Keeping vigil for the infallible Dame, By Nasir Suwaid

Nasiru Suwaid

Nasiru Suwaid says that the media aide in the presidency mismanaged the first lady’s illness.

My impressionable years as a child were a period of unique discoveries about humans as social beings who act within a certain parameters of what is acceptable and what is not. For instance, because ill health is a fate bestowed upon us by nature, when anyone is afflicted , everyone including his or her most trenchant enemies sympathise with the person (at least outwardly) because it is the universally accepted norm.

I fully exploited the human state during my early years of life. Whenever I wanted to ditch school, avoid a compulsory house chore, drew unnecessary pity and ask for undeserved favours, either in form of cash or other valuables, I feigned illness.

It was in the context of such a primordial thinking, that the reported but officially denied illness of Nigeria’s first lady came to my notice. The media reported that the first lady suffered from a ruptured appendicitis, while the government’s stand is that a tired public official is taking a deserved rest from a hectic First Ladies Summit schedule.

But unfortunately for the administrations information management team, the mass media gained the public’s trust and majority of Nigerians took to the story of the media. As such most news outlets or portals became awash with all kinds of stories about the health status of the presidential spouse, but the expected pouring of sympathy from the readership community seems to be missing from such forums.

Perhaps this was the greatest fear of the president. At the last National Working Committee meeting of the People’s Democratic Party, he openly complained about the propaganda available to Nigerians. The president opined that the propaganda is the handiwork of the opposition whom he considers vile, vicious and unpatriotic.

The president also inferred that his information management aides failed in their duties and announced the beginning of new tactics in handling media matters. It was the president who said that there is no greater threat to the trust between a government and its citizens than lack of information. He agrees that it only leads to destructive rumours and dangerous speculations.

Indeed, it is on that basis that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan appointed Dr. Doyin Okupe as his Senior Special Assistant for Public Affairs. Upon Mr. Okupe’s assumption, he announced himself the attack lion of the administration. Yet, in the past few days, the self acclaimed king of the jungle, hardly roared a clarification, on the health condition of the mother of the nation.

Recently, the ever communicative Dr. Reuben Abati, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, had in the previous week gallantly defended his principal with a much celebrated article. But he suddenly became unavailable to answer queries about such an important matter. The issue if left un-clarified would simply feed the rumour mills.

But, it was the First lady’s Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Ayo Osinlu, who spectacularly failed his boss. All the first lady really needs from him is to court and build sympathy for her. She is already a figure who is not liked very much and could certainly do with some empathy. Ill health is not the sort of weakness that should be hidden from the curious Nigerian public; after all, no matter the narcissistic belief and tendency of a government critic, he or she could never ascribe infallibility or immortality to the first lady.

Hoarding any information makes the media desperate. And since the issues of confidentiality between a doctor and patient exist, a journalist is caught between the need to provide factual data and the normal human trait of pandering to rumours. Thus the journalist will use what is accessible to it, he will make conjectures from the bits and pieces of information it gets to develop a story, and the public is left to make its judgment from what is available in the media.

It would be highly disingenuous to ascribe Godly powers to journalists; the journalist has no ability to know everything, if his legitimate right to information is hindered.

Indeed as the presidential media management team have often trumpeted to the admirers and supporters of this administration, it is the present leadership in Nigeria that effected the existence and functionality of the Freedom of Information Act. They say it is a bid to bridge the gap between the government and its citizens, with the press playing the critical role of a convenient tool and vehicle for the dissemination of information.

Thus it is exceedingly counterproductive and even comical to hide facts about public officials, when it is a much easier and need I say a more smarter option, to manage such a circumstance to the greatest benefit of a politician by projecting the image of a servant leader, who fell to stress as a result of strict adherence to the code of selfless work ethics.

As such rather than the First lady resting from hosting an event, let the tedious duty of assisting the president in delivering the necessary dividends of democracy, be the likely cause of her momentous faltering into a hospital bed.


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  • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

    I think the first lady has no official role. She is a private citizen and thus her health remain a private issue unlike a president. Every decent Nigerian is praying for her quick recovery.

