What Patience Jonathan Owes Nigerians By Okey Ndibe

Okey Ndibe
Okey Ndibe

Last year, Nigeria’s First Lady Patience Jonathan spent six weeks in a Germany hospital receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment. Nigerians footed the bill for her treatment, but neither her office nor that of her husband considered us deserving of the slightest bit of truth-telling. It took the effort of enterprising online reporters to inform Nigerians that their president’s wife was sick, and that she was undergoing treatment in far-away Germany.


Even so, her spokesman countered – in a facile response – that Mrs. Jonathan was a picture of buoyant health. She’d traveled back, he said, to rest after the fatigue of hosting a meeting of African First Ladies in Abuja. Of course, the irony of the claim didn’t strike the fibbing spokesman. If the spouse of Nigeria’s president does not find Aso Rock – the most palatial address in Nigeria – conducive to resting, then the country her husband runs must be pure hell for other (by far less fortunate) Nigerians.  


During Mrs. Jonathan’s absence, I came to find out how patient and forgiving Nigerians can be. On Facebook, twitter and other online forums, many wrote that they were praying for their ailing First Lady. Amazed by such gush of generosity, I wrote column calling on Mrs. Jonathan, once she recovered and returned to Nigeria, to repay the love nudging her husband to become a responsive, public-spirited leader. I suggested, for one, that she must impress on Mr. Jonathan that he has a duty to give Nigerians a healthcare system that’s worthy of humans. 


It’s a scandal that Nigerian officials (as well as the broader class of the well-to-do) now troop to the UK, France, Germany, South Africa, India and the US for medical treatment. Part of the scandal lies in the fact that Nigerians are some of the top doctors in any field of medicine. Given a visionary leader committed to transformation – as opposed to a poseur who likes to fancy himself a transformational figure – many of these doctors will need little prodding to come home and set up practices. But no: most of our so-called leaders are deaf to the shame of running a country that has no coherent health policy. 


Consider this: Nelson Mandela is one of the world’s most revered persons. Yet, whenever he takes ill, he’s treated in South African hospitals by South African doctors. He’s not flown abroad with the kind of fanfare that Nigerian officials organize, a fanfare that advertises Nigeria as a failed, forlorn state. Consider this, too: when former Ghanaian President John Atta-Mills battled a serious ailment, he stayed and was treated in Ghana. Yes, he died in the end – as all must die – but he made the point that he had confidence in his country’s medical institution. By contrast, no Nigerian official wants to be caught dead or alive in a Nigerian hospital! They know how dismal Nigerian healthcare is; they know because, in the final reckoning, they had a hand in gutting the system. 


I’m the first to admit that I had no reason to expect that Mrs. Jonathan would rise to my lofty challenge, but I issued it all the same. As Nigerians, we had paid to enable her to receive the best possible treatment from fine German doctors in a hospital with sophisticated diagnostic equipment. At minimum, she owed it to us to become an advocate for a significantly improved healthcare in Nigeria.


It’s since become clear that Mrs. Jonathan is preoccupied with other plans and priorities. Nigerians were stunned to learn that the Federal Capital Territory has asked for N4 billion to construct a huge building for Mrs. Jonathan in Abuja. There’s no way to euphemize it: the idea is wacky. 


It’s astonishing that the president, his wife and a bevy of officials around them would allow this project to go beyond conception and make its way into the FCT’s budget proposals. Does it mean that nobody within that circle has the sense to recognize an outrage? In a country where many workers are yet to receive the minimum monthly wage of N18,000; where roads are a shambles; where hospitals are a mockery; where universities and polytechnics are bereft of equipment and research funds; where generators snarl and rattle because electric power is erratic; where cities have no trash disposal systems; where police training schools are in squalid shape; where many adults are so crushed by hardship they declare their own children witches and wizards – in such a country, how did the ensemble at Aso Rock permit the impunity of a N4 billion building for Mrs. Jonathan to see the light of day? Pray, how? 


