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Dame Patience Jonathan and a troubling repetition of recent history

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
JUST why don’t our leaders learn the lessons of history? Why are they condemned to lunacy, by doing the same thing over and over and yet expecting to arrive at a different outcome? We have entered the fourth week of the disappearance from the public space, of President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Dame Patience.

Because no serious official information was forthcoming about the sudden disappearance of a woman who made sure of her presence in our lives, the rumour mill went into over-drive!

Dame Patience was said to have been whisked out of our country, suffering a ruptured appendix; yet others spoke of food poisoning during a visit to Dubai; there was talk of a tummy tuck which went awry and yet others even said the lady was dead.

Despite all that was buzzing in cyberspace, the more restrained attitude of the Nigerian media and the incoherent attempts at explanations by handlers who really deserve our pity much more than disgust, neither the Presidency nor other credible sources have offered meaningful explanations about Dame Patience’s disappearance in almost a month!

I assume that presidential handlers are deluding themselves that because she is the President’s wife, this was strictly a private issue and they were therefore not obliged to offer the country an explanation of her whereabouts. But they are wrong for so many reasons. Dame Patience goes around the country, milking her place as “First Lady” and she hugs the limelight, thus making her toing-and-froing part of the architecture of governance in our country.

Constitutional amendment

The lady is ferried around in presidential jets with closed airspace just as cities are locked down for her retinue to speed through; she even dared to suggest a constitutional amendment so “First Ladies” may “also enjoy” the perks of post-office life.

So intrusive has she become in our lives! So they cannot now plead privacy in matters concerning her health. The second issue is that in tune with the need for full disclosure as a central kernel of the governance process, they owe us the explanation of what is exactly wrong with the President’s wife.  By keeping things under wraps for almost a month, the Presidency shows much disrespect for the Nigerian people.

It is frightening just how much the cycles of history repeat themselves in contemporary Nigeria, as Marx once aptly described, as both a tragedy and a farce! Wind back to the end of 2009 and how President Umaru Yar’Adua’s health situation haunted the country.

The handlers of that ancien regime did everything to keep Nigerians off the trail of news about the situation at hand. The nation was on tenterhooks and governance all but collapsed, just as rumour and court intrigues became the order of the day. Nigerians were angry not only to be kept in the dark, but more sinisterly, even the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, was kept out of the governance loop by a “cabal’ said to be headed by Yar’Adua’s wife but including a provincial group from his days as governor. We reached a crisis point when something was bound to give, any which way, in Nigeria.

The empathy for the then Vice President became the wave which swept away the carefully constructed political gimmick that left our country a joke nation, with a dying president, still upheld as ruling the roost. Goodluck Jonathan was swept into power as Acting President; and it was clear that the disgust felt by many Nigerians was one factor which worked in his favour during the 2011 election.

It is therefore incroyable (as the French say!), that the same President will choose to repeat the unwholesome approach which the Yar’Adua “cabal” employed to their own detriment during that really dark moment in our nation’s history. Why will the Presidency pretend that Nigerians can be kept in the dark forever?

Can’t they see that they have hurt themselves much more than they have helped? Didn’t they know that full disclosure about Dame Patience’s position, especially when it first broke, could have won them some empathy, after all, despite everything else, Nigerians are human and are likely to wish the President’s wife well and such empathy might also have rubbed off presidential rating, which has become really low?

Messy situation

After Yar’Adua’s death, a senator moved for a discussion of the entirely messy situation around the man’s hospitalization, the secret return to the country under cover of darkness, the problem with transfer of power, etc. But he was curtly over-ruled by David Mark.

The ruling elite refused to learn a lesson from that frightening episode which almost dissembled the political system; and in a bizarre manner, the situation in respect of Dame Patience’s disappearance is coming to haunt them! It is clear as daylight, that the political elite holds us in absolute contempt!

The silence over the fate of Dame Patience Jonathan is so loud in its consequence. But on behalf of Nigerians, may we ask President Goodluck Jonathan: “Where is Dame Patience”?

