Dame Patience Jonathan is an apostle of women empowerment and an agent of change who has enhanced the journey started by previous first ladies into an era befitting the Nigerian woman. She has struggled to empower the Nigerian woman through summits, programmes, enlightenment campaigns, sensitizations and ensuring that women in politics are constitutionally recognized as stakeholders. She has canvassed on several fora that women should be given more opportunities to contribute to the development of the country. It is also to her credit that her husband, President Goodluck Jonathan, delivered the promise of 35 per cent affirmative action for women in his administration, a policy women agitated for two decades but achieved in a year.
Dame Jonathan has continued to fight on in spite of the daunting challenges facing Nigerian women which limits their access to a range of opportunities and these challenges includes high rates of poverty, unequal access to education, training, healthcare, inequality in economic structures, employment opportunities, marginalization within the political turf as well as the girl -child discrimination. She had given her word that with the support of Nigerians she intends to drastically reduce these challenges by pushing for the recognition of the office of the first lady and other issues of national importance.
From the days of Maryam Babangida’s Better Life For Rural Women to Mariam Abacha’s Family Support Programme, from Stella Obasanjo’s Child Care Trust to Hajiya Turai Yar’Adua’s Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation and Titi Abubakar’s Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation, to the present day (Women for Change Initiatives W4CI) whose grand patron is Dame Jonathan, the struggle for women emancipation and empowerment is not an easy one and had revolved around the same theme for a mass movement of the female folks in the country. In spite of the initial challenges put in the way of the initiators, it has succeeded so far in advancing, galvanizing, enlightening and consolidating the involvement of women in the development of the country.
A case in view is during the recent elections conducted from the local, state and presidential elections, the turnout of the women were enormous and encouraging. For the first time in the history of the country, the Nigerian women felt a sense of belonging and decided to take their fate in their own hands and the resultant effect is what we have today which greatest attribute goes to Dame Jonathan for touring from one state to another sensitizing women on the importance of being participative.
Gladly so, Patience Jonathan, who by virtue of her position as the First lady, is the chairperson of the African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM), succeeding Hajiya Turai Yar’Adua. For over three weeks now, the good relationship between the first families, the Jonathans and the Yar’Adua’s, had been in the public discourse, while the ties between the families had been over-shadowed by a mixture of intrigues, name-callings and deliberate attempts to upset the hitherto smooth order of things.
It is gratifying to note that the Goodluck and Yar’Adua families have jointly addressed the issue on the “land” and therefore affirm, for the umpteenth time, that the relationship between both families remain rock solid to the consternation of the evil forces at work. Former minister of the FCT, Dr. Ibrahim Modibbo, has also cleared the air and both families are in a cordial relationship.
For the records, since the history of this great country, names of our heroes past, present and future have been used as road signs, and directions, including naming monuments after them. The naming of the Maitama new extension is not an innovation to please the president but an old order of naming places after leaders of this nation. Therefore, there is nothing different from what the FCT minister has done from his predecessors, it’s merely official and in the right stead.
Let me also use this medium to address the issue of the case of sublet/sponsorship by Coscharis to (AFLPM), which is an agreement between two organizations, one being the organizer and the other, the sponsor of the event. In an event of this nature, it is agreed by both parties that after the end of the event, the cars will be repossessed to be sold to Nigerians at a reduced rate as used cars from the event just like CHOGM. There was no way that the office of the First Lady can afford such expensive cars when there is no fund/budget attached to the office of (AFLPM), which is mainly a volunteer organization from first Ladies across Africa coming together to chart a course for the common good. What we have in Nigeria is a situation where people sit down and look for any means to blackmail, falsify information or leak information to the press without been verifying first or without looking at the authenticity of the story. It is also gratifying that the sponsors (Coscharis) had also denied the story thrown to the public domain by the enemies of peace and stability.
It is hard to find the rich and powerful making sincere intercession for the poor. The privileged sits behind barriers and associate with only a select few; but Dame Jonathan is classless and does not believe in the social strata. She sees herself more of the average Nigerian woman, who accords respect to her husband, family members and the larger society. One needs to interact with the first lady to know where she is coming from instead of casting aspersions where there is none. The First lady is determined to see through her visions in spite of all the challenges put on her way to improve the lot of Nigerian women and she has refocused her energy to use her office for the common good of all.
By Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele. Aigbegbele is of Citizens Watch Nigeria (CWN) and can be reached on Kenneth_aigbe@yahoo.com
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