With a majority of Americans now in favor marijuana legalization, President Barack Obama is now saying weed is no more dangerous to individuals’ health than alcohol.
In an interview with the New Yorker’s David Remnick published Sunday, Obama said while he believes marijuana is “not very healthy,” the drug isn’t as harmful as some insist.
“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” Obama told Remnick.
When asked if he believes marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, Obama said it is less damaging “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”
“It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy,” he added.
Marijuana is currently classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule 1 substance, which the DEA considers “the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence.” Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, ecstasy and LSD.
Obama said his focus on reforming laws that punish drug users, noting the racial disparity in drug arrests.
“We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing,” he said.
In August, the Obama administration announced it would not stop Washington and Colorado from legalizing recreational marijuana use, marking a major step away from the administration’s war on drugs.
In the New Yorker interview, Obama said he believes these new laws are “important.”
“It’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished,” he said.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said he has commenced consultation on the invitation extended to him by the leaders of the All Progressives Congress to defect to the party.
Recall the APC leaders led by the Interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande had visited Atiku in Abuja on December 18 at his Asokoro, Abuja residence, asking him to join the party.
Atiku still in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, in a statement issued Sunday in Abuja said the consultation would continue for the next few weeks.
The statement reads, “As we begin a new year, our nation has to begin anew. As you are aware, I have been engaged in formal and informal meetings with Nigerians for a while. And for the next few weeks, I will be travelling across the country in continuation of the consultative process.
The former Vice Preside said he will continue to listen to the hopes and fears of the Nigeria people.
“The times we are in call for hard work because Nigerians matter and our country matters, too.
“I believe that this consultative process will reinforce our shared values and throw up a new way forward for our dear country.”
The All Progressives Congress has raised the alarm that sympathisers of President Goodluck Jonathan are pushing Nigeria to the precipice through the recurring violence in Rivers State.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the opposition party alleged that “PDP-sponsored and police-backed militants” attacked a peaceful rally in Rivers State with guns and other weapons for the second consecutive Sunday.
Interim National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the hoodlums, who invaded the venue of the rally by the Save Rivers Movement in Bori, where the executive of the pan-Rivers group in Khana Local Government Area of the state were to be inaugurated, attacked those in attendance and beat up some of the journalists who were invited to cover the event, damaging their vehicles and equipment in the process.
It said while the attack was going on, the police – who had been formally informed of the rally, and were expected to provide protection – instead gave the hoodlums a free rein, in the most egregious and open display of partisanship by an institution of the state saddled with ensuring the protection of lives and property of all citizens.
APC said the police carried its partisanship to another level when, the previous day (Saturday), it “sent over 300 men to protect a pro-PDP rally that was used solely to launch a blistering verbal assault on the APC and Gov. Chibuike Amaechi.”
It said, “The same police have offered protection for a Pro-PDP group, GDI, which is holding another rally in Degema on Sunday.
”Today’s (Sunday’s) attack came a week after a similar one saw a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Magnus Abe, shot by policemen who also attacked and tear-gassed innocent women and children, among others.
”As the presidency-backed impunity in Rivers worsens, we at the APC are left with no choice than to alert all well-meaning Nigerians as well as the international Community to call President Jonathan to order, since he has refused to allow peace to reign in the state just because of his personal ambition.
”Because of the danger this state-backed thuggery can inflict on our young democracy; because of the harm being done to the polity by escalating political violence; and because of the fact that impunity does not breed peace, we will continue to cry out, hoping that reason will prevail and that President Jonathan will no longer allow his ambition to be watered by the blood of the same citizens he swore an oath to protect.
”It is clear that despite the presidency’s loud silence on the Rivers crisis, it is the architect of the violence in the state, and the 2014 Ekiti and Osun governorship elections and the 2015 general elections are the reasons. That is why we will not relent in blaming the presidency for the violence. Surely, when the presidency is tired of violence, peace will return to Rivers state.”
