Who will call the First Lady to order?

Patience JonathanBefore the return of civil rule on May 29, 1999, not many Nigerians knew the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan. We recall vividly, that throughout the close to three-year period Jonathan served as Vice-President, his wife, Patience, knew her limitations and fully accorded the then First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua, the respect she rightly deserved. This was probably why throughout the tenure of the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua/Goodluck Jonathan; there were no reported cases of frosty relationship or altercation between Turai and Patience.

Whereas since she found herself in the enviable exalted position of the First Lady, the way Dame Patience has been comporting herself in spite of the fact that the Constitution of Nigeria does not in anyway recognise the position, continues to give the generality of right-thinking Nigerians with discerning minds, cause for concern. Elsewhere in the civilized clime, First Ladies effectively use such a strategic position to promote humanitarian activities capable of enhancing national development.

It is worrisome and disheartening that the manner ours has been conducting herself, is a clear indication that her office seems to be in stiff competition with that of the President. From all indications, she perceives her office as highly placed and therefore deserves recognition and respect even from the various tiers of government across the country. This, indeed, is an irritating nightmare that is giving concerned citizens sleepless nights. It is in the interest of the First Lady to realize there is only one President constitutionally charged with the responsibility of directing the affairs of the country and that there cannot be two captains in a ship.

We had expected that the shameful drama that played out in Okrika, Rivers State between her and Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi sometime in 2010 would never rear its ugly head again. But we have since been proved wrong. Shortly after her husband succeeded the late PresidentYar Adua, she embarked on nationwide visits using her pet project – the Women for Change Initiative (WCI) to mobilize Nigerian women to support her husband’s 2011 presidential bid. It was during the visit that she reportedly spited Amaechi in public. The lingering frosty relationship between the first lady and the governor, who is her state governor, is unfortunate and condemnable. No matter the position she is occupying in the country, she owes her state governor some respect. She is also expected to always display exemplary conduct worthy of emulation in Rivers State in particular, as well as in Nigeria, in general.

Recently, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, warned politicians to stop campaigning ahead of the 2015 general elections.

But in spite of this timely warning that is expected to be heeded by all law–abiding Nigerians, no matter how highly placed, the First Lady on a recent visit to Rivers State canvassed the support of traditional rulers for her husband’s rumoured 2015 presidential bid.

She thanked the traditional rulers for the support they gave her husband in 2011 and urged them to do same for 2015 “when the time comes”.

And in response as expected, the Nyenwe-eli Rumueme Kingdom, Eze Omunakwe Nsirim, assured her of their support for her husband in 2015.

Although the president has the inalienable constitutional right to seek re–election, we, however, think it is morally wrong for the First Lady to be campaigning overtly or covertly now for her husband ahead of 2015 in spite of INEC’s earlier warning.

The laws of INEC are for all Nigerians to obey to ensure free, fair and credible elections. This is why the First Lady should, like other Nigerians, comply with INEC’s rules in this regard.

She should be humble to learn from the wives of notable world leaders known to be exemplary in their conduct. We implore the President to call the First Lady to order.



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