Patience’s bad luck

Unlike her husband who embodies the name Goodluck, Patience Jonathan is not so lucky.

It seems that every time she tries to do good, misfortune attends. Some of it is due to dumb planning of course, but mostly, it is plain bad luck.

When as a governor’s wife she tried to move some of her money abroad like other people, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, allegedly, caught her: twice if you believe the accounts. As a result, she is probably the first lady with the least money in foreign banks to have served in Bayelsa State.

Then in May Interpol in Dubai caught a family friend, James Ibori, and she went there to visit, to be with him in his hour of need. Some in the media turned the matter into a national cause célèbre, accusing her of going on a shopping spree, lampooning her timing, even questioning the nature of her relationship with Mr. Ibori. But she may just be the kind of person who does not abandon her friends simply because they hit a bad patch!

Last month, her husband attended the 65th UN Assembly in New York and she accompanied him, as a good wife should. Somehow, the fact emerged that she had taken along 23 other people including her personal cook, her friends, and her valet. All paid for by the federal government.

Perhaps the worst example of her sheer ill luck was the Independence rice spree. Mrs. Jonathan, aware of the breathtaking poverty in the land, sought to distribute two million bags of rice to poor people in the federal capital territory and a stampede ensued. In the process, people lost their lives. The rice trucks crushed some who had abandoned the queues to seek vantage points, and some died because the police officers, who should keep order, were eagerly grabbing bags. Mostly, the most abominable planning marred the whole thing.

In any case, her attempt at helping to alleviate hunger, at bringing smiles to the faces of her fellow citizens as the country celebrated its 50th anniversary, turned into ash in our mouths. Only God knows how bad she must have felt, but she is not one to rest on her oars.

A week ago, she decided to launch her ‘pet project’, as all first ladies before her have done, as all those after her will. Somehow, the roads to the federal secretariat Abuja were blocked and many civil servants, who some say wanted an excuse to stay away from work anyway, could not get to their offices. A number of them had to return home, and crucial (wo)man-hours were lost.

My friend in Abuja was sure that Mr. Jonathan lost more than a few votes that day as frustrated commuters cursed him, his government, and his wife. “These Jonathan people are doing IBB’s campaign for him,” he said.

Then today, I get a text message that has been doing the rounds. Titled, “The bomb the 1st lady dropped during her speech at Eagle Square,” it contained half a dozen grammatical errors, including how the October bombers made “some children a widow.” Here is the shortlist:

1. “The people sitting before you here were once a children.” 2. “The bombers, who born them? Wasn’t it not a woman?”

3. “A good mother takes care of his children.”

I have no proof that all that is true but my friend, a good mother herself, said she has decided to protect her children by making sure the television is on mute whenever Mrs. Jonathan is delivering speeches. The standard of education is poor already as it is. True, grammatical howlers by people who should know better are not new. The Economist Style Guide even has one by George Bush, the former American president whose syntax is sometimes toxic. “There is a child somewhere in Birmingham and all across the country and needs somebody to put their arm around them and to say: you’re a part of America.”

Yet, too many things have happened too recently that, taken together, make Mrs. Jonathan somewhat a liability to the president’s campaign. There are rumours that she is a more vigorous politician than her husband is; that she helps him take care of the basics, that she is the one who does most of the consulting, the conjuring, and the consolidating. Now if only she had more luck!

Still, we cannot have everything. So, it will help the campaign, I think, if Mrs. Jonathan will try to embody her name and be subdued, less visible: enough of the activities already. As one newspaper editor likes to say, she needs more ‘sobriety’.

To all intents and purposes, Patience still has virtue; but too much of her is hurting Mr. Jonathan right now.

By Olu Jacob

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