Meanwhile, the APC has condemned the Police Service Commission for its defence of the Rivers State Police Commissioner, Joseph Mbu, saying the commission, by its “unimaginative action”, is taking directives from the Presidency, which the party described as the sponsor of the “impunity” in Rivers State.
In a statement in Lagos on Sunday by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party wondered if the PSC understood the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as far as the role of a police commissioner was concerned.
APC said, “For the avoidance of doubt, we quote Section 215 (4) of the Constitution, which stipulates: ‘Subject to the provisions of this section, the Governor of a State or such Commissioner of the Government of the State as he may authorize in that behalf, may give to Commissioner of Police of that State such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order within the State as he may consider necessary, and the Commissioner of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with’.”
APC said if the PSC clearly understood the stipulation, it would not only be talking of Mbu being redeployed but should by now be “justifying the dismissal of the impudent police boss, who has continuously violated the Constitution not only by refusing to take lawful orders but by also constituting himself into the opposition, the de facto chairman of the PDP, in Rivers.”
It added, ”If the PSC wants to be truthful, it will admit that no one but the police commissioner has politicized his own office. It will also admit that no one has asked the police commissioner to be the Governor’s errand boy, as claimed by the PSC, but to simply carry out his duties as stipulated by the Constitution. If the PSC still does not understand, it should tell Nigerians in which other state of the federation is a police commissioner usurping the role of the Governor as the Chief Security Officer of the state.”
A group, Human Rights Network Initiative (HRNI), which said it has critically followed the permutations and activities of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2015 general election, has declared that the party is unfit to lead the country.
HRNI, in a statement signed by its National President and National Publicity Secretary, Mohammed Saleh and Jonas Orji respectively, which was made available to THISDAY said after reviewing the political activities of the APC, it felt disappointed with the structure and conduct of the party as well as it officials, and therefore concluded that the party is not fit to rule Nigeria.
Giving reasons for its declaration, the group said: “APC is suffering from acute development bankruptcy because the party does not have a well-articulated ideology, policies, programmes and plan of actions to develop the country as a credible alternative to the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
“Instead, APC has through its spokesperson, Lai Mohammed, is dishing out insults and threats of violence and mayhem in the country. The party is an empty sack full of noise making which has succeeded in misleading and deceiving gullible and vulnerable politicians to its fold.
“Evidentially, APC has become a dumping ground for corrupt and frustrated politicians indicted by anti-graft agencies. Politicians who lack credibility and integrity have found APC as a safe haven to seek refuge thus weakening the party to fight corruption.”
According to the statement, HRNI alleged that: “Once you are indicted by any anti-graft agency for corruption, you automatically qualify to become a member of APC. In short, indictment for corruption by any anti-graft agency is the fastest way to become a member of APC. So, how can such a party fight corruption in Nigeria?”
The group posited that the party is inconsistent and morally deficient and “such a party without integrity and sound moral principles is not fit to rule Nigeria.
“APC did not consider the sensitivities of Nigerian plural society when it allocated its principal party positions to one religious sect and neglected the other thus preparing the stage for crises, confusion, anarchy and mayhem in the country.”
HRNI noted that although it wasn’t holding brief for President Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP government, APC seemed not to have the credibility and credentials to outshine Jonathan’s government which has improved power situation and road networks, introduced innovations in the agric sector, returned the rail transportation, reformed the sea ports, and secured our maritime domain among others.
“Nigerian voters are therefore urged to shine their eyes and reject APC in the 2015 general elections because the party has nothing positive to offer Nigerians. APC is not a credible alternative to PDP. APC is not the expected messiah we are looking for in Nigeria. APC is morally, politically and developmentally bankrupt and has no useful value for this nation,” the statement alleged.
The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company says it has started the implementation of some strategic plans aimed at boosting power supply to Niger, Nasarawa, Kogi and the Federal Capital Territory.
