar repulsive scenario. During the visit, Lagos residents were subjected to an unprecedented road blockade, which gave rise to an unnerving five-hour traffic that grounded all human and economic activities.”
According to the editorial, the blockade on this particular occasion was so bad that it prompted an angry reaction from the governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola.
“It is particularly worrisome that this (she) is not an elected person. I think we all must check how security agencies use the movement of high officers, especially VIPs, to disrupt citizens and taxpayers, whose money is used to fuel all the vehicles and all the apparatus that we use to block the roads against them,” the newspaper quotes the governor as saying.
The Punch also observes that during Mrs Jonathan’s visit to Warri, inhabitant of the state was made to endure similar inconvenience.
The newspapers then called on President Goodluck Jonathan to call his wife to order.
“It is President Jonathan’s duty to caution his wife to stop this regime of offensive illegality that has tainted the Presidency and presented Nigeria in a bad light,” the paper wrote.
But in a rather belligerent reaction that completely failed to address any of the issues raised in the editorial, Ayo Osinlu, media aide to the First Lady accused the newspaper of being recruited into a “hit squad” comprising people he described as having “tottering political careers.”
“These syndicated attacks are not exactly surprising, especially for those who are familiar with the fact that it is a well-known trait of the arrowhead of the attacks to be disrespectful of all forms of authority, including those who gave him his most substantial opportunities in life,” he says.
“It is however worrisome that these trench men are finding partnership in a sensitive organ of society such as the media, to cast aspersions on carefully selected members of the society, as a design to inspire public sympathy to accumulate for them. And tell us a better catch in this calculation than the illustrious First Lady of the nation, affectionately well-received by the people for her evident accomplishments in charity, philanthropy and the general promotion of the values of humanity.”
“This is why we are persuaded to once again alert the media about the lucre-for-news strategy of these desperados, whose ultimate plan is to tie the hands of the media behind its back, in order to induce it to echo their faulty sentiments, Mr Osinlu adds.