Nigeria: First Lady, Amaechi and the politics of condolence visits

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Aug 24th, 2013

It is a painful thing to lose one’s loved one. It is more painful when such death is “sudden” in the sense that the deceased was not bedridden as a result of prolonged sickness or old age.

This was what wife of the President, Mrs. Patience Jonathan went through when the news of the death of her foster mother, Mrs. Christy Oba fondly called Mama Sisi was broken to her in far away Geneva. Since her return to the country, the President’s official residence was turned to a Mecca of sort as groups and individuals tried to outshine one another to pay condolence visits to the first family.

Vice President Namadi Sambo led other members of the FEC to condole with Mrs. Jonathan and her household. Delegations from Bayelsa, Abia, Edo, Delta, Ebonyi, and Kaduna states among others came. So also were representatives of the National Assembly, former first ladies, ambassadors and high commissioners, women and youth groups, service chiefs and the Organised Private Sector did not take the back seat. Even military and paramilitary organisations such as the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, Federal Road Safety Corps and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps refused to be outshined in what later turned to be attention-seeking gesture.

In her moment of grief, Mrs. Jonathan did not only notice those who travelled far and near to console her, she also took record of those who turned their backs and felt she should be left to mourn her foster mother unconsoled. Leading the pack of those who are insensitive to her plight, according to mama’s record, is Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and his wife, Judith.

Trust Mrs. Jonathan, she does not have the patience (that’s her first name!) to bear grudges against any person for too long. Once an opportunity presents itself, she will bare her mind. This was exactly what she did during the week when it was reported that she shunned the Rivers State Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru, who was at the Port Harcourt Airport to receive her on her arrival at the Garden City on Sunday.

She caused the statement to be issued to explain why she preferred that wife of the governor of Bayelsa State should travel several kilometres from the state capital, Yenagoa, to receive her. She said she decided to make her visit to the state as quiet as possible so as not to give room for those who she described as mischief makers to succeed in their plans of involving her in the political intrigues in her home state.

Then mama hit the nail on the head: “It is instructive to note that since the death of Mrs. Charity Oba, the mother of the First Lady, several groups and individuals from across the country  have come to condole with the First Family at the State House, Abuja. They include executive state governors and their wives from all the political divides;  Nigeria’s  former Presidents and Heads of State and their wives, captains of industry, female ambassadors and high commissioners of Nigeria, other members of the diplomatic corps, royal fathers and traditional leaders – the list is too numerous to call. However, the Governor (Amaechi) and the wife from the state which the First Lady hails have not paid such a visit.”

That statement generated reactions with some newspapers publishing photographs of Mrs. Judith Amaechi not only commiserating with the First Lady when she visited the residence of her deceased mother’s residence in Port Harcourt, but also signing the condolence register. But Mrs. Jonathan issued a follow-up statement on Wednesday saying the governor’s wife paid her a condolence visit in a wrong place!

She said she did not receive guests for condolence visits in her late mother’s home. She added that all those who paid her condolence visits during her visit to Rivers State did so in her residence in Port Harcourt, where arrangements were made and facilities were made available to receive sympathisers while others paid her visits at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

She went a step further to advise Amaechi and his wife to learn from her husband (our President) who went to Lagos State with some members of his cabinet to commiserate with Governor Babatunde Fashola on the demise of his father, Alhaji Ademola Fashola, adding that death does not know age, gender or political party affiliation.

My take: since the remains of Mrs. Oba have not been buried, I suggest that Amaechi, his wife, Judith and others who have not visited Mrs. Jonathan in her residence in Port Harcourt or Abuja should take the next available flight to come and do so in the interest of peace!

Are these governors really fighting Jonathan?

Most Nigerian politicians are difficult to understand. They say one thing in the public and do another thing in their closets. For example, the five Northern governors that have come to be known as the G5 have not hidden their disdain for the National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, and to a large extent, President Jonathan especially as it relates to the 2015 presidential election.

The governors are Aliyu  Wamako (Sokoto); Murtala Nyako (Adamawa); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano); and Babangida Aliyu (Niger). They have met with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former military leaders, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar among others on Tukur’s alleged highhandedness as well as Jonathan’s alleged involvement in the Rivers State crisis.

When they grant interviews, you will think they don’t see eye-to-eye with the President. That is far from the truth. Like some other persons who know their presence in the Villa could attract attention, they know how and when to sneak in and escape the prying eyes of reporters whose only business is to be minding other people’s business.

On Saturday, July 27, these aggrieved (or change-seeking?) governors met the President. Journalists succeeded in getting the story. Apart from this group visit, some of the governors have also met individually with Jonathan. Nyako met with him penultimate Wednesday. It was Wamako’s turn on Wednesday. These are the ones who were bold enough to embark on the visits in the daytime.

What is left for one to wonder about is whether when these governors meet the President, they also confront him on issues the same way they do outside the Villa. While that can remain in the realm of speculation, what is clear is that no governor ever comes out of such meetings and still attacks the President while still in the Villa. No matter how hard State House correspondents try, the likes of Wamako will ask them if there was anything wrong in him visiting the President.

Next Saturday is another day, enjoy your weekend.

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