The company, in a statement issued and circulated among media houses in Lokoja on Sunday, said that the objective was to get stable power supply to consumers in its area of coverage within the next few months.
According to the statement issued at the end of a meeting held in Lokoja by members of the company’s Task Team, the company will no longer condone acts of illegality such as unauthorised connection and extensions, tampering with metres and bye-passes.
The statement signed by the Chairman of the Task Team, Alhaji Garba Madani, appealed to government establishments, religious houses, institutions, hospitals and individual consumers to join hand with the company and support the ongoing effort to achieve improved power supply by paying up their outstanding debts.
Madani said that the management of the company would continue to address the issue of crazy bills to the satisfaction of consumers, and that the company was committed to efficient and effective service delivery.
A Chieftain of All Progressive Congress, in Kazaure Local Government Area of Jigawa, Alhaji Bala Idi, has alleged irregularities in his area during Saturday’s council polls in the state.
Assessing the conduct of the elections in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Kazaure on Sunday, Idi alledged that there was even a case of ballot-box snatching at Tsoho-Kafe polling unit in Kazaure, by supporters of a particular political party.
“They did not even allow us to finish voting when they stopped the election in our area and took away the materials,” he alledged.
He said that the ballot-box snatching incident, was in addition to many other irregularities he observed in his area.
Reacting to the allegation, the Secretary of Jigawa State Independent Electoral Commission, Alhaji Haruna Idris, said that the election in Kazaure Local Government Area, was peaceful.
Idris stated that no case of ballot-box snatching, was reported to the Commission in any part of the state.
NAN reports that the Jigawa Police Command had also commended the peaceful conduct of the polls, adding that no person was arrested for committing any electoral offence.
The Command’s spokesperson, DSP Abdul Jinjiri, had told NAN that no case of violence was recorded throughout the state.
Does President Goodluck Jonathan sleep at night? Does he not have nightmares? Does he not wake up midnight, sweating and screaming? I have had to wonder at times – given the groundswell of opposition against him. On a daily basis, opposition keeps landing body blows on him. Opposition from within and without. If I were Jonathan, I would feel intimidated. He once described himself as the most criticised president in history. I don’t know about that. We are in the age of the social media where citizens’ messages are neither censored nor limited by time and space; the loudness and speed of travel of their voice is electronically accelerated and amplified, unlike in the past when citizens simply gathered around vendors’ stands to analyse and criticise their leaders.
With or without the social media, however, leaders are generally criticised. President Olusegun Obasanjo faced mammoth opposition during his reign from 1999-2007, particularly following the frequent increases in fuel prices. He often came under heavy political bombardment and personal insults. The House of Representatives launched an impeachment move against him, and the Senate soon joined. After initially describing it as “a joke taken too far”, Obasanjo began to lose weight as the sack threat became formidable. From 2007-2009, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was a subject of ridicule over his medical issues and policy reversals. He had started his government on a controversial note, forcefully removing Malam Nuhu Ribadu as EFCC chairman. He never recovered from the PR disaster.
But, to be fair, I have no way of comparing the enormity of what Jonathan is facing today with what obtained in the past. Everyman thinks his burden is the heaviest, in the words of Robert Nesta Marley. One thing I know, though, is that the opponents of Jonathan are strong, well-organised and resolute. They are political heavyweights. This is no joke. They are coming at him from different directions. Obasanjo’s leaked “letter bomb” to Jonathan seems to be the biggest missile so far, coming days after another leaked letter written by the CBN governor, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, accusing the NNPC (indirectly, Jonathan) of some monumental fraud totalling N8 trillion, an allegation Sanusi himself has toned down later when asked to present his facts.
