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Presidency: Patience, As Goodluck Charm By Sonala Olumhense

If you are a Nigeria watcher, but do not know that one Patience Jonathan is working extremely hard to ensure victory for her husband at next month’s presidential polls, you are paying insufficient attention.  I have just spent three weeks in Nigeria, and I can testify to the sense of mission of this woman.  Her husband ought to be very proud.

If you are a Nigeria watcher, but do not know that one Patience Jonathan is working extremely hard to ensure victory for her husband at next month’s presidential polls, you are paying insufficient attention.  I have just spent three weeks in Nigeria, and I can testify to the sense of mission of this woman.  Her husband ought to be very proud.

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In my view, though, this lady, whom I described in an article on October 27, 2007 as “Nigeria’s Most Powerful Woman,” is receiving the wrong advice to appear at campaign rallies and work the crowds.   I do not make this comment in allusion to the quality of her spoken English, about which I have noticed some comedic interest.

The correct advice, if you asked me, would be to deploy herself as a character witness by providing a pungent personal testimony about the events of August and September 2011. 

As offered by the practicing religious, the most profound testimonies are difficult, but that is where their power to convince and motivate others comes from.  Mrs. Jonathan can boost her husband’s quest for the votes of the Nigerian people next month by telling the truth about her outstanding money-laundering cases.  This would be in tune with her husband’s avowal to combat corruption, and will sing more eloquently than a thousand choirs at campaign rallies. 

Here is what we know: In August 2006, when Mr. Jonathan was the Governor of Bayelsa State, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seized from one Mrs. Nancy Ebere Nwosu the sum of one hundred and four million Naira (N104m).  The money, she said on oath, belonged to Mrs. Jonathan, and the EFCC demonstrated how the Bayelsa First Lady had tried to launder it.
The commission sought a court order to freeze the money, as it said it had reason to believe that they were looted from the public till.  Mrs. Jonathan, her staff and her husband’s government, all vociferously denied all the allegations, describing them as the work of political opponents of the governor.

Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court in Abuja granted the authority the EFCC sought, and froze the money “pending the conclusion of the investigation of the activities of the said persons in connection with their involvement in the acts of money laundering and other economic and financial crimes related offences.”

The cacophony over that matter was still shaking the very rafters when, the following month, the EFCC announced yet another incident involving Mrs. Jonathan.  It said it had seized an incredible $13.5 million dollars (US) the governor’s wife had also tried to launder.  

Again, that story hit the international news with the force of a terrorist attack. It was on September 11, 2006, and the EFCC was widely quoted worldwide.

Not much was heard about the matter again until last October.  By then, a lot had changed. Nuhu Ribadu, having been forced out of the EFCC and sent to a training course in Kuru in 2007, had subsequently fled into exile.  From those distant climes, he had returned to the country, courtesy of Mr. Jonathan, to begin a legitimate quest to win the presidency, a job being held by Jonathan.  

But if Mr. Ribadu’s presidential campaign is in trouble in the months leading up to the event, it is largely because of the contradictions in character that have appeared about him concerning the Jonathans.  Appearing before the Senate on September 27, 2006 to present the Annual Report of the EFCC, he had said of the nation’s corruption picture, “There is s also a petition against the Governor of Bayelsa's wife.  She was involved in laundering the sum of one hundred and four million into foreign account. She is also being investigated.”
He meant Patience Jonathan.

But four years later, in his 13 October 2010 Hot Seat interview with Nigeria Village Square, Ribadu told a bewildering story: “There was never a time when I was in the EFCC when we ever invited [Mrs. Jonathan] to come and make a statement,” he said. “Why should I come out now simply because it is easy and convenient for one to say so?  When I was in EFCC I never I never I never invited Mrs. Jonathan for questioning or take her statement.”
The statement implied she did not have a case, but he did not specifically say so.  Swiveling around to Mrs. Jonathan’s dollar-denominated case, however, he said, “There was a time they said she was caught with 13million dollars. Financial Times reported International Media reported this and that. This was so unfair I decided to keep quiet that time because if I spoke, people will say it was because I was looking for a job with the Jonathan Government.  I have got to a point where I have nothing against them.”

This was decisive proof that Mr. Ribadu had developed some problems of recall.  The $13.5 million scandal carries a date-stamp of 2006, not 2010.  At that time, Jonathan had not even become a candidate for the vice-presidency, and Ribadu had not left the EFCC.  A “Jonathan Government” in Abuja from which anyone could have been seeking favours did not materialize until May 2010. It is difficult to reconcile how the former EFCC boss could have mixed up both critical issues.

Let me be clear: Mrs. Jonathan is quite conceivably innocent of each of the money-laundering scenarios in which she was cited, and I believe every citizen is innocent until proven guilty.  On the basis of the history of this matter, however, she clearly seems to have tried to launder vast sums of money on at least two occasions.  The evidence suggests that there has been a grand cover up that has taken advantage of the good political fortunes the Jonathans have enjoyed since late 2006 when Mr. Jonathan found himself on the Umaru Yar’Adua presidential ticket.  

It is this confusion that Mrs. Jonathan can profitably clear up to the benefit of her husband.  We live in a country where the rich and the influential often loot the treasury for sport.  Mrs. Jonathan can separate herself from that gang of criminals by demonstrating to Nigeria she never tried to launder any funds. 

That was what Justice Anwuli had in mind: that the N104m cash of August 2006 be kept away until a full investigation had been concluded.  It is too late to say there was neither a N104 million case, nor an investigation.   It is too convenient simply to say that the $13.5 million dollar case that was reported by the EFCC under Mr. Ribadu in 2006 was simply “unfair” without anyone being held responsible for such mischief against someone so powerful.

It is also beyond one individual to dismiss, orally and casually, a federal investigation, as though it were simply a market disagreement between two women.  Nigerians deserve to see the report of that investigation, whether it leads to charges being filed or not. 

This is a wonderful opportunity for Mrs. Jonathan to exploit in her husband’s favour.  Let her make a statement, complete with all the facts, to demonstrate her innocence.  Let her cause to be published the report of the investigation which has allegedly cleared her.  It will solidify her image, and yield her husband his first electoral triumph.

Unless she is willing to do this, Mrs. Jonathan is simply another privileged Nigerian trying to play football with basketball rules.  It is these ruthless ethical violations that have made Nigeria an ungovernable nation run by super-citizens to whom the rules do not apply.   Such Nigerians, unwilling to subject themselves to the rigor of personal example, preach lavishly when they face the greedy and the ignorant, and when they are desperate to get a vote. 

Regrettably, Mrs. Jonathan is currently their tallest spokesperson at campaign rallies.  That is because, when she rises to ask Nigerians to vote “umblerra” next month, she is standing on stacks of those Naira and dollar bills from 2006.  But Nigerians know a really tall woman when they see one.  They also know when she is merely standing on their hopes and dreams and insulting their intelligence.
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