Such a project makes sense only to that insouciant coterie that inhabits the rooms and corridors of power.  It’s not enough insult to our sensibility that Mr. Jonathan is spending N2 billion to build a larger banquet hall for his feasts. It’s not enough outrage that billions more has been allocated to build an even grander residence for the Vice President – who already lives in one of the grandest homes in Abuja. Now, the First Lady – just recently rescued from sickness by the collective wealth of Nigerians – must add to the list of outrages a project that amplifies a vulgar, self-aggrandizing taste. 


Last year, Mr. Jonathan and his ministers ramped up the message that Nigeria was virtually broke and that the government could no longer afford subsidizing the cost of fuel. Did the president not dial the same message of economic scarcity to his wife? For that matter, did he not internalize the message himself? Why do poor, misgoverned Nigerians get one message of dire economic times but the nation’s spoilt, mediocre officials act in a way that suggests the country has a slush of cash – the only problem being how to spend the damn thing? 


How does the First Lady’s N4 billion fantasy “mission house” advance the healthcare of Nigerians? How does it add to the quality of life of a people trapped in conditions that should not exist in the 21st century? The people of the Niger Delta –President Jonathan’s home zone – decry the slow progress in rehabilitating the all-too important East-West Road. Instead of focusing on such people-oriented projects, why does the present administration set its sights on decidedly wasteful, useless projects that merely inflate the egos of a few?  


It’s time those closest to Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan told them a few home truths. The country’s first citizens ought to be told that power is transient. Nobody is assessed a great leader on the basis of acts that served his – and/or his wife’s – fantasies of grandeur. If Mrs. Jonathan is incapable of realizing how offensive her immoderate N4 billion project is, somebody around her should rise to the occasion and do her the favor of spelling it out. 


We don’t owe her a N4 billion house; she owes us to be a voice whispering an insistent message into her husband’s ears: Let’s serve, rather than be the served. 


Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe


51 comment(s)
Post a comment

the brits handed-over 9ja 2 d regional rogues-not jonah

Okey and his pack of wolfs left the shores of 9ja as economic migrants long before GEJ became president-if the country he claims to hail from was dat good-he would have stayed behind in 9ja-to be identified with the elites sponsoring his baby pan-cake sentiments against the president-when did Okey jet out of 9ja-was he running away from the new tax regime jonah introduced when he left? Or just wanted to reside in a country where u have constant light, water, good road-and schools with no boko haram headlight-trained on our regional faces? Okey and his regional pals on auto pilot are-yearning to have one of their own rule us in aso rock-They should be told they had their chance from 1960 to 2011 to fix 9ja-who is over 52 yrs old-same with Kuwait-Malaysia among other developing nations-like Dubai-the Brits did not hand over power to jonah-it was to Zik and Balewa! Yet we complain after stealing over 55 trillion from the village of GEJ since 1958-haba malam

Mr Okey Ndibe I have always

Mr Okey Ndibe

I have always enjoyed reading from you, that is, if you are the same Okey Ndibe that once wrote for 'The Guardian' newspaper.
As for the subject matter, the case of Nigeria does not surprise me anymore, but the only surprise for me is the fact that your friend, Mr Reuben Abati, the ever constructive Reuben Abati is still servicing in this govt.
What do you think about this?

These conditions which

These conditions which nigerians found themselves are so pathetic. It is a shame to mr&mrs Gej and to all His cabinet.

Hands on Deck.

@Wole, am not going to realy critisize you that much on your retialations on Okey piece, am just going to lay down some spirited emphasis.
First, take a look around you, I dont know where you are right now or where you stay but please at least see before you leap. Is this what you think as first development as begining of a new era. In Kaduna state; when yeye Namadi Sambo was Governor he wallowed a lot of Billions on a ghost projects, like millenium city for example, now where has that made for the masses. NOTHING!. So this evil PDP you are passionatly supporting or I dont know if you are Abati's nephew or PA. Wake up and smell the coffee. The US you are incessantly invoking, did not start like this, go back to history and see for yourself. How can you dress with a new cloth without taking a bath, thats what Nigerian government are doing and have been doing. You are talking of the truth, look at the handwrittings on the wall, isnt obvious?.

May God Bless Naijar.



Kudos, Okey Ndibe

Great writing. You are a inspiration to upcoming writers. God save Naija.

Honestly you are benefiting

Honestly you are benefiting something from this government, you sound like someone who is getting something.