There is also the little matter of infighting in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has seen to the exit of five governors to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Last week’s resignation of the PDP chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, is just an indication of some fence-mending manoeuvres. The depletion of the PDP is further worsened by the fact that Jonathan’s own “brother”, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, is giving him “home” embarrassment, while a state like Imo, which should ordinarily be safe for Jonathan, is now in the APC under the instruction of Governor Rochas Okorocha. Meanwhile, Jama’atu Nasir Islam, a powerful Islamic organisation in Northern Nigeria, recently issued a statement accusing Jonathan of waging a war against Muslims. Jonathan is definitely under pressure from every corner.
But how did the opposition become so formidable? I think it is a combination of a good game plan and a convergence of interests. That is, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. From my observations, there are at least three broad interests that have come together against Jonathan, with former governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, and former President Obasanjo as arrowheads. I think Saraki set the ball rolling when he helped Amaechi become his successor as chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) in May 2011. Tinubu followed suit by rallying the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to elect Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in June 2011. And Obasanjo is now fronting a move to sack Jonathan from Aso Rock in 2015, perhaps to atone for the Yar’Adua misadventure.
Saraki worked for Jonathan in the 2011 elections. What went wrong between them? I don’t know. But clearly, Saraki is more influential than many people are ready to give him credit for. By far his biggest weapon, in my opinion, is the NGF – which he elevated to a powerful bloc during his tenure as chairman. Working behind-the-scene through the NGF in the last two years, Saraki has created a political crisis of mammoth proportions for Jonathan. Also, when seven PDP governors walked out of their party’s convention in October last year, it was Saraki’s political associate, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, that led the “New PDP”. Those who think Saraki relied solely on his father’s machinery must have realised by now that he has come of age. He is very quiet but lethal.
Tinubu also worked for Jonathan in 2011. Some will argue that he supported Jonathan because that was the political current in the South-west. But I would rather think he also did his calculations properly and believed he was better served by a Jonathan presidency. Tinubu’s support for Jonathan was, however, as brief as it could be. As soon as the House of Representatives was inaugurated, he worked in tandem with “rebel” PDP members to install Tambuwal as Speaker against the decision of the PDP to pick Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola from the South-west. It also served Tinubu’s interest – a Speaker from the South-west would have been a rallying point for the PDP and a challenge to Tinubu’s pre-eminence in Yoruba politics.
And then, there is Obasanjo. Once revered in the North as “the leader we can trust”, he ended up disappointing many Northerners. He was perceived to have systematically redrawn the power equation in the country, especially with his “reform” of the military. To make matters worse, he installed Yar’Adua as president in 2007. Despite Obasanjo’s denials, many Northerners still believe he deliberately installed a terminally ill Yar’Adua as President in order to return power to the South through the backdoor. Apparently to appease the North, he is now working with some Northern governors to see to the ouster of Jonathan. In his widely publicised letter, Obasanjo said it would be “fatally morally wrong” for Jonathan to seek a second term in 2015.
In a very unlikely scenario, Saraki, Tinubu, Tambuwal and Obasanjo (and the General Muhammadu Buhari movement) are now, technically, in the same corner. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Jonathan’s opponents are very methodical, and they have the media on their side – which is a very critical factor in our politics. You have to give the opposition credit for that. I honestly would like to know what is going on in Jonathan’s mind right now in this super heavyweight political boxing. Will he raise his hands and surrender rather than wait to be knocked out in 2015? Roberto Duran famously walked away in Round 8 of his welterweight fight with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980, saying “No mas” (“No more”) as Leonard pummelled him mercilessly.
Or is Jonathan adopting Muhammed Ali’s rope-a-dope style, leaning on the rope, pretending to be on the verge of surrender, only to bounce back with ferocious punches – using the same rope as a spring? The Jonathan I see on television and newspapers doesn’t look like someone who is punch-drunk and about to throw in the towel. If anything, he seems to be keeping his cards close to his chest. That is why despite the massing of anti-Jonathan figures in APC’s corner, I think it is too early to count him out. I will certainly not proclaim his political demise yet. To start with, his opponents have given him a whole year to get ready for them. And 24 hours, they say, is a long time in politics.
