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Nexus of self-service between FCT ministers and First Ladies

By EMMANUEL AZIKEN

Riveting media reports of last Thursday’s court judgment on the celebrated land dispute between Dame Patience Jonathan and Hajiya Turai Yar‘Adua was a sweet piece of cake for many. It was especially so for those who abhor the aggrandisement that has in recent times been associated with the spouses of the country’s leaders at national and state levels.

It was no surprise then that one common headline in the news reports was “Turai floors Patience,” a slant that was reflective of the empathy of the media towards the oppressed.

Both ladies interestingly, lay claim to the disputed land, not for personal use, but for some good works.

The choice piece of land in the heart of Abuja was first allocated to Mrs. Yar‘Adua’s NGO, Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation, WAYEF by the FCT authorities in February 2010 while her husband was president, and Dame Patience was in her shadow as wife of the Vice-President.

Remarkably, the allocation was confirmed on February 19, just five days before late President Umaru Yar‘Adua returned to the country in a near vegetative state. It is interesting to also note that the allocation was made at the peak of the intrigues woven by the cabal that at that time held the nation hostage with its manipulation of the whereabouts and circumstances of the then ailing president.

Turai Yar’Adua and Dame Patience Jonathan
Turai Yar’Adua and Dame Patience Jonathan

It is almost agreed by all that the activities of the two NGOs sponsored by the two women are virtually at parallel to the pains and penury of most Nigerian women. A comparison of the glitz and grandeur that shadow the banquets of recent first ladies and the drudgery and dourness around our womenfolk in both rural and urban settings underscores the point.

The land allocation to Turai’s WAYEF, according to the incumbent FCT Minister was revoked in “overriding public interest” and reallocated to the African Peace Mission, a club of African First Ladies championed by Patience.

But how did “overriding public interest” come to mean the interest of the First Lady in this instance? This has unintentionally exposed the nexus of self-interest between recent FCT ministers and the women that hold court at the Presidential Villa at anytime.

Of course there are few doubts that Gen. Jerry Useni who served as FCT minister throughout the Sani Abacha years exerted the greatest influence of all the ministers to have held that portfolio. His influence, some assert, was on account of military superiority and had nothing to do with Mrs. Abacha. Yet others claim his influence in the Abacha government drew from the common amusements he shared with Abacha during off duty hours beyond Mrs. Abacha’s horizon.

It was no surprise that Useni as a result of these off-duty proclivities was allegedly not a favourite guest at Mrs. Abacha’s dinner table.

The most memorable bond between an FCT minister and a First Lady was the bond created between Senator Adamu Aliero and Hajia Turia Yar‘Adua.

The little that is remembered of Aliero’s 18 or so months in office was his very unpopular mounting of bumps on major highways in Abuja.

Called upon by the Senate and the House to remove the destructive bumps, Aliero, apparently comforted by the support he is alleged to have gained from Turai, snubbed the National Assembly. He was to emerge as a part of the cabal that gained prominence at the height of the illness that befell President Umaru Yar‘Adua.

Remarkably, while the nation was awestruck on the whereabouts and well-being of President Yar‘Adua, Aliero on February 19, 2010 finalised allocation of the piece of land now in dispute to Turai’s WAYEF.

It was no surprise that Aliero was one of the first casualties to be sacked by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan after Senator Bala Mohammed led the Group of 82 senators in the National Interest Group, NIG to enthrone then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President in February 2010.

Bala at the instance of senators was made Minister of FCT, an appointment he has apparently savoured. Though he was made FCT minister at the instance of senators, he has moved deeper into the circles of the Jonathan administration through his unpretentious devotion to Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan.

It is indeed argued in some quarters that the revocation of the land originally allocated to Turai by his predecessor, Aliero, was to further consolidate his already warm relationship with the First Family.

But in doing so, the courts have disagreed with him. Further, public opinion holds that neither Turai nor Patience should, through their privileged positions as presidential spouses ambush the national heritage.

The offices and causes of the presidential and gubernatorial spouses  are distractions that have been of little benefit to anyone!


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