The on-going trial of a former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan may come as the real credibility challenge of her husband, former President Goodluck Jonathan, writes Segun James
Former President Goodluck Jonathan is humble and taciturn. And he is synonymous with the top hat which portrays his Niger Delta Ijaw ancestry. He is every inch a gentleman. Jonathan is a leader, who does not overestimate himself and his abilities, hence, he is always willing to seek knowledge and help where necessary.
He doesn’t have a commanding presence or is he a mesmerising speech giver. While in office, he had none of the swagger of his predecessors like Ibrahim Babangida or an Olusegun Obasanjo, and did not pretend about his knowledge. He is ever ready to learn.
That was why he handed everything that had to do with the nation’s economy to Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a world renowned economist and former Vice-President of the World Bank as the coordinating minister, the first time anyone would hold that title. It was also the reason he handed security affairs to Colonel Sambo Dasuki, a former big player in the Nigerian military and its politics.
Jonathan’s arguments aren’t partisan (My ambition is not worth anybody’s blood) or ideological (Stealing is not corruption). They are simply plain and true to his persona. But like any other man, Jonathan has a weakness and that weakness is his wife, Patience Jonathan. He has never been able to rein her in. Today, she might have become an albatross to his emerging brand.
In Nigeria, reputation is cheap. It is cheaply made even the best of crooks can build a reputation as the most honourable of men within the twinkle of an eye. But then, it is also easily lost and very fast too.
But the worst thing that can happen to anyone, who has built his reputation on hard work, integrity and a rising international profile like Jonathan is when your reputation is being put to question not by your own action or inaction, but the action of others.
In the case of Jonathan, it is not only peculiar but pathetic. His reputation is now at risk over the action of his wife. One question though: are his problems only on account of his wife’s indiscretion? No, not so. To many a watcher of the politics of the former president, his problems go beyond that. After all, every person that has worked closely with Jonathan in one way or the other has been caught or found with their hands in the national till, a situation which puts to question the character of the president and his attitudes towards the collective commonwealth of the nation.
While investigations into the stupendous wealth of his political appointees can be excused and that of his personal staff can be brushed aside and even overlooked, that of his wife is simply taking things too far.
When the federal government announced that over $34.1 million has been traced to her account, it became evident that government’s searchlights have been focused on the former President, who has distanced himself from the corrupt activities of his aides and his associates, even though they happened under his watch.
Even though the federal government has repeatedly announced that it is not investigating Jonathan, there are indications to prove to the contrary as every searchlight beamed on the activities of his former aides’ leads directly to him.
Today the former president is under the radar. But how did the probe of his administration get to this sore point? Why is his reputation now on the slaughter slab, compounded by the activities of his wife? What kind of wife is the former First Lady that every report about her activity is almost always negative?
The road to this began many years ago, soon after the Jonathans took over the deputy governor’s lodge in the Bayelsa State Government House, the Creek Haven.
Mrs. Jonathan was said to have terrorised the complex so much that the deputy governor had to flee his official residence until the late former Governor DSP Alamieyeseigha waded in and brought him back. This was the first indication that she was going to be ruthless and highhanded if given the opportunity. Even Mrs. Margret Alamieyeseigha, wife of the governor avoided her like a plague just to prevent any form of confrontation.
A couple of months after her husband took over as Bayelsa State governor, Mrs. Jonathan while on a private visit to Port Harcourt became incensed that a young lady overtook her convoy as the wife of a governor that she ordered her security operatives to chase after the car and arrest the lady for the audacity to overtake her convoy.
The young lady was promptly arrested and detained. It was a scandalised Jonathan that quickly ordered his nephew and commissioner for information to go and release the woman, who was getting married two days from the time of the incident from police custody. Unfortunately, while returning to base, the commissioner had an accident and died.
If this was enough lessons for anyone to be more cautious in her dealings, not Patience Jonathan, instead, her atrocities increased unabated. And as for her husband, just as it was in the past, he lacked the capacity to rein her in.
It was this audacious behaviour that she took to Abuja, and when her husband became the president, she went out of control that today, the reputation that her husband is believed to have worked so hard to earn is now at jeopardy.
Four companies with about $15.6m in their Skye Bank accounts, an amount which Mrs. Jonathan said belongs to her have pleaded guilty to the offence to money laundering charges. The four companies pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder the sum of $15, 591,700 before a Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday.
The companies are Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited; Seagate Property Development & Investment Co. Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Development Company Limited and Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has since frozen the $15.6m found in the account to which the former First Lady responded by suing the EFCC and Skye Bank, laying legitimate claims to the money.
What kind of a husband is Jonathan that his wife was always interfering with state affairs and he could not control her or call her to order? What are the reasons his wife was beyond his control?
The reputation that Jonathan is gradually building as an international statesman and world leader is crumbling fast as the federal government continues to dig into his handling of the nation’s affairs during his over five years reign as president.
History is composed not only of what happened but what didn’t happen. While it is impossible to know and determine what didn’t happen, it is what had happened that always comes to hunt in the future. Surprisingly, even what didn’t happen under his watch – for instance, recession – seems to now hunt Jonathan. Nigeria is in the biggest recession it has ever faced in her almost 60 years as nation and what is the contribution of Jonathan to this?
From all indications, Jonathan’s reputation has been the worse hit by the goings-on since he left office. Mindboggling corruption tales involving government officials under his watch have been unearthed and at every occasion, he had somehow wiggled out from such atrocities with his reputation unscathed.
But now that the corruption has come closer home, can the former president still continue to claim he is not corrupt or unaware of the atrocities going on in his government? Or is he simply playing the ostrich, which buries its head under the sand even when it entire body is exposed? As the ant-corruption crusade of the Muhammadu Buhari government continues to dig into the activities of the immediate past government, only time will tell what manner of man, husband and president, Jonathan was.
His reputation is now at risk over the action of his wife. One question though: are his problems only on account of his wife’s indiscretion? No, not so. To many a watcher of the politics of the former president, his problems go beyond that. After all, every person that has worked closely with Jonathan in one way or the other has been caught or found with their hands in the national till, a situation which puts to question the character of the president and his attitudes towards the collective commonwealth of the nation