Dame Patience Jonathan and a troubling repetition of recent history

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JUST why don’t our leaders learn the lessons of history? Why are they condemned to lunacy, by doing the same thing over and over and yet expecting to arrive at a different outcome? We have entered the fourth week of the disappearance from the public space, of President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Dame Patience.

Because no serious official information was forthcoming about the sudden disappearance of a woman who made sure of her presence in our lives, the rumour mill went into over-drive!

Dame Patience was said to have been whisked out of our country, suffering a ruptured appendix; yet others spoke of food poisoning during a visit to Dubai; there was talk of a tummy tuck which went awry and yet others even said the lady was dead.

Despite all that was buzzing in cyberspace, the more restrained attitude of the Nigerian media and the incoherent attempts at explanations by handlers who really deserve our pity much more than disgust, neither the Presidency nor other credible sources have offered meaningful explanations about Dame Patience’s disappearance in almost a month!

I assume that presidential handlers are deluding themselves that because she is the President’s wife, this was strictly a private issue and they were therefore not obliged to offer the country an explanation of her whereabouts. But they are wrong for so many reasons. Dame Patience goes around the country, milking her place as “First Lady” and she hugs the limelight, thus making her toing-and-froing part of the architecture of governance in our country.

Constitutional amendment

The lady is ferried around in presidential jets with closed airspace just as cities are locked down for her retinue to speed through; she even dared to suggest a constitutional amendment so “First Ladies” may “also enjoy” the perks of post-office life.

So intrusive has she become in our lives! So they cannot now plead privacy in matters concerning her health. The second issue is that in tune with the need for full disclosure as a central kernel of the governance process, they owe us the explanation of what is exactly wrong with the President’s wife. By keeping things under wraps for almost a month, the Presidency shows much disrespect for the Nigerian people.

It is frightening just how much the cycles of history repeat themselves in contemporary Nigeria, as Marx once aptly described, as both a tragedy and a farce! Wind back to the end of 2009 and how President Umaru Yar’Adua’s health situation haunted the country.

The handlers of that ancien regime did everything to keep Nigerians off the trail of news about the situation at hand. The nation was on tenterhooks and governance all but collapsed, just as rumour and court intrigues became the order of the day. Nigerians were angry not only to be kept in the dark, but more sinisterly, even the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, was kept out of the governance loop by a “cabal’ said to be headed by Yar’Adua’s wife but including a provincial group from his days as governor. We reached a crisis point when something was bound to give, any which way, in Nigeria.

The empathy for the then Vice President became the wave which swept away the carefully constructed political gimmick that left our country a joke nation, with a dying president, still upheld as ruling the roost. Goodluck Jonathan was swept into power as Acting President; and it was clear that the disgust felt by many Nigerians was one factor which worked in his favour during the 2011 election.

It is therefore incroyable (as the French say!), that the same President will choose to repeat the unwholesome approach which the Yar’Adua “cabal” employed to their own detriment during that really dark moment in our nation’s history. Why will the Presidency pretend that Nigerians can be kept in the dark forever?

Can’t they see that they have hurt themselves much more than they have helped? Didn’t they know that full disclosure about Dame Patience’s position, especially when it first broke, could have won them some empathy, after all, despite everything else, Nigerians are human and are likely to wish the President’s wife well and such empathy might also have rubbed off presidential rating, which has become really low?

Messy situation

After Yar’Adua’s death, a senator moved for a discussion of the entirely messy situation around the man’s hospitalization, the secret return to the country under cover of darkness, the problem with transfer of power, etc. But he was curtly over-ruled by David Mark.

The ruling elite refused to learn a lesson from that frightening episode which almost dissembled the political system; and in a bizarre manner, the situation in respect of Dame Patience’s disappearance is coming to haunt them! It is clear as daylight, that the political elite holds us in absolute contempt!

The silence over the fate of Dame Patience Jonathan is so loud in its consequence. But on behalf of Nigerians, may we ask President Goodluck Jonathan: “Where is Dame Patience”?

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