However, I can say categorically that his opponents are currently leading on points. And I don’t envy him at all…
Dame Patience Faka Jonathan, Nigeria’s First Lady, is by far Nigeria’s most visible and influential First Lady, with news of her inspiring activities spanning local and international climes. She had learnt the ropes as chief hostess of the nation in the few years her husband was Vice President, then Acting President and later President on the death of President Yar’adua in 2010, up to 2011 when her husband won the Presidential election, and now.
Dame Patience Jonathan has occupied the position of the nation’s First Lady for over three years now. However, Nigerians do not appear to know their First Lady that much. Her real profile seems to have been dwarfed by some orchestrated media hypes built around her person. Is Patience Jonathan a controversial figure or is it that some people take delight in building controversy out of everything she says or does? Is her profile actually as painted in some sections of the media?
Having worked with the First Lady for some years now, I can conveniently say that I know her pretty well enough and that most of the things being bandied in the press and the social media about her are outright falsehoods designed to disparage her for certain political ends. For the benefit of unsuspecting Nigerians who may have taken hook, line and sinker the spurious tales by some of these overzealous writers about the person of Dame Patience Jonathan, I decided to take this trip round her personality.
From the illustrations I am going to make here, I can conveniently say that behind the facade of lies told about her person, Patience Jonathan is a totally different person; she is amiable, selfless, patriotic and a dutiful wife and mother. As a friend has said, the First Lady has been grossly misunderstood, unnecessarily vilified through some form of hate journalism spearheaded by certain people who hate her gut and courage to tread where many feared to show their faces and by those who have underrated her and have suddenly developed belly ache when confronted with her outstanding success in her chosen causes.
Contrary to the sing-song that have become popularised by some merchants of adulterated tales, Patience Jonathan is an enigmatic personality exuding strength of character, bravery and courage, compassion and love, go-getter spirit, resilience, zeal and passion, high intelligence, full of life, and of course, as every fallible human being, a bit of temper when faced with injustice or is irritated by dishonest persons. Above all, Patience Jonathan is a lovely human being, with good intentions but often time deliberately disparaged by her traducers.
The First Lady depicts a strong personality who is undaunted by the barrage of diluted stories built around her person in the media. It is clear from the often coordinated media attacks against her that some people, particularly from the opposition, take delight in vicious attacks on her simply to get at her husband, the president whose ascension to greatness still gnaws at the heart of some politicians in and out of office who think they own the country and must dictate its political pace. Thus, often when a matter is linked to her person, these traducers rush to the press pouring out their spleen, even without seeking and dissecting the facts. Some innocent ones also simply follow the bandwagon without pausing to think. Once it involves Patience Jonathan, it is time for a bazaar of deceit.
Some common sentiments being traded in the media by these group include the un-constitutionality of the Office of the First Lady, yet its seeming high visibility under Patience Jonathan though she was not the first to tread that path; condemnation of her pursuit of public causes which ordinarily should be applauded; ‘imaginary’ claims of her enjoying certain perks of ‘office’ meant for elected or appointed people only, even though these are traditional rights enjoyed by wives of presidents, governors (including wives of governors in the opposition camp) or their ilk.
For instance, they cite the use of official convoy for her movements (even when wives of leaders in opposition camp also drive in convoy and Patience Jonathan is not the first to enjoy that privilege); holding traffic for her convoy to pass (even for few minutes that it takes); use of podium with her office crest (ignoring the fact that even Michele Obama uses podium and crest, not to talk of local peers here in Nigeria); dabbling in affairs of state (though they know that the wife of president remains an unofficial adviser of the president working quietly behind the scene to support the president in discharging the huge responsibility of state affairs); and soliciting support for her husband’s administration or candidacy (as if they expect her, against the ideal of the wife being a chief supporter of her husband, to be raising enemies for her husband). These among others, are the sentiments that they parade.
