By Theophilus Ilevbare
Nigerians were yet to come to terms with the FCT Minister’s budgetary allocation of N4billion naira to the office of the first lady – that has never been recognized by the country’s constitution from 1960 to 1999 – for the proposed construction of the African First Ladies’ Peace Mission (AFLPM) Secretariat in Abuja when news filtered in of the First Lady’s half a billion naira thanksgiving party at Aso Rock Villa to celebrate her “resurrection,” or sojourn in the land of the dead. I joined millions of Nigerians to felicitate with her.
And when it was time for the first lady to make an address at the lavish thanksgiving, she decided to do it offhand, making a stunning revelation: “I actually died – I passed out for more than a week. My intestine and tummy were opened. I am not Lazarus but my experience was similar to his. My doctors said all hope was lost. A black doctor in London who is with us in this service was flown in when the situation became critical. It was God himself in His infinite mercy that said I would return to Nigeria. God woke me up after seven days.”
The First Lady’s office is not recognised by the constitution, hence, she is not obliged to notify Nigerians of her travelling itinerary within or outside the country but by virtue of her position as a Permanent Secretary in the Public Service of Bayelsa State, she is a public servant.
On her return she denied ever attending any hospital in Germany, or anywhere! In the heat of the rumour about her whereabouts, presidential aides told barefaced and shamefaced lies. Mrs Jonathan was taking a “moment’s rest” abroad after a hectic First African Ladies’ Summit she presided over, said the First Lady’s spokesperson, Ayo Osinlu. Reuben Abati dismissed the reported illness as a rumour. But if her illness was made public and Nigerians carried along, it would have ignited nothing but fervent prayers from every Nigerian. We can as well count on the Aso-Rock-friendly CAN to organize numerous prayer sessions and vigils across the country. It wasn’t to be, as the rumour mill was left to swell. It baffled me that those words came from the same person who told Nigerians that she was “never” admitted. But thank God for his mercies, he gave her a second chance inspite of the deceit and lies.
Lies are nothing short of state policy of the present administration. The government, led by the President himself, have turned the country to a laughing stock. Lies are routine. Today, we talk about Governors on long medical vacation shrouded in deceit and shenanigans, without a proper handover as required by law, and the affairs of their state is left on autopilot.
As of today, there are still some state governors who are absent without leave. Gov. Sullivan Chime returned from a long medical leave abroad declaring that he owed no one an apology for not disclosing to Nigerians the state of his health before travelling out of the country.
Nigerian leaders can take a cue from ailing Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez’s well publicised struggle with cancer that has kept him out of office for months. Venezuelans were sympathetic to his cause, showed him love and support. This much was made evident with the heroic welcome he got on his return home from cancer treatment in Cuba recently. Hillary Clinton, just before she stepped down as US Secretary of State, last year December, State Department officials announced she was undergoing treatment for a blood cloth just below her ear with details when she will make complete recovery. This is what is expected from every responsible government that understands what public office entail.
It is the very nature of this administration to propagate lies. President Goodluck Jonathan, in the last few weeks, has had a torrid time engaging northern governors and other presidential aspirants that he signed an agreement to run for only a single term in 2011. Constitutionally, there is no law barring him from contesting but the Chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum and Governor of Niger state, Babangida Aliyu, has reiterated that Jonathan signed a pact with PDP governors. President Jonathan inadvertently gave himself away after an AU Summit in 2011 in Ethiopia when he spoke to his compatriots abroad, “ Nigerians in the Diaspora will not vote, but I will work towards it by 2015, even though I will not be running for election.”
To an international audience, Mr Jonathan tried to pull a fast one but he ended up pulling the rug where it hurt most on the failure of his administration; Power. At an interview with CNN’s Christine Amanpour, President Jonathan claimed that Nigerians were now impressed with the improvement – stable power – in the country, bragging as he spoke, like a school boy thumping his chest, “I would have loved that you ask ordinary Nigerians on the streets of Lagos, Abuja or any other city this question about power. This is one area that Nigerians are quite pleased with the government that our commitment to improve power is working.” His claim was punctured days later when Americans were embarrassed by a 35-minute power outage at a Super Bowl game which sparked interest from Nigerians on social media who see it as a norm in their country. CNN had to do an Open Mic in Lagos to sample opinion, which in the end sharply contrasted the president’s position. Yet another lie.
It would be recalled that President Jonathan also lied to Nigerians in his Independence Day anniversary speech last year, making a bogus claim that the global corruption watchdog, Transparency International, ranked Nigeria the second most improved country in the fight against corruption. He said “…the fight against the scourge of corruption is a top priority of our administration. We are fighting corruption in all facets of our economy, and we are succeeding. We have put an end to several decades of endemic corruption associated with fertilizer and tractor procurement and distribution. We have exposed decades of scam in the management of pensions and fuel subsidy, and ensured that the culprits are being brought to book.” Mr. Jonathan’s claim were promptly dismissed; “Transparency International does not have a recent rating or report that places Nigeria as the second most improved country in the fight against corruption.”
What made the First Lady’s baloney worrisome is the fact that the first family was involved, at a time Nigerians thought they’ve had enough lies from President Jonathan. When the President of a country lies without flinching, expect no less from aides, Ministers, Governors and other government functionaries. The likes of Labaran Maku, Doyin Okupe and Reuben Abati at different times have struggled to outdo each other with deceitful press releases, phantom statistics and essays. There is a media aide of the President who comes on social media every now and then to gull Nigerians that Power has improved even when the reality on ground states the obvious.
And state Governors who go on medical leave for months without any form of notice. It is surprising that on their return they make their illness public and expect to get public sympathy. Wouldn’t it have been better if they had disclosed it before travelling to quell rumours and ignite fervent, perfervid prayers from compatriots regarded as the most religious people on earth? Lying under oath as a public servant isn’t it tantamount to stealing and other offences punishable by law?