A few years ago, when her husband held sway as Nigeria’s president, Lagos would have heaved and creaked, and bowed and bobbed at the regal but rambunctious presence of Patience Jonathan last Saturday when preeminent business tycoon, Bola Shagaya, celebrated her 60th birthday. Every Nigerian worth their name and face was at the Eko Hotel, Victoria Island venue of the jaw-dropping, gasp-inducing party. From serving to former governors and ministers, royals and aristocrats, political stalwarts and stakeholders, industrialists and entrepreneurs, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, they were all there in their resplendence. Society women and flower girls and entertainers were no less represented but one woman’s absence stood out like a sore thumb; Mrs Patience Jonathan.
For those who know the relationship between Shagaya and the former First Lady, eyebrows and posers were consistently raised, so much that every time there was a rustle in the elite crowd or towards the entrance, necks craned to see if she had arrived. But it was no-show for Mrs Jonathan. She would, no doubt, have brought the whole panoply of presidential power to party with Shagaya in Lagos.
But that was not to be as Goodluck Jonathan vacated office since 2015 and his darling wife’s heat is no longer as hot in the social space. In fact, the expensive jewellery-loving former First Lady has virtually disappeared from the social scene as the only news about her in the media now is about her litany of cases in the courts.
Last July, a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the permanent forfeiture of the sums of N9.2bn and $.4m linked to Patience Jonathan and her sister, Esther Oba, to the Federal Government at the instance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which said the funds were proceeds of criminal activities. She has, through her lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), filed an appeal contending that the judge ought not to have made the forfeiture order as the funds were subject of a pre-existing suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja. Ozekhome also said that the judge erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice when she shifted the ‘onus propandi’ to Patience to not only prove the sources of the funds but also her innocence.
In the same vein, the police in Bayelsa State, last September, arraigned 15 persons before the high court sitting in Yenagoa, the capital, over alleged plot to kill the former First Lady and also rob her of items worth several millions of naira. A 17-count charge of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit felony with armed robbery, malicious injury to property, conspiracy to commit a felony with stealing and burglary was filed against the suspects. The impact of all these legal issues may have taken a toll on the social life of one of Nigeria’s most popular First Ladies ever.