You sound like one them

You sound like one them

Honestly you forgot to take

Honestly you forgot to take your drugs this morning. Before you start opening your mouth here, pick up your dictionary and find what LEADER means.

Sad!Sad! One day the poor

One day the poor will have no place to sleep in Nigeria.



No real mother will see the intensity of the suffering encountered by Nigerians especially those living in the rural areas and indulge in the kind of opulent senseless and decadent lifestyle of this woman.
Why not have a quiet thanksgiving,why spend 500,000 Naira on the irresponsible fanfare when she knows that women in our villages are dying during child-birth due to out-dated health facilities.What on earth happened to compassion?Mr Jonathan claimed he never had shoes but has now become the most extravagant,heartless and shameless head of state ever in the history of Nigeria.
The kind of projects this Jonathan roots for is really heat-breaking when one takes into consideration what can be achieved if the funds were better utilized,This useless 4 billion Naira edifice has been criticised by well meaning Nigerians from across the political and intellectual spectrum yet he has not seen reason to retrace his steps,Nigeria is seriously misruled.

I work in a hospital in

I work in a hospital in Yenagoa. I can confidently tell you that there is no functional Bayelsa state-owned hospital. FMC yenagoa is the only semblance of a functioning public hospital. The 500 bed hospital started by Alams is lying waste. The first family should be ashamed. That money can turn Bayelsa state to a medical tourism destination.

@Fatrick Luu. your comment

@Fatrick Luu. your comment shows clearly that u dont have a clue of what this goverment people has done to Nigeria. u are attacking a writer/journalist that exposed the truth to nigerians.u must be one of those goverment crooks directly or indirectly benefited from this coruption.Many nigeria based journalist has been killed or molested for saying the truth.


@ Patrick Luu - I'm not alone in thinking that Patrick Luu has a problem processing and understanding articles written in English. Nowhere in Okey's article did he suggest that Mrs Jonathan is a 'government functionary'. In any case, if even his article indicated so, why is Patrick Luu exposing his ignorance? Is Mrs Jonathan not a permanent secretary in Nigeria? Are Nigerian permanent secretaries not government functionaries? I honestly don't know why people like Patrick Luu do not have any shame exposing their English language deficiency in the public.

Mrs Faka Jonathan, Evil Personified!

Dame Jonathan is quintessential of anything evil could be described as! Even though I don't have any kind words for Goodluck Jonathan himself, I must say all the same that Dame Jonathan is the prodding devil behind Jonathan's misdemeanors and misgovernance. And Mrs Jonathan is so evil that she flatly denied last year that she ever was hospitalized anywhere! Now that evil in her had equally come back to haunt her to reveal that she had series of surgical operations in Germany and was dead for 7 days, whatever that meant. At the end of her beguiling story she made us understand that she communed with God who had predestined her to be Nigeria's savior! What a blasphemy! What a preposterous statement! If I had my way I would cancel that 'dame' title of hers because she does not merit it.

It is so surprising that

It is so surprising that people like Okey Ndibe who have chosen to run away from the country could choose to write from such a distance.....armed with only sketchy pieces of information.

I'm not however surprised that Nigerians like talking from both sides of their mouth. In one hand, some are saying the first lady is not a government functionary and must not be seen performing certain activities but at the same time some believe that she is part and parcel of governance in the country.......
Ndibe has found himself in this confusion too. Im sorry for him.

Let's give the first lady a break

The first lady can have her four billion naira for the moment. When the time comes, she shall account for it and Nigeria will get back what rightly belongs to it with compound interest.

This woman, aka Patience

This woman, aka Patience Jonathan, had nothing to do with Nigeria's victory at AFCON. She and her husband cannot offer Nigeria any positives. They are simple opportunists who are out to make hay while the sun shines. At the appropriate time, they will regret their actions against our collective senses.

How motch


does Mrs. Umblella owe ?

give me the exact figure in Naira and Deutschmar: PLEASE!

da odda Prof

@ deri. bro, commenting seems

@ deri. bro, commenting seems to be your means of livelihood, quite frankly, i'd be extremely economical if i say you're the stupidiest "commentor" on the nigerian internet space

Nigerian Need More Okey Ndibes

We are in a country where people have become too comfortable with being trampled upon and used. We need the likes of Soyinka, Achebe and Ndibe to remind us that we must demand for a better country from these charlatans in power! Life gives you what you demand from it!

