Special Assistant (Media) to the President’s wife, Mr. Ayo Osinlu, in this interview with ALLWELL OKPI, argues that those accusing the First Lady of excesses have ulterior motive
The President’s wife, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, has been accused of engaging in several excesses. Do you agree?
One can’t help but wonder what they mean by excesses. What are excesses? Who holds the standards to measure excesses? There are no excesses, what you have are just perspectives. And we know that perspectives are produced by different sentiments each person holds. What you take as excesses might be regular and normal to another person. As far as I’m concerned, there are no excesses that can be ascribed to the First Lady. It doesn’t arise. If you say we have done something in a way that is different from how you would do it, that is your opinion and you are entitled to it. But the fact that you are entitled to your opinion does not qualify you to describe what others do as excesses.
By excesses, they were referring to the fact that traffic was locked down for hours when the President’s wife visited Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Warri. Are you saying these never happened?
With regards to the blockage of roads, as far as I understand, interruption of flow of traffic and normal activities on the streets is not a thing peculiar to the First Lady. It is simply insincerity and some very wicked and unrealistic attempt to give the First Lady a bad name that would make some people come to such conclusions. The question is, is the First Lady the only official at that level of authority for whom traffic was interrupted when she was passing? How many governors move without interruption of traffic? If you go to the states, how many governors’ wives move without interruption of traffic.
Even in the city of Abuja, you often hear siren on the streets and then the outriders will come and push traffic apart for some dignitaries to pass. Governors come from their states and do that in Abuja. I don’t know an official of her (First Lady) status, for whom traffic is not fairly interrupted. It all boils down to security. It is not for glory or grandstanding. If it was so, then every dignitary in the country, who rides in a convoy, should also answer to that. So, why are they singling out the First Lady’s convoy? And don’t forget that when this Lagos thing happened, we were at the peak of the Boko Haram crisis.
It was really worrisome then and there were unusual security efforts to secure the First Lady. You can imagine the political and social embarrassment it will be for the nation if it is said that the President’s wife was attacked by some of these interests. I’m not a security man, so I don’t know what measure of security is appropriate and adequate for any circumstance.
Don’t forget that security operatives design their strategy according to the intelligence information that they have, which I’m not privy to, because it is not my job. But the point is that there is no official at that level, not to talk of the Presidency, that will move without some level of interruption in traffic. Why this First Lady? Is there no First Lady before her, who moved without interrupting traffic. So, why her all the time? That is why we will keep saying there are interests behind the wall stoking these controversies because of certain advantages they stand to gain.
What about the issue of her campaigning for her husband in Port-Harcourt against the provisions of the Electoral Act?
I was in Port-Harcourt; I know what transpired there. I can tell you confidently that there was no campaign in Port-Harcourt. What the First lady did was to address various persons who came to welcome her home to Port-Harcourt and those that came to show solidarity. Don’t forget that the First Lady, in her own right, is a politician; a very strong mobiliser. She is somebody with a heart for the grass roots; somebody with a way with the grass roots.
These are her people any time. Many individuals and groups came to see her; traditional rulers, women and social groups. She also paid visits to some eminent people. And what she did was to thank them all for the support they gave to her husband during the last election. She told them that she was aware that they voted massively for her husband and that she came to thank them. She then solicited for their support for her husband.
There was no time she said elections would hold in 2015 and that they should vote for her husband. Anyone with evidence that she said that should let us have it. She only said she hoped they would keep on supporting her husband. The man at the helm-of-affairs at the Presidency needs support for his policies to go through; support for his agenda to be implemented; support for the sustenance of peace, because peace is the indivisible minimum for development. But as usual, our friends took it out of her mouth and said she called for support at the next election. They should show us evidence where she said that.
There have been talks about her exercise of power in government affairs beyond the bounds of her office, and that the President cannot control her. Is there any truth in that?
That is absolutely untrue and very disrespectful. Anybody who says that about another man and his home is disrespectful, because every man owns his own home and every man has his own style of running his home. No matter how you think you are a successful manager of your home, I can’t run my home by your own standards because my nature is not your nature; my disposition is not your disposition; the things I tolerate, you may not tolerate. Some men are hard and others are not. It is not correct to say the President is unable to control his wife. Is he unable to control her and they have been married for almost 30 years?
The people saying this are mere chauvinists. They believe the only way a man can be said to control his wife is when he rules her life and her activities with an iron hand. They like a situation where a man manipulates his wife according to his whims and caprices all the time. The woman is not entitled to an opinion or view, she must wait for her husband to give directives on all things. To me, if the fact that a man allows his wife to hold her opinion amounts to his being unable to control her, then such persons are taking us back by several decades, when the woman was seen as a little above a slave in her husband’s house.
On the talk that she goes beyond her bounds in government affairs, it is neither here nor there. It goes back to what I said earlier that some people believe they would derive some benefits from demonising the First Lady. They keep making frivolous accusations. In what manner or activities is the First Lady overbearing? In what area of government can anybody show us evidence where she intervened and interrupted processes? If they show us where she is overbearing, we will then have an issue to talk about.
Part of the argument is that the office of the First Lady should be scrapped since it is not in the constitution.
It goes back to perspectives. If someone holds the perspective that the office of the First Lady should be scrapped, that is the person’s perspective. If he is able to step out and press his perspective on the system and if the system adopts it and says it should be scrapped, so be it. We are not unaware that the office of the First Lady is not in the constitution and it didn’t start today. I can’t remember any First Lady that didn’t move in a convoy.
The First Lady is a politically exposed person because of her husband’s position. Security measures are put in place to protect all first ladies and the whole first family. Same applies to the governors. Isn’t Dame Patience Jonathan as much a First Lady as the preceding first ladies, who all used convoys? That’s why I keep saying that we need to look beyond these campaigns because they are not coming out of goodwill. They are not out of concern for the person who was held in traffic because a VIP was passing, because these people are not interested in people’s welfare. Their objectives are selfish.