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The First Lady in Rivers

Mothers in Rivers State are happy once again since the visit of the mother of the nation, the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan. This is because of the gains of her recent visit including the establishment of the South-South secretariat of her pet project, Women for Change and Development Initiative.

Now, the dividends of democracy would trickle faster to the women and youths in the state and the zone. It is however sad that all the time the First Lady spent in Rivers State, Governopr Rotimi Amaechi and his wife, Judith, did not attend to her. Amaechi simply sent his deputy, Tele Ikuru, to the events. Even the Okrika Local Government Chairman, Tamuno Williams, did not care to show up and, of course, his wife was nowhere near the events.

Yes, there are some perceived political differences between Amaechi and  President Goodluck Jonathan, but should such matter be allowed into the public domain? Did the governor expect the President’s men and supporters to keep quiet forever while he went about around the country and beyond collaborating with opponents of Mr President?

In August 2010, when the First Lady visited Rivers State, there was an incident that has continued to divide Government House, Port Harcourt and Abuja. Amaechi was alleged to have threatened Okrika people right there in the presence of their highly esteemed daughter, Dame Jonathan, about how he ‘must’ demolish some of the waterfronts where most of the people reside and do business.

The issue of demolition is a controversial and tempestuous one. Apparently noting that tempers were beginning to rise and to douse it, the mother of the nation was said to have intervened and cautioned the governor on the need to use consultation instead of force. This simple matter was spinned out of hand to the extent that has to this day remained a sour point. A better handling would have turned the matter to mere fun.

Media reports said Amaechi took offense and never cared to support the First Lady all through her stay until she left for Abuja. The hostility seems to have continued. Instead of those around the governor to try to close these gaps and view the First Lady’s utterances in the positive, in the light of what she wanted to convey, being the need for caution and peace, the aides continued to fan the embers of hatred until the relationship festered.

No matter what is perceived to be happening between him and Jonathan, Amaechi ought to have come out to receive the First Lady during her latest visit. In fact, some feel that it would rather have been a wonderful opportunity to mend fences.

When other states crave to have a footing in the Presidency and hope to use it to great advantage for their areas, the case of Rivers State seems to be the opposite. It is not often that a state such as Rivers would produce a governor and president who come from the same university (Uniport), grew up in Port Harcourt, and produce both president (old Rivers State) and the First Lady (from Okrika in Rivers State).

To crown it all, the same state produced the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF). Such a lucky state would have maximized this overwhelming advantage and probably build a lobby team around their sister to penetrate the Presidency and other federal institutions. It would be left to imagination if there is any problem under the sun that this strategy would not solve.

Those around the governor forget that nobody knows what tomorrow may bring and that alliances do change. The truth is that the First Lady has reason to want to make peace trips home. If a wife decides to go back to her roots and build consensus and platforms to resolve all issues and lead a front to relate with her husband’s administration, would she be seen as antagonistic to the interest of Rivers State?

After all, she would not gain anything from a disunited home state. This explains her peace tour that touched the homes of the most prominent leaders who control sections and groups of the state. All over the world, relations, mother, and even children of leaders often expand the support base of the spouses or principals.

This is fair so long as no breach of the law was involved. As Mr President’s image maker, Reuben Abati, has already explained, the First Lady is most unlikely to aspire to any other higher office or contest for positions in Rivers State  and so has no reason to drag office with anybody.

*Hope Igwe-Agbo, a lecturer, resides in Port Harcourt, Rivers State


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