An average person would have been cowed by the avalanche of attacks against her person by her ‘traditional enemies’ but Patience Jonathan is as a strong woman who would not be intimidated by any man or woman. Some of her friends describe her as an iroko tree that remains standing even in the face of a terrible storm. Her uncommon energy and nerve have seen her overcoming many undeserved attacks against her person. One of her friends said this of her “she does not lose sleep at all when these attacks come. She might get angry sometimes at this unjust treatment but that does not stop her from being who she is. And it does not prevent her from moving on.”
Patience Jonathan may qualify as the most criticised Nigeria’s First Lady. However, these criticisms are attracted because she is making an impact, as only someone who does not matter is not spoken of, as said in our local parlance. But her traducers are smart. They play their game well by ensuring that some of her good works are not heard or seen. In spite of all, Patience Jonathan is indeed a brave and courageous woman.
Where many are afraid to take a stand or make a move, Patience Jonathan would. She is never afraid to say her mind. And she could be frank to a fault. But that does not diminish her worth. It shows she is human and sincere about her feelings.
While many would want to deceive people about their true feelings, Patience Jonathan “talks from her heart.” Rather than this being seen as a fault in her character, it should be seen as a virtue, an attitude that many in our society lack. Many times the First Lady had attracted criticisms for saying her mind at a time many are lacking the courage to speak.
The First Lady’s go-getter spirit is also probably one trait that irks her opponents. When she sets her mind into doing something, there is no going back. She is a woman of strong character. Instances of this included during the mounting opposition to her husband in the wake of the 2011 election; she went round the country and mobilised Nigerian women to vote for her husband. It is acclaimed that her mobilization prowess contributed to the victory of her husband in that election. It is equally this feat that earned her the enmity of those opposed to her husband ascension to the presidential seat.
Through the Women for Change and Development Initiative which she founded in 2010, Patience Jonathan has launched a massive women movement never seen before in the history of Nigeria. It would be recalled that in spite of the seeming opposition by her attackers to the floating of the women organization at its inception, Patience Jonathan was not discouraged as she criss-crossed the length and breadth of Nigeria to launch the organization and she propelled the advocacy for the endorsement of the 35% affirmative action on women representation in appointive and elective positions.
The zeal and passion with which she has pursued the empowerment of Nigerian women are said to be unparalleled. She succeeded in encouraging the Jonathan administration to fulfil its pledge of rewarding the Nigerian women for their votes during the 2011 elections. Thus, until the last cabinet reshuffle, there were 13 women in the cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan occupying sensitive portfolios such as aviation, petroleum resources, education, water resources, environment, works and housing, finance, among others.
Her admirers claim that her influence encouraged the appointment of several women into sensitive positions in the country. The nation, they claim, now has the first female Chief Justice of the Federation, possibly in deference to her campaigns. Through her campaign also, women are now more visible in all areas of the national life and across the states of Nigeria.
A friend once told me, “although all these gains for women may be directly attributed to Mr. President, the First Lady actually might have done the prodding. Those of us with her all the time, we see her countenance whenever an appointment is made. She would scan the list and exclaim if not satisfied. ‘Where are the women? Is this how they will reward us? No, we cannot accept this.’ And quietly she would go behind the scene to seek a redress or compensation in another round of appointment. You could see her passion for the women whenever a woman is appointed to a higher position. She would dance with joy and quickly direct a congratulatory message to be sent to her. She celebrates every woman who attains excellence.”
These zeal and passion could also be seen in her public speeches, whereby she admonishes Nigerian women not to sit on the fence; that they should go all out to demand for their rights as women. I believe her speeches have inspired many women who otherwise would have been passive onlookers to become active participants in politics. The gains from her advocacies on women empowerment are coming on gradually but the full impact may not be appreciated by many until she is out of the scene.
