The dame of constitutional proportions By Adeolu Ademoyo

At her investiture as a permanent secretary of Bayelsa state, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, the wife of President Goodluck Jonathan made the proposition that the status of the First Lady should be entrenched in the constitution.

For the avoidance of doubt, I will like to quote exactly what Mrs. Patience Jonathan was alleged to have said. I rely on this because she has not refuted it, nor has any of her spokespersons refuted or corrected this. Her proposition that the role of the First lady should be entrenched in the constitution is not only objectionable, it is banal and her premise shows the abysmally modest enterprise of reflection at the presidency.

Apparently miffed at Mr. Fashola’s –Lagos state governor- critical remark at the traffic chaos she caused during her visit to Lagos, she was reported to have said that: “We the wives of political office holders, if our names are not in the constitution and our husbands retire with benefits, the constitution amendment should also look into the issue of wives of political appointees. We should be included in the constitution so that we too can retire with benefits. With that, we can enjoy our career. When it suits them, they will say we don’t have office. Remember, when I went to Lagos for peace advocacy, the governor of Lagos State said that my husband should… my name is not in the constitution that I have no office. Why now won’t I pursue my career that I am sure of.”

The following is the structure of the proposition. Conclusion: “The Nigerian constitution should recognize the status of “First Lady” or “First Spouse”. Premise: So that Nigeria can develop and the “First Spouse” can retire with benefits like the husband-president or wife-president. My Public Disclosure: I have painstakingly read and re-read Mrs. Patience Jonathan’s assertions to see if I am misrepresenting her. I want Nigerian taxpayers to please fault the summary of Mrs. Jonathan’s argument as I present it here.

Sadly, there is a history to the role of the spouses of our heads of state from Mrs. Maryam Babangida, to Mrs. Maryam Abacha, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, Mrs. Turai Yar adua and now Mrs. Patience Jonathan. Two of the First ladies unfortunately transited. May their souls rest in peace. Given the way the First ladies have carried themselves before Nigerian taxpayers, it is very difficult to see their relevance beyond their roles as defenders and extension of their husbands’ rule. Their pronouncements and actions show that they are part of the political, unethical and social infrastructure for the sustenance of their husbands’ misrule and corruption.

Being a mere appendage to a husband’s misrule, this is the point where the iniquities of patriarchy and matriarchy meet. For example, each time we have a new First lady, our community peace is disturbed through their spawning of questionable projects paid for vicariously from public treasury through using actual and potential government clients and business men and women as front sources of funds a la Mr. Otedola’s (the oil trader) 200 million naira “gift” to Obasanjo’s library. Check the white elephants and how they are corruptly but discreetly funded by the sitting government through government contractors from Mrs. Maryam Babangida’s Better Life For Rural Women to the latest one on a so-called peace, which Mrs. Jonathan wants to use to disturb our peace and our treasury.

Looking at last week’s Abuja charade of the African First Ladies Peace Mission summit, it seems Mrs. Jonathan and these first ladies miss the point that the first condition for peace is basic social and economic justice for the working people, and a country free of corruption. Sadly, Mrs. Jonathan and her African matriarchs cannot see this since they are literally lap dogs of their husbands corrupt rule. I think it was Mrs. Stella Obasanjo (also of blessed memory) who carried this poor genealogy of First ladies of being patriarchal co-opts and cheer leaders of their husband’s corruption to its absurd end when as First lady she answered the eternal call in a foreign land in her attempt to attack her body late in her age in a cosmetic surgery called tummy tuck.

Looking at these First ladies, you do not see an iota of seriousness about the difficult challenges Nigerian taxpayers face in the land. Rather, in their carriage, you see comical attempts to compete with those so-called “celebrities” and “stars” the artificial and fake characters you find in Hollywood and other silly sites of vanity and idleness. This is why the death of the wife of a sitting head of state in a foreign land through a strange cosmetic surgery on the tummy and paid for by public money is a poignant but disgraceful statement on the nuisance these so-called first ladies represent to Nigerian tax payers, our resources, and our political life.

Pray what health issue should have necessitated tummy tuck in a foreign hospital? How many leaders of foreign countries have come to Nigeria for medical treatment? Thus, if for hypothetical reason, Mrs. Jonathan’s proposition is given an attention, it follows that Nigerian tax payers would have been asked to fund cosmetic surgical procedure such as tummy tuck as part of the perquisites of being First lady, and also fund new ones just in case present and future First ladies want to embark on cosmetic surgery on myriad and sundry parts of the body. This is the low level we have sunk to in the country in an age where fellow African countries are leaving us behind in every department of life. It is in the context of this vanity, that one must understand Mrs. Jonathan’s attempt to make the idleness and vanity of First ladies constitutionally binding.

In more recent times, this idleness and vanity was manifested in the dogfight over land between the current First lady, Mrs. Jonathan and the previous one-Mrs. Turai Yar adua. Beside the fact that this dogfight is a humiliation of the formal status of the presidency of the republic, it is in itself a dry humor, a joke and paradox on the so-called African First Ladies Peace Mission summit. How can they on one hand talk about peace when on the other hand two of the first ladies cannot keep the peace? It is mismatch.

Thus, either known or unknown to Mrs. Jonathan her proposition that the role of First lady should be constitutionally recognized amounts to legalizing the negative burden the so-called Nigerian first families from IBB to Jonathan now represent to Nigerian tax payers. Given the iniquities that define the First lady from Mrs. Babangida’s time to Mrs. Jonathan, the First ladies are mere matriarchal branch of the filth and stench that define the presidencies of their spouses.

Thus to bring such post as First lady near our constitution is to pollute a constitution which ought to be a noble and a social contract among Nigerian working peoples. Such pollution is unacceptable. But my questions are: Did Mrs. Patience Jonathan and the president, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan have any private conversation on the burden and responsibility of being president before Mr. Jonathan ran for this post and accepted this job from Nigerian tax payers?

So, did Mrs. Jonathan tell Mr. Jonathan that she was going to say what she said in public? If so, did Mr. Jonathan agree that it is the right thing to say? Painfully, I ask these questions because as a Nigerian, I passionately love my country and I am genuinely troubled and concerned at the massive and frightening poverty of ideas and poor quality of thinking at the Nigerian presidency.

Adeolu Ademoyo of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York who is a columnist of PREMIUM TIMES can be reached at aaa54@cornell.edu


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