The proposed N4 billion African First Ladies’ peace mission building project must not be turned down as canvassed by the opposition because it will amount to abdication of responsibility by Nigeria and such diplomatic somersault will be incongruent with the country’s status and leadership role in Africa, the first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan said yesterday.
She refuted the claim that the peace mission building was a non governmental organisation (NGO) of the first lady, just as she implored Nigerians to be wary of politicians who see both the media and the unsuspecting public as instruments to pursue private and personal political objectives of bringing dishonour and embarrassment to government, using every issue that concerns her.
The proposed N4 billion African First Ladies’ Peace Mission building had been the subject of a raging criticism, with the opposition parties, including the Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and civil society groups contending that, apart from being illegal and a misplaced priority, it would also constitute profligacy on the part of the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration.
Drawing the attention of the federal lawmakers to it, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had on Sunday also joined those opposing the proposed project to argue that it was one of the flamboyant life styles of the first lady and also one of the exorbitant and extravagant ventures of wives of leaders in the country.
But speaking through her special assistant, Mr. Ayo Osinlu, the first lady told State House Correspondents that despite the pressure being mounted on the National Assembly to turn down the endorsement of the peace mission building, the project deserves to proceed.
She said that her office would, instead, expect that objective attention should be given by both the public and the legislature, to the gains of what she described as the all important continental attraction to the country.
Dame Patience added that, while it was not the duty of the office of the first lady to defend the budget which was not its proposal, but that of the FCT ministry which has responded appropriately, there was every cause to wonder why it is suddenly an issue that a group of the wives of Africa presidents came together to undertake the moral duty to stop violent conflict on the continent and in the case where the conflict becomes inevitable, to try to see if they can provide relief to victims, saying “it offends the original African culture of charity to obstruct any effort to promote peace and development such as the decision of all African First Ladies to rise up to the social responsibility as mothers and wives of leaders on the continent to save the women, children and the aged on the continent from the traumatic consequences of violent conflicts and wars.”
Osinlu said, “I can assure you, without any doubt that it is far from the desire of the first lady to have the project turned down. One, it will amount to an abdication of responsibility by Nigeria and that level of disappointment will be injurious for the leadership status of Nigeria in Africa. Certainly, the first lady will not expect Nigeria to behave in such a manner.
“Two, the first lady would not also want the project abandoned because it is an undertaking that the country has made to the continent. It means therefore that the credibility of Nigeria will drop significantly if it goes back on its deliberate and willing commitment to host such an organ for the continent and at the request of the continent. Africa First Ladies Mission give us a secretariat and you agreed that you will do it and then five years after, you wake up and say you don’t want to do it again. I don’t think that level of irresponsibility would be expected of Nigeria and the first lady won’t encourage that at all.”