By Alfred Isokari
Pray, what is Nigerian turning into? That the unelected wife of the president, and I don’t care if she is called first or last lady, is allowed to hold a city of over 12 million people to ransom, paralyzing all economic and social activity. Last Thursday in Lagos we had on display a naked show of strength and overzealousness condemnable in every sense of the word. It was an assault on the rights and sensibilities of Nigerians, unsurpassed in recent times that the wife of the president, whose name was never on the ballot and whose role is not recognized by the Nigerian constitutional is accorded such expanse of power and the abuse of same. For a ‘Thank You and Peace Advocacy’ visit it was overkill. Why choose Lagos for a thank you visit meant for South-South women voters?
Lagos and Lagosians went through hell last Thursday when Patience Goodluck, the wife of the President of Nigeria invaded Lagos. For nine hours she shut down Lagos and turned the lives of residents to hell. The whole security apparatus of the federal government and other personnel and services were deployed and put at her service. I recall the President himself had visited Lagos a few times in the recent past, yet the city did not groan or suffer a shut down like we saw last Thursday. The President is Nigeria’s constitutional leader. He was the one that Nigerians voted for and by virtue of his position within the ambit of the law enjoys the highest level of protection and security. It is however most unjustifiable for his wife, who is unrecognized in our constitution by any stretch of imagination to appropriate the same protection enjoyed by the president. Just imagine. Nigeria will be an Island of confusion and a security nightmare if all “first ladies” operate like Patience Goodluck.
It is no longer news that the visit of Patience, the wife of the President Goodluck Jonathan, to Lagos State on Thursday, paralyzed social and commercial activities on Lagos Island for over nine hours. She attended an event at Ocean View Restaurant on Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Victoria Island.
For an orchestrated and ordinary thank you visit to South-South women in Lagos for voting for her husband in 2011, Patience Jonathan and her security goons made the lives of thousands of Lagosians struggling to make an honest living hell. Commuters, office workers and local and international businesspersons got stuck in hours of endless traffic and detours just because of one person-the wife of the President who was never on the ballot or voted for. What happened on Thursday is the height of executive insensitivity and a flagrant violation of our constitution.
Nothing captures the anger of Lagosians like the exasperation of one businessman whom I spoke with. Hear him out, “Everybody is boiling in Lagos. I am boiling right now. I cancelled four meetings today because I couldn’t get through traffic or people were running very late. Lagos and the economy loose millions just because the wife of somebody is here to thank south-south women. Not even to thank Nigerian women or launch a poverty alleviation programme? You can see the emptiness and vanity in government…” At this point I had to stop my him because he was set to launch more attacks.
This development portends great dangers for our polity and tells a lot about the kind of country and government we have. If the wife of a president can be accorded such license, then we are in for a ride. Others who have direct links to the President can also simply appropriate such persons for personal aggrandizement, use it to muzzle political opponents and flagrantly violate the rights of ordinary citizens all in the name of the President.
We live in a country where those elected to govern us now rule Nigeria like a fiefdom, a sad throw back to the post independence era and the climate of dictatorship witnessed under the military. Consequently, they feel in secure and derive sadistic pleasure from making the people that voted for them suffer. The Security phalanx thrown around Patience Goodluck and around Lagos was uncalled for and unjustifiable. We live in the same country but we operate different set of rules. For an event billed for noon, the President’s wife showed up almost four hours late. Four hours in which Lagosians suffered. The Oba of Lagos and titled chiefs were given noon appointments. Patience goodluck never showed up till 3.30pm. For a woman who ordinary should not be in our faces everyday and who Nigerians never voted for, it is a great insult possible only under an imperial presidency like we have it in Nigeria.
With Patience Jonathan Goodluck, Nigerians are now saddled with two Presidents- one voted in, the other not voted for. With Patience, Nigerians must consider Maryam Babangida a saint. Though she commanded her own troop, she gave something in return. She also brought grace to her position and not brute force and naked display of power. And did I hear someone say Maryam brought some level of education and intellectual bent to what she was about. In contrast to what we now have on display, Nigerians know that they are in for a ride.
In all of this, we must ask pertinent questions and demand answers. It is time to head to the courts and seek out what the role and power limits of the wife of the President and albeit the wife of governors are within the constitution. And not just stop there-we must seek to enforce these provisions. Secondly, how much did the 8-hour naked show of power cost the taxpayers? We need to know. For the minders of Patience Jonathan, they insult our sensibilities and do her reputation and that of her husband great harm. That she will storm Lagos to just to thank south-south women for voting for her husband is laughable. Sounds like work for a jobless person. More importantly, the last time I checked, Nigerians from every geo-political area voted for Jonathan Goodluck during the Presidential polls. Now we know that our country is being run on the basis of ethnicity. South-South Women thank you visit. Please! Pray what more should we expect? Nigerians are taking note and will decide for whom to cast their votes next time. That Thursday visit is a shame, it is detestable, unjustifiable and should be investigated. And governor Fashola, when next such a grandiose visit is been planned, own up and tell it to their faces that you cannot guarantee that Lagosians will tolerate such an imposition and obstruction of their daily lives for someone they never voted for or hardly know.