Globally, the nexus between democracy and peace is intertwined and related by direct variation. Many people say democracy is a representative system based on elections through universal suffrage, with entrenched freedom of expression and association, within a nation-state.
Indeed, war itself – the negation of peace or civil unrest – is not unassociated with democracy. Civil unrest in the form of local insurrections, inter-group hostilities and unrest resulting from the siege on the lawmaking institutions which played out in Rivers and Ekiti States in recent times.
According to a disturbing report from the internationally reputable GlobalSecurity.org, Nigeria has one of the highest rates of internal violence in the world. Unlike others with similar levels of bloodshed such as Colombia or Chechnya, there is no civil war going on.
“Between 1999 and 2006 alone, over 50,000 were killed in ethno-religious violence and over 80,000 displaced”, the report says.
Terrorism has not helped our pains, it has rather worsened the security situation of Nigeria, leading to the deaths of over 15,000 Nigerians and the displacement of over three million others in the last six years.
Given the above premises and the volatility of the system, when persons in the corridors of power, either by election, appointment, marriage or nepotism publicly preach violence like Dame Patience Jonathan, wife of President Goodluck Jonathan, did at Calabar, Cross River State recently, it calls for serious concerns and national emergency. Mrs. Jonathan will be referred to as Dame for the rest of this piece. Simply, Dame.
At this juncture, it is necessary to make some concessions. It is quite true that I have closely followed the activities of Dame since she stumbled on national limelight. When Nigerians criticise and lampoon her for abuse of diction and upturning of semantics, I deliberately don’t join the bandwagon.
The Dame I always see is the strong, confident and energetic Dame that Bashorun Dele Momodu wrote about recently. Most importantly, a supportive wife to her husband, President Jonathan. Like an American Comedian, Groucho Marx, once remarked, “behind every successful man is a woman….”. It will be difficult and practically impossible for any writer to attempt to perfectly capture the successes of President Jonathan without references to Dame’s supportive role.
However, the same Dame who is supposedly supportive, at least to my knowledge, is sabotaging her husband, President Jonathan. Not done with that, the same Dame is about to throw our dear country, Nigeria, into needless confusion and violence.
“If you see anybody mentioning change, stone that person to death,” Dame reportedly said to market women at the PDP women rally in Calabar, Cross Rivers State on February 25. Invariably, she had simply encouraged her supporters to kill all members of opposition All Progressives Congress who dare chant the party’s slogan, change!
This statement was evidently condemnable. Political parties, groups, Nigerians consequently chided Dame for preaching violence but Dame remains remorseless. To Dame, a retraction was unnecessary and an apology to Nigerians was asking for too much.
After the APC reportedly dragged her to the International Criminal Court, Dame was persuaded to at least react to the saga. Dame fumbled again.
Dame’s reaction, through her media aide, Ayo Adewuyi, reads partly: “She is a woman of peace that can never be identified with electoral violence.
“The only thing we can say from here is that Dame Patience Jonathan is a woman of peace that can never in any way be identified with violence before, during and after elections.
“You do not expect somebody who is the President of African First Ladies to be promoting violence.”
That was a weak reaction. It was either Adewuyi, Dame’s laundryman, didn’t get the issues at hand or he deliberately misinterpreted the issues. Or merely pulled a weak stunt.
Nigerians are not interested in those commentaries, Nigerians simply expect Dame to outrightly deny preaching violence or admit, retract her statement and apologise to them. Of course, outright denial is not an option because Dame was caught pants down.
Indeed, Adewuyi made an interesting remark. It is true that Nigerians didn’t expect the President of African First Ladies to be promoting violence but reality has shown that Dame is doing exactly what she is expected to preach against.
But can anyone really blame Adewuyi? When Mr. President himself had the opportunity to react to a similar hate and condemnable statement made by Dame about the APC presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, he refused to impress anyone. Through Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, the spokesman of his presidential campaign, Mr. President said Dame was “absolutely right”. Really?
It would be an understatement to say President Jonathan had openly encouraged his wife, Dame, to continue with the hate and violence campaign. Reasonable Nigerians, including myself, have found Mr. President’s statement outrightly embarrassing and unacceptable. We wondered if this is the same president that has consistently warned politicians against making unguarded utterances that could heat up the already-heated polity. Mr. Jonathan failed the simple task of calling his personal property, Dame, to order. I make bold to say, Mr. Jonathan himself is culpable.
