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Eight years of “Madam President”: Issue for 2015 (1)

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By Dele Sobowale

“Most men are fighting for their lives in whatever they are doing; and a wife can only be with them or against them”. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 272).

“Let them eat cake”. Queen Marie-Antoinette. 1755-1793.

President Jonathan certainly did not wish this to happen. But, whether the country will be willing to stomach four more years of Mrs Patience Jonathan, or not, has suddenly become a campaign issue – even before the struggle for Aso Rock 2015 starts. However, before going into the details, permit me to bring the issue into historical, global and political perspective – if not for anything else but because of those who already concluded that Dele Sobowale hates Jonathan.

Our President and his wife are treading a path which others have trodden with different results.

For those who read the Bible, the first major example of a wife’s intervention in statecraft involved Queen Esther who violated established protocol to see the King and obtain a favourable decision for her people. The last century, the 20th century, recorded at least three such interventions by “Madam Presidents”. One ended well; two others did not. Perhaps, that brief summary of history should permit me to issue Dele Sobowale’s First Law for Presidents or Prime Ministers – “Keep your wife or husband out of it as much as possible; the odds that they will do you any good are long; very long”.

Mary Antoinette uttered those fatal words when the French masses were protesting the unaffordable price of bread – which was their favourite meal. Uncaring Marie announced that they should go and eat cake – which was, and still is, more expensive than bread. A revolution occurred. She and her husband King Louis the 16th, 1764-1793, were dethroned and beheaded. It was a bloody revolution. What Marie had in common with most wives, who publicly intervened disastrously in their husbands political lives, was low-breeding. They were born and raised “shoe-less” – to use a word with which Nigerians are by now familiar. And, they behaved as if they wanted to rub everybody’s face in the dirt from which they sprang.

* Dame Patience Jonathan
* Dame Patience Jonathan

The outstanding example of wifely intervention ending with everybody sleeping peacefully in their beds belongs to Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962, wife of American President Franklin D Roosevelt, 1882-1945. She became more assertive in public policy decisions as her husband’s health deteriorated. But, she was active right from the start.

Part of the success of Eleanor Roosevelt can be attributed to the fact that she was born into the American elite families who have always been close to the seat of power. So, unlike those tasting power and wealth for the first time in their lives, she had no reason to flaunt it. Her interventions were therefore well researched and widely accepted; she bent over backwards to be diplomatic even when issuing orders to those who could not possibly refuse to obey her.

Imelda Marcos of Philippine thought that being wife of a dictator was her “armour against fate”. She went about be-decked in diamond and gold chains and rings. Her major claim to fame consisted in her collection of 1,000 expensive shoes – which she was never tired of showing to visitors.

Not bad for someone who grew up shoeless in a shack – until the, mostly hungry, people got sick and tired of the show and threw out President Marcos and seized the collection of shoes. At least, her life was spared.

The autocratic late President of Rumania and his wife, who also publicly intervened in political affairs, were not so lucky. When the uprising came, both husband and wife were dragged out of the “Palace”, and after being murdered, had their corpses dragged all over the capital by the masses they previously treated with disdain.

I can go back in history and provide several dozen examples from ancient times till today. A bigger tally of examples will still lead to the same conclusion – it is perilous business for a political leader to get his/her spouse involved in governance. One head on the chopping block is enough; why two? Intervention, which is inevitable,mis better be left for the bedroom – of course, without a microphone planted by foes…..

“History does not repeat itself; man does”, Barbara Tuchman, US Historian, expert on 13th and 14th Centuries Europe.

Among the men who repeat themselves, we can now indisputably add ASUU members. And, it is difficult to believe some of them are historians!!! God help us!! I am not a certified historian; I learnt all my “history” in the School of Hard Knocks – which is another synonym for EXPERIENCE. At Unijankara, our only mandatory course is HISTORY; because if you don’t know where you are coming from, you are likely to end up where you don’t want to be – like ASUU; now all tied up in their under garments. To understand how pathetic these ASUU guys are, permit me to bring you in two installments articles which appeared on this page years ago predicting the current impasse. Enjoy it; if you have no kid in one of the universities involved. And don’t forget to send me a bottle of GULDER for accurate prediction once again.

“Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result”.

If there are people not surprised that ASUU is back on strike, they are the faculty and students of UniJankara – Seat of Street Wisdom. We don’t blow grammar like the Professors of ASUU do, but we know when we are dealing with con-men – even if they are called Presidents and Vice-Presidents. Now that ASUU is again back on strike, let me remind our readers of the article published on these pages in June this year under the title: ROPE A DOPE –ASUU. Enjoy yourself and send us a bottle of beer for accuracy of prediction. Otherwise, advise ASUU to hire us as consultants next time they negotiate with Jonathan and Co. Right now these ASUU guys are pathetic!!
To be continued…..

“Government cannot pay the N92b owed to ASUU..”, Finance Minister.

That was the lead story for several newspapers last week and it portends the disaster that will befall university students and their parents from now until the matter is resolved.

Unfortunately, the Minister for Finance and Coordinating Minister for economics had just made the matter worse by making a declaration which is totally fallacious. I don’t know if Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala took an elective course in SEMANTICS at Harvard, but I am sure she remembers from Economics 101 that the study of economics is about the allocation of scarce resources. A government which parades forty-four Ministers, compared with 15 for the USA and China had already allocated the resources available to it in a way that should make reasonable people shake their heads.

There is a distinct difference between “can’t pay and won’t pay”.

The Federal government can pay; but because of wasteful spending and endemic corruption it won’t. By the way, whose money is Madam President using to cause traffic hold-ups nationwide? Which other wife of a President under the sky does that today?


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