When in 2010 there was a ‘change of guards’ in the highest office of the land, it was established that a ‘new order’ had also evolved in the position of First Lady. Naturally so! With the formal change of guards taking place as the outcome of the 2011 elections, it was established that Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his wife had now become the new Father and Mother of the nation.
So much has happened since they assumed tenancy of the villa. There have been times of up and down, good and not so good; historic events have also taken place under the Goodluck dispensation. Let’s face it, a lot has happened, and commendations should be sent the way of the President as he continues to grapple with the exigencies of office.
Whilst the final analysis is left for history to tell, and posterity hangs in the shadows, perhaps it’s a good time to also look at certain burning issues stirring the First Lady of the nation in the face. I mentioned earlier that as the President’s wife, the position of First Lady of the nation is automatically assumed. The position of First Lady also confers the status – and huge responsibility, I daresay – of being the “Mother of the Nation,” a position which requires a clear understanding, articulation, objectivity, and even temperament, in order to perform excellently in that role.
Dame Patience Jonathan is not new to the position of “First Lady,” having been so when her husband assumed office as Governor of Bayelsa State a while back. Even as far back as then, she had shown a deep appreciation of her role, having initiated, and been involved in many developmental projects, in her capacity as First Lady of Bayelsa State. Philanthropy has also been an integral part of her life, as she has embarked on quite a number of successful Women Empowerment projects, with many of the beneficiaries still singing her praises to date.
Peace-keeping is also a passion of hers, going by the many Peace-oriented projects she has embarked on, leading up to her most recent confident declaration in December 2013, that she should now be known and addressed as “Mama Peace!”
Her words: “My name is no more Patience but Mama Peace, because I believe that without peace, there will be no women, children and the health sector. Without peace, the international community will be afraid to come and invest in our country. Peace is from the heart and not from the tongue or lips; not what you say but what is in you. We pray for genuine peace because peace is the key to our arriving at a desired destination as a nation.”
As mentioned earlier, so much has been going on since we entered the New Year. It would be difficult to ignore the fact that violence has been rearing its head amongst us, threatening our national security, costing us many lives and properties, and denting the image of our country more and more each day. Rivers State, Borno, Maiduguri, Ilorin, have witnessed spates of violence that have kept our security apparatus working round the clock. All these practically negate the good intentions of our Mama Peace. In fact they are a challenge to the Peace that she has devoted her energies to advocating. Sadly, all these have taken place within a period of one month!
But by far the real and greatest litmus test that has been thrown in the path of “Mama Peace,” is the crisis in Rivers State! Whilst not attempting to overlook, demean, or brush aside other parts of the country where skirmishes and violence have erupted – indeed, as the “Mother of the nation,” Her Excellency must call all her “fighting children” (the citizens), to order – it is very clear that the Dame has to take charge of things in Rivers State in particular, and use her success there as a template to sue for peace in the other volatile sections of the country. Without meaning to sound sectional, Rivers State is her state of origin, and “charity,” they say, “begins at home!”
Her Excellency can use her position to bring about peace in that State. It is no longer a matter of who is wrong, or who is right, nor even whether these eruptions are politically motivated, or nor – it is now a matter of moving to save the State from absolute collapse and destruction, where the people will suffer greatly. Her Excellency has to come out boldly, as the “Joan of Arc” of Nigeria, to call all warring parties to order, and foster peace and unity in Rivers State, in the true spirit of her name and calling, “Mama Peace!” With the various global awards, recognitions, and respect that she has received as a Peace and Development advocate, there is no better time to use her position than now.
The success that will accrue from taking such a stand is unquantifiable – Nigerians as a whole will rise up and applaud her for doing the needful, and for taking a stand against social injustice, and I’m almost certain will accord her all the support to transpose this same move to other States, and sections of the country where there is conflict. (just imagining the avalanche of awards that will follow such a move actually brings a smile to my face)!
Nigeria needs peace, Nigerians need peace! To our First Lady, the Mother of The Nation, our own Mama Peace, we say, this is our plea, that PEACE may reign across the land; so that Nigerians can live in PEACE; and the global community can perceive us as a country of PEACE.
By Ada Stella Apiafi