Bola Tinubu’s terminological inexactitude

I HAVE never met Bola Tinubu, but I have been told that he is a rather short man. I nevertheless get the feeling, that he must have a very tall ego; tall enough to fit the lofty ambitions of a man described as “National Leader” of his Action Congress of Nigeria party; a position I was also reliably informed, is not in the party’s constitution.

But what does it matter, Bola Tinubu literally ‘owns’ the party in truth, and whatever he chooses to be called only underlines his place as ‘owner’, ‘main shareholder’, ‘lawgiver’ and the ‘primus inter pares’ of Nigeria’s leading opposition party.

In truth, I am not his fan whatsoever, but I am a political realist and I grudgingly accept that he is a consummate master of the smoke-filled recessesof Nigerian political intrigues, and has been able to eyeball (no pun intended!) the PDP to submission, especially in his South West redoubt.

He has constructed a laager in Yorubaland and it is therefrom that he is taking the politics of merger into Northern Nigeria. What with the talks being held with Buhari’s CPC! If it works out, we face the interesting prospect of a political marriage between the North and the West, which can change a lot of things in our country, for better or worse.

But there is something eternally disturbing about the man. He has a tendency towards terminological inexactitudes: from the controversies about his academic records! The most recent issue is the alleged invitation to attend the Democratic Party’s National Convention.

Tinubu’s spokesperson, Sunday Dare had written that: “Tinubu will be at the ringside as the Democratic Party concludes activities that will culminate in the nomination of President Barack Obama as its candidate for the November 2012 presidential elections in the USA”.

The statement went further: “Tinubu received a gold card invitation which is prime…”, adding that Tinubu was invited as the leader of the opposition in Nigeria.

But in a dramatic twist, online journalism sites claimed that Bola Tinubu had purchased the invitation for five thousand dollars, contrary to claims of “a gold card invitation which is prime”. Quoting a DNC source, the online site, said “the invitation card sent to Tinubu …was generic” and it “generally goes from the campaign organisation and not personally from President Obama”.

Opening for counter blows

The ruling PDP, too long at the receiving end of Tinubu’s ACN’s political stick, found an opening for counter-blows, asking that Tinubu and his party come clean on the invitation. But the ACN’s Lai Muhammed, a longstanding Tinubu sidekick, pooh-poohed the challenge, alleging a smear campaign and shadow chasing by Tinubu’s PDP opponents.

When the central figure returned from his “successful” American visit last weekend, which included a carefully arranged picture of the “leader of Nigeria’s opposition (Bola Tinubu)” effusively clapping at the Convention, he asked the PDP to face serious issues of governance! Well said! Eh? Except that we are not any clearer about the issue at hand. Lai Muhammed passed the buck that not ACN but “Tinubu Media Office that issued an unambiguous self-explanatory statement”.

That may well be the truth, in terms of the point of origin of the spin that went decidedly wrong and exploded political bubbles in the faces of Tinubu and his party men.

They seemed to have missed the point. Politicians are wont to trying to do to the facts of situations, what Yuri Geller does to iron: bend them! When Tinubu got Sunday Dare to issue a statement that he was issued “a gold card invitation which is prime” as the “leader of the opposition in Nigeria”, it was clear that he was being “BIGGED UP” (as they say!), but like a hurriedly buried corpse with limbs sticking out of the grave, they didn’t reckon that the small lie could be so easily discovered in the world of online journalism and open spaces of search and find!

The central issue is credibility, dear Tinubu, Lai Muhammed and the Action Congress. You have become the biggest opposition group in Nigeria and are locked in talks to create an alternative platform to the highly compromised and incompetent PDP.

Nigerians expect you to be substantially different and be more responsible. If you tell small lies about invitations to conventions in America, on behalf of a Bola Tinubu that many people say might very well be Nigeria’s next vice president, what big lies may you have been telling the Nigerian people?

It is frightening that Tinubu, the consummate politician, who has built a notable personality cult amongst his followers, especially in the Southwest, seems to repeatedly stumble upon an unfortunate character flaw.

He is haunted by it; and though his generosity has helped to take the eyes of many commentators from this flaw, it is imperative, for the sake of the political and emotional hopes being invested in the merger talks, for Bola Tinubu and his handlers to respect the truth more consciously. The “gold invitation which is prime” tale does not do the man a lot of good!


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