By Morenike Taire
These are really bad times for Patience Faka Jonathan, the same former first lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Far gone are the ‘umblerra ‘crowds and the social media bulldogs ever ready to bare ferocious teeth even before she was attacked; the ones that wrote on her behalf and on behalf of the public a most fantastic resume in justification of her ‘employment’ as Permanent Secretary in her state civil service.
These days, it is one day, one trouble for Dame Patience, who appears to have rubbed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, down the wrong way.
It is not the first time that a first lady of Nigeria would come under fire for her activities while occupying Aso Rock, as distinct from those of her husband within the same period. The wife of the first president of the Fourth Republic, the much beloved Stella, had not survived power; but before her had been the wife of one of Nigeria’s most rabid dictators, Hajiya Maryam Abacha, whose predecessor had also unfortunately not stuck around for long enough to be persecuted.
And while ‘be3ing persecuted’ might not be an accurate turn of phrase, Maryam Abacha’s troubles with anticorruption activities bordered on the ridiculous. It was not about the 142 billion naira of the Abacha loot which the Swiss government eventually returned to Nigeria by March 2016, nor the remaining 63 billion naira which President Mohammadu Buhari had proceeded to pursue. It was about the incredible amount of hatred that the people of Nigeria had for her dictator husband and which was fully extended to his widow.
In such matters, it is difficult to push politics to one side, as it were. This is what makes the case of Patience Jonathan quite strange. While former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is beloved by most Nigerians, that love is not extended to his loving wife who, by all accounts has played an important role in his successes.
While the Abachas have survived- even thrived- their political future appears to have been truncated. It is unlikely that an Abacha would step into the national political terrain, much less be accepted and accommodated. Of course the Abacha loot far exceeds anything that has been traced to Patience Jonathan at this time; and technology has ensured that there is no hiding place for the goldfish that looters and cheats have become- even on the global scale.
But the most recent revelations about monies Dame Patience has been accused of illegally acquiring and spending point to a very meticulous investigative effort. This strengthens the argument of those who have labeled the entire thing a witch hunt of a very classic sort.
Of course the EFCC has every right to investigate and prosecute- as well as seize the assets and properties of public individuals who have had more than an ordinate access to the commonwealth. The anticorruption body in addition has a right to inform the Nigerian public about the particulars of the proceedings of such inquests, prosecutions investigations and seizures according to its discretion in such matters. It is therefore extremely difficult, if not impossible, for accusations of witch hunting to stick.
Yet it is clear that Dame Patience Faka- though no longer in power- is the thread that holds together many political permutations and strongholds with 2019 in view. Whether or not her detractors agree, Dame Patience is the most experienced Nigerian first lady, living or dead, with her spouse having served as Deputy Governor, Governor, vice President and President in consecutive terms. She is also one of the most politically aware, with her influence straddling two of the most important and oil rich states in the country. With the fate of major political parties dependent on her whims, it is no wonder that she is still a political force to fear, if not respect.
At the end of the day, an out of court settlement is not out of order. While the appeal of her lawyer to EFCC for an out of court settlement is seen as an admission of guilt and at the very least an act of weakness, it is most likely a very political move.
As long as there are no laws in Nigeria against awarding massive government contracts to your friends and family, it would be almost impossible to win any court battle against Dame Jonathan regarding her possessions in Nigeria. Her era is way past that of when Nigerians kept their unclean monies in banks in Switzerland and other super civilized countries.
At the current pace, court actions might not be resolved until after next year’s presidential elections anyway; by which time all the murky waters would have passed under the bridge and replaced by fresh, safe waters. If anyone understands it, Patience Jonathan understands the simple and common adage which many know but really do not understand in principle: He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.