What Patience Jonathan Owes Nigerians

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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
 

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Artice title: Okey Ndibe
Title alias: okey-ndibe
NVS Article ID: 23187
Article create date: 18-02-2013 17:22:02
Article modified date:
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Re: What Patience Jonathan Owes Nigerians
Ariteni posted on 02-19-2013, 05:19:39 AM
No Go Area! Abeegi, leave Mama Patience alone. Mama is not part of shenanigans going on in Abuja. For all you care she may not be aware of the 4B naira Allocation.

Mama, saves Nigeria's money. The other day, she travelled by commercial Aircraft! How many foreign trips has she made? How many International Conferences? Common Perm Sec wey mama collect from her home State, Non-Bayelsans who pretend to cherish "true Federalism" no let us hear word again. Some Governor's wives (and Govs) have made more overseas trips than Mama. The mission house may not even be completed by the time the Jonathans vacate Aso Rock in 2019. The figure of 4B is just to create it as an established Budget item to get allocations in future from budget to budget as needed to provide cash for important Govt (and Party) "settlements". (Just like Legislative quarters, VP's official Residence - "constructed" so many times, Presidential Banquette hall etc At State and Local govt level, many roads have been "constructed" so many times especially close to elections or expiration of tenure or budget deadline.

Now, the office of First Lady was never there until - (you guess who) - the evil genius entered the scene. The Perm Sec who wrote a Memo that such office is not within the purview of the Constitution was fired to clear the way for a better life for Nigerian women. Today, the activities of the office has blossomed so much necessitating construction of a Mission House due to current space constraints. (Baba Iyabo doesn't do that stuff (1976-79 and 1999-2007) but he is a devil.) We just paid gratuity to YarAdua's widow. (if we begin pay widowers too, some people will get extra cash). Does anyone know what the "retirement" benefits of National Assembly members are? When you leave office you "buy" the cars and buy the Official Residence like Bankole so the new Office holder can award his own contract. Medical Estacode is higher than regular estacode and both are payable at Fed, State and Local. When our brother Goodluck make mistake appoint Danjuma committee, the small paper wey him show them, all of them (including Nuru's Ribadu's Adeola collapse "yakata" for floor like Ovie whiskey say him go do if him see 250,000 Naira.

Ask yourself (from the above) Okey, is Mama patience really the issue? Ask (like Baba Alamie ask British police) "How much is 4B?" Nna, abegi go siddon dey luku. You and Prof una get time self. The only thing be say ago dey listen to una because I know say una no need post for Aso Rock like one boy wey tell us say Jona dey clueless but him don run go get job in the "clueless" govt.

Mama, has sowed into PDP more than any ruling party Wife/woman in the history of Political campaign in Nigeria. Her signature "umbrella campaign" was enough to cause the likes of SO and "Pious" some itching fingers. Una never see something. When 2015 campaign starts and una hear Mama from mission house, una go join us to "bow and tremble" for the greatest PDP campaigner of all times!
Then, like Fani Kayode said looking for job from Obasanjo: "we didn't know she was sooo nice!!!"
Re: What Patience Jonathan Owes Nigerians
Prof Penkelemess posted on 02-19-2013, 19:07:30 PM
Where is Abati ???

da man from Otta farms ???

da Ph D. of Comedy of Errors?

is he da son of dat fat boy inda

resurrekshon pikshurs ???

Philipp da editor-owner of NVS must help me:

he is a Kuta boy after all !

gerd
Re: What Patience Jonathan Owes Nigerians
Mutti posted on 02-21-2013, 02:43:09 AM
Reuben Abati, still no comments?
Re: What Patience Jonathan Owes Nigerians
Enyi posted on 02-26-2013, 01:46:22 AM
No, Mrs. Jonathan does not owe us anything beyond what we owe ourselves. She is the wife of our President but she is not an elected officer. Why should we be bothered about if, and what she whispers into the husband's ears? This is a subtle attempt to blame others for our failure's. We have elected officers in the Presidency or NASS. Irrespective of whether they are there by rigging or not, what have we done to hold them accountable? Yes, the request for N4billion for the Peace Mission building is obscene. However, we must not deceive ourselves. If NASS does not approve the fund, it cannot be legally spent. What have we done to bring NASS to its senses? WS led a demonstration against it. How many of us supported him? Is the demonstration not over and NASS is back to business as usual? To add insult to injury, is NASS not alleged to have increased the allowances of its members? Yesterday, I watched the debate by presidential aspirants in Kenya. How many Nigerian moderators would have asked the tough questions as the Kenyan did?
Let's not forget that dictatorships have been toppled by the people in other lands. The bottom line is that we should stop appealing to anybody to whisper into the husband's ears. Rather we should take action to remind those in Abuja and other state capitals that they are supposed to be our servants.

On a lighter note, I shall like to remind ON that there are some Nigerian officials that prefer to be treated in Nigeria. The latest example is Governor Wada. This does not detract from his observation that the Health care delivery needs a lot of improvement. This requires the input of the practitioners, government and private sector. I suspect that the hospitals most Nigerians troop to in India are private, not government, owned.
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