The First Ladies (3): Mrs. Patience Jonathan’s troubling “first ladyism”

February 23, 2012 

by Tola Adenle

I know I should stop visiting this subject but I want to pay a FINAL visit!
We had all been using belabored titles in writing about different first ladies, when – who else but – Soyinka coined the pithy “first ladyism” during the imperial presidency of retired General Obasanjo (rGO). Soyinka coined the phrase around the time that Late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo ordered state clones who called him “Mommy” to stop using “first lady”. For those always seeing ethnicity in all things, Mrs. Yar Adua was not the first to make multiple appearances here. So has Osun’s Mrs. Oyinlola. In one, “Say it ain’t so, princess” in ’04, I wondered how Oyinlola could claim an event center was from her “personal sweat”, when she had been reportedly sued by A.D. for that; her husband, retd. Brigadier Oyinlola had donated N50 million “on behalf of Osun State Government” to the wife’s project.

In line with the madness first started by Late Mrs. Mariam Babangida who cannot be left alone especially with her husband raring to have a go at completing what he started in his earlier reign, AND the recent echo in Kaduna where her daughter continues her own “first ladyism” march from first daughterism with her launch of Better Life Programme for the African Women! Who knows, with the rampaging “zoning” plague, Aisha Babangida Shinkafi (Zamfara) may one day relaunch “Better Life …” at Abuja while Alhaji Shinkafi lead whatever remains of Nigeria.

I visited Mrs. Yar Adua’s marrying daughters who stepped from first daughterisms into “first ladyisms” and their mother’s very mercantile “first ladyism” several times starting with the Katsina launch of her “pet project.” The Turai-led “African First Ladies…” organization launched in far-away Beverly Hills at which Nigerian giant oil companies donated generously also appeared here. I wondered at the composition that included only a handful of the likes of Cameroon’s Mrs. Biya; the hurried nature of the launch and how the money raised would be shared, etc. I also wrote on her cancer center which I suggested was becoming a clearly private business and noted the roles played at the Abuja launch by Madam Great Nation [Akunyili] and the Federal Capital Minister.

I not only wrote on Late Stella but her brother’s reported role in Nigerian Cricket. Beyond “first ladyism”, I wrote a lot on rGO: his governance style; the impropriety of his business dealings; the forced donation by state governors to his so-called library and also his [then] bound-to fail 20th Century approach to a 21st Century phenomenon: attempt to shut Sahara Reporters’ website down in 2006 in my column, I wondered aloud: “Who is afraid of Sowore?” In fact, what I wrote on ALL politicians and first ladies – put together – are perhaps less than what I wrote on rGO during his presidency.
Now, we seem to have a virulent form of “first ladyism” on our hands. One day, Mrs. Patience Jonathan is in Bayelsa on an “official two-day visit” publicly telling Governor Amaechi to “Listen! You must listen to me!” Figuratively the next day, she’s causing traffic chaos and stampede leading to deaths while her agents give out “free rice” on Abuja streets. Earlier, she had flown to the Middle East – to see the Chagourys, it was alleged – soon after her man became president. I also read she was planning a birthday jaunt to New York with 50 friends to mark her 50th to be led – I was as sure – by Ubiquitous Friend of First Ladies Past and Present, Multi-Billionaire Bola Sagaya: reportedly very close to Mariam, Turai and “best friends and confidant” of Patience’s.
The bombs at Abuja heard around the world on October 1 must have put a stop to that madness. I “make bold to say” that Patience’s “first ladyism” is an albatross to the Good Doctor who seems more reticent.

[As I wrote this first week of October 2010 to be used about a month later on November 14, I had already turned in my notice to quit to my editor who would understand the first paragraph of the essay. TOLA.]



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