As one who works directly with her, I know that the First Lady’s intelligence level is extraordinary; her gift of insight and her reading of situations unparallel. Most of the things undertaken by her office are actually her original thoughts and initiatives. She is a perfectionist who takes the front row in directing her affairs, and she does not tolerate mediocrity or imperfection. To underrate her is to one’s detriment as she is quick-witted and could easily read through any antics. She is also extra-ordinary in recalling events and facts, so “you dare not lie to her.”
Patience Jonathan is very thorough and has photographic memory. She internalises any material given to her at rapid speed. She may not be a first class speaker but she is aware of her gift of intelligence and this gives her confidence and the push to excel. These are qualities, she demonstrates quite eloquently at international outings where she displays her wits and gifts.
The First Lady hates injustice and would fight with her life to protest or correct it. This, according to one of her siblings, was a trait of her mother. She was quoted to have told one of her close friends and confidant: “My mother taught us to be honest and to be hard-working. I found out that I developed these traits very early in life. I was a brave child and I hated cheating. I would go to any length to defend my right and I never gave up no matter how difficult a challenge could be. These traits have seen me along in the hard journey of life.”
Perhaps more than any First Lady before her, Patience Jonathan’s love for the needy, the physically challenged, women and children, is unequal. She demonstrates this love and care for them during her empowerment activities. Through her A.Aruera Reachout Foundation, she has trained over 4,000 women and youths in vocational skills such as tie and dye of fabrics, tailoring, candle making, etc. The people, upon their graduation, are provided with capital and starter packs to enable them start their businesses. In addition to this, she provides overseas medical treatment for children with heart ailments.
I can conveniently recall an incident during an empowerment scheme for women in Abuja sometimes in February 2013. The First Lady was there, as usual, to hand over empowerment items to the women. It was a programme for adults and for women with physical ability to cope, but in the group that came there were a few teenagers and one person with physical disability who was also nursing a child. The sight of the young physically challenged mother overwhelmed the First Lady, who instead of handing over the empowerment item to her simply told her to step aside. The young woman who did not understand the reason for her treatment as such began to brood and was crying inwardly.
Many people at that event did not know what the First Lady was up to. After telling the teenagers that what they needed was not job but education, she asked that their names be documented. She gave them a token and advised them to go and look for admission to further their education and then come back for financial assistance. After the teenagers and the other groups had left, the First Lady then called the physically challenged woman who was now visibly crying. She asked about the paternity of the child, and the woman replied that the father was at home. The First Lady was angry why a man without a means of livelihood would impregnate such a woman in her present condition.
Thereupon, she gave the woman a sum of N300,000 to go and establish a business of her choice, warning that she was not to give the man the money to spend but to trade so that she could fend for herself and her child. The young woman was moved to fresh tears. She was too overwhelmed and was shaking. Sensing that the woman might equally be tired and hungry, the First Lady ordered that biscuits and drinks be procured for her.
While the woman was eating, a debate began about providing a policeman to escort the woman home so that the money would not be snatched from her. The response of the First Lady surprised all those who were there that day as she said: “Leave her, let anyone who envies the woman in her present condition take this money from her and see if God who made her this way would not reward such a person with a greater affliction than she has.” It was a jolting statement that exposed the depth of her feelings and compassion for the weak woman. Thus, as she left that scene, many thought how considerate and caring Patience Jonathan could be.
This is just one instance of the numerous humanitarian efforts of the First Lady. Many are unknown to people except to those that benefited. And when she undertakes a public presentation of items to the needy, she would not only ensure that the right items are given out, she would sometimes sit all through to ensure that the people are given what she directs that they be given. She could sit for hours, even physically handing over these items to the people. Sometimes we wonder how she gets the strength to do all these.
Such is the nature and character of the First Lady, unfamiliar to some take who delight in attacking her person, simply because some others are doing same. Reflecting on all these, one can only come to a conclusion that the true worth of a person may not actually be known until an effort is made to unravel it. We are often too familiar with certain stories about a person that we never bother to cross-check or clarify. There is therefore, more to every story told, and this can be seen in the stories of Patience Jonathan.