Nigeria's First Lady, Patience Faka Jonathan, on Sunday 4th May, 2014 convened a meeting of stakeholders over the abduction of over two hundred female students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State. A video clip of the meeting in which she broke down in tears has since gone viral on the social media. In the 90 seconds clip, Mrs. Jonathan was heard lamenting and sobbing in the following words:
"Principal, do you come with two teachers? Ehn? You were not informed too?
Continue. No problem. God will see us.
There is God. There is God in everything we are doing.
Those bloods that are sharing in Borno will answer.
What of two teachers, WAEC, two teach..., ehn two, ehn what of two teachers that can tell us that they conducted that exam?
Do you come with any?
Principal, no too?
You, only you waka come! Okay! Now the first lady is calling you: come I want to help you. Come to find ya par... ya child, ya missing child. Will you keep quiet?
Chei! Chei!! There is God o! There is God o!!
The bloods we are sharing, there is God o! There is God o!! There is God o!!!....." Till fade.
The meeting was convened ostensibly as a contribution of her quota to the ongoing bring-back-our-girls campaign spreading round the country and beyond.
However, even as one is tempted to applaud the First Lady's well choreographed empathy for the abducted students, a careful observation shows that her actions and statements manifest so many vexatious issues that need to be addressed, and call for a redefinition of the designation "First Lady" in the light of the Nigerian constitution – at least for those who do not know and for those who know but are simply over-inebriated with impunity.
To start with, there is no such thing as the office of the First Lady in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And to that extent, the wife of the president – at best – is, as described by the literary icon, Professor Wole Soyinka, a mere domestic appendage of the president. In case you don't get it, what that simply means is that morally and constitutionally, the First Lady is no more than the president's wife. Therefore, one wonders under which powers she constituted a one-man panel of enquiry into a national issue, dishing out blame here and there, accusing people of blackmailing her husband. One wonders wherefrom she derives the constitutional authority to summon the wife of the Borno State Governor, Hajiya Nana Kashim Shettima, together with the wives of the governors of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Nasarawa and Zamfara states, as well as other civil servants and public officers, including the Borno State commissioner of police, the commissioner of women affairs, the principal of Chibok Government secondary School, the Chairman of Chibok Local Government Area, the divisional police officer in the area, and security officers on duty when the girls were abducted, to a meeting of which attendance is mandatory.
Could anyone imagine a similar kidnap incident taking place in the United States of America and Michelle Obama summoning governors wives and public officers to a stakeholders meeting, whatsoever, on the issue? Americans would not take that. Neither the wife of the US president nor the wife of the British Prime Minister wields such powers. It is only in Nigeria that the First Lady sees herself, more or less, as the Vice President or Assistant President. But the fact is that if the president's wife can assume such powers, then the president's brother, the president's sister, or even the president's grandmother can constitute a panel of enquiry on any issue of their choice, and summon the state governors and their entire families (not only their wives) to appear before it.
Moreover, Mrs. Jonathan's fury over the Borno State First Lady's refusal to obey her summons shows that she sees the wives of the elected governors of the 36 states of the federation (and perhaps the wife of the FCT Minister) as her subordinates; wholly and dutifully answerable to her. I think it is important to remind her that the PDP presidential ticket at the last general elections carried the names of Goodluck Jonathan and Namadi Sambo. It wasn't a Jonathan/Patience ticket. If Patience is as interested in power as Jonathan, she is free to fraternize with any political party of her choice (apologies to Chief Zebrudaya) and unseat her husband, come 2015.
Secondly, it is preposterous that Mrs. Jonathan, in a Kema Chikwe-like fashion, insinuated that the Chibok abduction story is only a hoax. This is coming in spite of the traumatized and agonized mothers who have been thronging the streets crying helplessly and calling on the government to live up to its expectations to ensure the safety of its own citizens, and the international attention the issue has received. It is coming in spite of the litany of promises by her husband that no effort will be spared to free the girls from captivity. And it is coming in spite of the bogus claim made a few days after the abduction, by the military mouthpiece, Maj. Gen. Christopher Olukolade, that all but eight of the abducted girls had been freed by the military commandos – a claim which turned out to be one of the many deceitful propagandas of the Nigerian military and has since been retracted.
Besides, the First Lady's unfortunate insinuations that no examination was conducted in that school on that day, let alone students been abducted, means that her cry wasn't in sympathy for the abducted girls and their bereaved relatives and friends (as she doesn't believe the story in the first place and even called on the protesters to desist or have themselves to blame), but for the "insubordination" and "disregard" for her high office by the Borno State First Lady and others who failed to comply with her summons. Her cry was for the fact that this issue has further exposed the hollowness of the present government under the superintendence of her spouse, and the likely setback it may have on her spouse's do-or-die 2015 presidential comeback bid, which is the only guarantee for her continued reign in "office" as the First Lady.
Finally, and even more disturbing, is Mrs. Jonathan's effrontery to set aside and undermine the entire security agencies in the country – including the police, SSS and the military, and the panel recently inaugurated by her husband to search for the missing girls – to do a unilateral and parallel investigation into the issue. I am not certain whether she is doing this based on her rich experience garnered from the American FBI and the Israeli Mossad, because I do not know if she is a pensioner of those two security intelligence agencies. But what I can tell for sure is that her dabbling into the issue in a manner that is meant to whip-up sentiments for her husband, especially when considered against the backdrop of the fact that she has no constitutional backing to do any form of security investigation, will surely do more harm than good. If she wants to play the role of a responsible First Lady, the best she can do is to call on the government and the security agencies to work round-the-clock to ensure the safe return of those girls – our dear daughters – to us, just like every other well-meaning Nigerian is doing.
Flippant statements, baseless accusations and tearless cries of a lame Dame cannot be the solution to the monster bedeviling our nation known as Boko Haram. It is an issue that should be reserved only for the intelligent minds, the relevant authorities, and the SMEs (subject matter experts).
Abu Bilaal Abdulrazaq bn Bello bn Oare
Email: [email protected]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters