Dame Patience Faka Jonathan, the wife of the immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan, has since those days when she held sway at Aso Rock, been the toast of the media – especially of the social media variety, because she provided for them, a rich variety of ingredients with which they sold their products. Because, it is only the man-bite-dog stories that excite and sell, the aspects of the news that have been carried on and about Dame Patience have been usually the unexpected and those which the media felt were out of the ordinary. It was either the media were celebrating the rich additions which the first lady constantly made to the national socio lexicon. From the perception of her that was created by the formal and informal media, one fact was clear; the former first lady was a very strong personality with a strong mind of her own and was mostly undeterred by the image the media was creating about her. She is a woman who followed her own rules and hardly cared about those rules or codes of behaviour set for her by the society or her several publics. She is a woman who sets her own records and breaks them when and how she feels like.
Last week, Dame Patience was at her unusual best again when she publicly claimed the ownership of $31 million dollars which the nation’s anti-graft agency, the EFCC said was from proceeds of corruption for which it was probing some companies and individuals. It was typical of Dame Patience to defy the trite rule that people are not expected to indict themselves when she publicly announced that the $31 million under contention, in fact belonged to her. Ditto for some other sums of money also under investigation. It hardly matters that some three entities have reportedly pleaded guilty to the illegal ownership of the sums of money under contention at a court of law; Dame Jonathan has still stuck to her gun, insisting that the EFCC should invite her to prove her ownership of the seized funds, claiming that the people that had accepted the ownership of the money were mercenaries hired by the EFCC to do so.
It might well be true that there are no written-down rules on the codes of behaviour for first ladies, either in Nigeria or even in those other societies where the system has its origin. But the fact remains that in the conduct of public affairs, conventions are usually stronger than written rules. To that extent, in a country like the United States of America from where the concept of the first lady originated, the wives of the presidents are expected to be the model not just to the women and the female members of the society, they are, like the mascot of the nation expected to be the vectors and exemplify the greatest purveyors of the finest models of morality and legality in the society at large. In that, the first ladies in most nations have hardly departed from those ideals. Most importantly, a first lady is supposed to, by her comportment and carriage, help make the burden of her husband’s office lighter and easier. In other words, she is expected to make legions of friends and never enemies for her husband and his office.
If these and more are the expectations of a first lady, then Nigeria’s immediate past first lady was most dysfunctional to put it most mildly. Putting it bluntly, Dame Patience as a first lady was a disaster.
Most observers who saw President Jonathan as particularly not an effective leader equally did not see him as a totally disastrous one, all things considered and in comparative terms. It was imagined that Jonathan could have easily been re-elected for a second term. There are thousands of Nigerians who swore that the first lady was one of the contributory factors to President Jonathan’s loss of his re-election bid. I was once in the company of some well-heeled Northern leaders before the 2015 elections. From them, it was not hard to realise how deeply injured most Northerners had felt at some uncomplimentary uncouth remarks which were attributed to the first lady at their expense. There are also many keen observers who insist that the animosity between the former president and the former governor of Rivers State, Amaechi, was as injurious as it was absolutely unnecessary for Jonathan’s political fortunes. Many people still claim that the soured relationship between the two ‘brothers’ which was largely fomented by Dame Patience was the longest nail that was driven into Jonathan’s electoral coffin in 2015.
Having left office, President Jonathan enjoys a near universal goodwill, and while the present administration has been ferreting deep for evidence of corruption against the previous administration, nothing has been put directly on the last president’s head. However, if his wife goes about claiming ownership of huge sums of money when it is obvious to even a child that Dame Patience would be hard put to prove the legitimate businesses from where such sums were earned, it might not be so easy for a husband to proffer an alibi against huge sums illegally amassed by a wife with whom you wake up every day from the same bed.
It is often said that behind or beside every successful man, there is a woman. The coiners of that over-used axiom should also popularize its equally axiomatic twin brother to the effect that, behind and beside most ruined husbands, lurks a woman.