    • Emeka

      Mr.Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa alias KenMani,
      So a first lady is a private citizen! hmmm wonders and thoughtlessness will never end! So as a “private” citizen she was flown to Germany with Nigeria’s public money-the tax payers’ money. How many Nigerian “private citizens” are flown abroad with PUBLIC resources? Does this make sense to you? Is this logical? I am replying you because I am looking for some thing to do for about 5 mins to while away my time before going back to more serious work. Can’t you see that of recent many serious minded commentators have abandoned this space to you? They simply email and tweet Premiumtimes essays to friends. They do not comment. Few do. Why? They are avoiding you and comments like yours that lack any serious logic or rationality. It is because your comments are so petty, silly and jaundiced, you offer the most pedestrian and illogical defense of your employers in the Nigerian presidency in a way that makes serious minded readers take another route to have conversation among themselves-email and tweet. The first lady is also a permanent secretary. Remember that? The first lady used tax payers’ and public resources and the very fact that she is the wife of our president to organize the so-called Africa first ladies jamboreee in Abuja. Did you forget that? So private citizens do these things? Okay Mr KenMani alias Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa, kindly let me pretend to be petty so as to come to your petty and pedestrian level, if Mrs Patience Jonathan is a private citizen, please kindly call her in Germany NOT to use the government plane when coming back. She should buy a private air ticket and fly in privately. And her media aide Mr. Ayo Osinlu should NO LONGER be paid from tax payers’ money. Okay. This is what decent and morally inclined Nigerians should ask for. Decent Nigerians should ask our so-called first ladies to STOP wanting to eat their cakes or akara and having them. If they want to be private citizens, they are free to be. They should remain private citizens. But they SHOULD NOT use our money-tax payers money for private purposes. Okay? Stella Obasanjo did it, Turai Yar adua did it. This one is doing it again. All these stink. A defense like yours Mr. Ken Mani alias Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa is illogical. It is an assault on basic reasoning. This is the reason why we all abandoned this space to you. But once in a while responsible people -when and if they have time to while away before going back to serious work-must tell it you as you deserve. Can you imagine Mrs Obama travelling outside the US and Americans are not told? Mr KenMani alias Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa you are a thoughtless human being. You are a disgrace to the Nigerian presidency-your employer. You are a disgrace to the black race for thinking like this.

      • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

        thanks for taking time from your scamming business to launch a childish attack. they will soon catch many permanent secretaries in state capitals,do you worry about their health? May be if any child of the president had a cough, they should let you know because they are unfortunate to be family of an office holder. Please lay off somebody’s wife if you have nothing to do. LET ME SPELL IT OUT FOR YOU: JONATHAN CHOSE THE PUBLIC LIFE NOT MEMBERS OF HIS FAMILY. People like you are quick to point out that the first lady has no constitutional role, yet when it suits, she becomes an office holder. Shame on you. And yes she is entitled to some perks just like any spouse of a man of means. LIVE WITH IT?

        • Emeka

          KenMan alias Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa,
          Did Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan use Nigeria’s money to travel or not? Did she travel in our plane-Nigerian governement plane- or she travel in a private airline?. We learnt that she travelled in our plane-Nigerian government plane. If she did, why? Do private citizens use tax payers money to travel? Do private citizens travel free in government plane? That is the question. Okay? So she cannot travel in presidential jet, Nigerian government plane and at the same time want to claim to be a private citizen. And private citizens have their media spokespersons like Ayo Osinlu paid from public money. Right? You are being asked to think a bit KenMani alias Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa with a fixed address Mr. Jonathan’s presidency.

          • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

            You asked ‘whether private citizens travel in government plane? Yes they do. and they include domestic servants.i think we have a very petty minded opposition in this country. in what way has the first lady’s absence affected governance? It is clear that many of you are out of touch with the concern of ordinary Nigerians. I wish the debate is rather why is the first lady not been treated in a Nigerian hospital? That would have made more sense than counting how many people flew on a presidential plane. Get a life, Emeka.

          • Emeka

            Thank you KenMani alias Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa,
            I have drawn you out. Thank God. When private citizens travel in govt plane YOU DISCLOSE the trip PUBLICLY because they are travelling on PUBLIC FUNDS that MUST BE ACCOUNTED for. This is the way it is done in civilised societies. Okay? But Nigeria under Mr. Jonathan is free NOT to follow that civilised path. But if that is the case then we should at least temporarily NOT count Nigeria as civilised. You cannot eat your cake and have it. You either follow civilised path or you do not. No middle way. Second you talk about PERKS. So those “mere” PERKS are what were used to organize the First Lady Jamoboree. Now you can see why corruption will never end. Those billions of naira stolen are “MERE PERKS” in the eyes of KenMani alias Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa, -carry GO sir! the voice from Mr. Jonathan’s presidency.

          • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

            Just for the record. I DO NOT speak for the presidency.