Dame parades herself as Nigeria’s first lady even though such title is alien to our constitution. Since that is what she cherishes, I will compare her and her activities with that of other first ladies around the world.
Facts have shown that a first lady can mobilise supports for her husband without creating needless controversies, confusion, crises and tension in the country. The Dame example is particularly different.
First Lady Michelle Robinson Obama, wife of President Barrack Obama of the United States of America, has been a backbone in the administration of her husband. Through her initiative like ‘Let’s Move’, she brought together community leaders, educators, medical professionals, parents and others in a nationwide effort to address the challenge of childhood obesity.
Michelle’s involvement in ‘Joining Forces’, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans and their families and support them through wellness, education and employment opportunities, has paid off.
The Reach Higher Initiative of Michelle, an effort to inspire young people across America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training programme, a community college or a four-year college or university has greatly helped the administration of her husband.
It is noteworthy that Michelle has won all these medals without noises and insulting opponents of her husband.
Back in Nigeria, not much is heard about Dame’s Women for Change Initiative except occasional distribution of rice and clothing materials to women of her party, the Peoples Democratic Party, when elections are around the corner.
A Michelle would never attempt to put Mr. Bruce Vincent Rauner, the Governor of State of Illinois, in her pocket like Dame struggled to control the Rivers State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Ameachi, at Okrika in 2013.
In the countdown to the November 2012 presidential election in USA, a Michelle didn’t insult Mr. Willard Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate of the opposition Republican Party, because he constituted a visible threat to the re-election bid of her husband like Dame did at a campaign rally in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, recently when she referred to her husband’s main opponent and presidential Candidate of the APC, General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), as brain dead.
A Michelle didn’t manipulate state security networks to frustrate members of the opposition Republican Party from campaigning in her place of birth, Chicago, in 2012 because her husband’s job was on the line like Dame allegedly did at Okrika, Rivers State with the support of her armed supporters. The last of such actions consumed a cop, Corporal Ifeanyi Okorie, while a ChannelsTV reporter, Charles Eruka, escaped death after he was stabbed. No doubt, that was a stab on press freedom.
Nigerians have been made to believe Dame’s hands have always been seen in the perpetual crises in her home state, Rivers State.
For the sake of peace, I have personally had to tell my friends in River State to beg Dame to consider contesting the gubernatorial election in the state if she has much love for her people.
Dame is qualified to govern Rivers State by virtues of her age and qualification. The West African School Certificate Examination she did in 1980 will be relevant here. If Dame is so popular, very powerful and acceptable to her people, let her join the contest.
The ultimate test of her popularity is not by manipulating government agencies and mobilising armed supporters to frustrate APC rallies as witnessed at Okrika but to mobilise the people of Rivers State to vote for her husband or herself whenever she decides to contest the governorship election.
A visit to Ghana will convince anyone that indeed First Lady Lordina Mahama has achieved much in her initiative to improve the health and lives of orphans via the Lordina Foundation. Lordina has also done remarkably well in advancing UNAIDS Global plan to eradicate mother to child transmission of HIV and AIDS. These strides were attained without heating up the political atmosphere of Ghana.
I have some lessons for Dame. By now, Dame should be aware Simone Gbagbo, wife of the former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, has been jailed for 20 years. Simone was convicted for all the charges against her, including disturbing the peace, forming and organising armed gangs and undermining state security.
It should interest Dame that Simone was a trained historian with a background in activism. Simone was not a trained snipper or an accidental shooter even though her father was a cop. It is not on record that Simone publicly ordered her supporters at a rally to stone the supporters of President Alassane Quattara. At least I haven’t watched it on youtube.
Evidently, Dame has pushed her Goodluck against the warning of Dr. Reuben Abati in 2013. Dame, the Mama Peace has turned, both by impunity and error of commission, an emerging Mama War.
The APC has reportedly dragged Dame to the International Criminal Court. If and when Dame eventually faces the ICC, I wish her Goodluck. Profound Goodluck!
Kayode Fakuyi writes from Akure and can be reached by e-mail at: [email protected]