Mr and Mrs Jonathan

Good work Dr. Okey, but you have mistakenly used the word "president" in the penultimate paragraph of your article. Could you kindly replace it with "mr." in lowercase. The couple does not deserve the title of a community leader talk alone occupy the office called Presidency.

The Real Mission' of the Jonathans

Despite wasting our millions in Germany without accountability, the next project is building a Mission House for revelers. Can't Mrs Jonathan advice her husband to implement people-centered programmes rather than all these elitist White-Elephant projects. What is the real Mission of the Jonathans? True patriotism will save Nigeria, only if our leaders are sincere

Prof., I must commend you for

Prof., I must commend you for a great article written. Please, do not stop educating us on the need to vote for a VISIONARY LEADER come 2015 not leaders who are inwardly sick and cannot see beyond their own nostrils!!!

What Hippopatience Owes Nigerians is her Life!

She simply needs to be out of the picture. She's not the first clown to play that role, but the biggest Fraud given that she's already cashing in as Perm Sec in Aborigine habitat. The illitrate drum should leave the stage permanently make we rest joor. Haba!

@Deri : Sycophancy has its flip side, keep defending perverse fantasies while simultaneously crying for the East-West road. The Goodluck Jonathan Bridge was washed away by floods but his stooge Dickson recently stole N15 Billion in guise of building flyovers. Late NSA Azazi (who lived in billion-naira mansion) was buried "abroad" bcos there are no roads to his enclave yet, you're here blaming the Oba of Benin. Think sincerely how N4 Billion can better the lives of creekline Aborigines who live on contaminated shores instead of worrying about the Tripod. Drunkard, God gave Dumbo jedi-jedi to save us his sheepish smiles at the AFCON, his bad 'luck' would've cost us the cup. Idiot!

We need development; this is

We need development; this is just one. Nigeria's problems cannot be fixed in a day. We just need to give the govt a little time. Nigeria is bad, but not as bad as Okey professed.
For example he'd mentioned the East-West road... but the project is slow! Lagos-Ibadan expressway is bad too... that doesn't mean govt should pack up b'cos some contractors are just who they are.
It is high time Okey gave this govt some break. US is not heaven. If he believes he can do better than JEG he should apply for an electoral position. I will vote for him.
Enough of blind commentary... Act your will out. That is my point! Negative commentaries have always put Nigerian govt as though it is all about looting and corruption....
Not many countries are better than Nigeria.. that is fact!! Even if Nigeria is US, Okey will still complain! Aaaarrrrh!

Chuch, You should be ashamed


You should be ashamed of yourself.... Everyone has the right, the exclusive right to his view. My view is that Okey was a little bit unrealistic. The difference between constructive criticism and blind cynicism isn’t in his writing.
The reality of the first ladies mission project is that it is not JEG's family project. The FCT minister has said the FCT was responsible for paying for the accommodation of visiting VIPs. I am sure they spend more than N4b per annum on this. So having a single building for that purpose is not really a bad idea… it saves govt money on the long run.
This the meat: can we stop Nigeria from hosting events just because some people are not happy/'there are poor people in the village' or 'no hospital is working in Nigeria'???

The voice of liberation!

Speak on, sir Okey. Any Nigerian that feels the country is running on course right now is being deliberately dishonest. The task of liberating ourselves and our people must be pursued with a diligent commitment. Our rulers are obviously detatched from the Nigerian reality. We'll always talk and act when the opportunity arises and hope that some common sense will find it's way into the paths of power.

keep quite mR samana

You so called samana shame goes to you double! Go into media freshly coz u are out of insanity .. Weldone to mr NdibE keep it up


If the spouse of Nigeria’s president does not find Aso Rock – the most palatial address in Nigeria – conducive to resting, then the country her husband runs must be PURE HELL for other (by far less fortunate) Nigerians.

Post a comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Comments are limited to a maximum of 1000 characters.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <p> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.