Nigeria First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan equally has the right to express her own thoughts and act out her feelings, no matter how distasteful
The First Lady, Mrs. Jonathan, is reportedly being admonished by powerful political men, in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) especially, for her heightened political profile and overuse of her influence on political-related decisions. Her husband, President Jonathan, is reportedly being threatened to confront Mrs. Jonathan in her role as a woman or risk protest votes from the powers that be in the PDP.
She is being seen as meddling in the affairs and selection of candidates and interfering in higher-up political matters.
How does one tell a woman who is a strong advocate of women rights and growth in politics as one would expect in the 21st century to be silent on matters that personally interest her as a human?
With her founding knowledge in Biology and Psychology, as evidenced by her educational background and exposure, she knows the days are gone when females are only expected to obey the men in their lives and are not allowed to have their own thoughts and feelings.
The idea that she is politically vocal is subtly threatening to the concept of a man's power in Nigeria in particular. There are those who hold the belief that as a woman she should strictly identify as a wife and mother, including her role as a first lady. To these men she is only a hostess of the presidential house.
She was described as bold enough to give her blessings and support to a governorship aspirant in his residence, a behavior that highly placed men in PDP saw as unbecoming of a first lady, who is nothing but a wife.
These men saw her act as a historical and first-ever in the presidency of Nigeria, and viewed her actions as being allowed by her husband, the President. To these authorities, she is desecrating the office of the President. But by whose standards, men?
To these men, this is the first time a wife of the President has been allowed by her husband to be markedly powerful and unlimited in her use of her office as first lady.
She has been known to have the free liberty to summon government leaders, such as ministers, military chiefs, and dignitary men of PDP at will to the presidency. How dare she!
She has reportedly been known to have the freedom to call for a meeting and rained slights and tears on State officials, and parents of some of the missing Chibok schoolgirls, shouting at them on national television.
She is reportedly acting in this manner without seeking the permission of her husband. You mean in the 20th or 21st century?
She was even bold enough to recently tender her resignation as a Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa State Civil Service, without telling her husband. Really?
Even when it could be argued that some of her acts are exceptionally rude, grumpy, disrespectful and defiant in the eyes of the public, to shut out and silence her on high level political or policy issues means that the male politicians don't understand the changing times in our society, no matter how slowly the change comes.
Slowly but inescapably, the Nigerian nation is a part of global world where equality more importantly is playing out digitally and otherwise in regards to promoting global understanding and respect for an equal voice, no matter how offensive or awful.
Certainly, as Africans we have our traditions that have long penetrated the lives of males and females, in terms of traditional or cultural gender roles, but the time of anti-femaleness by male politicians has been greatly narrowed in terms of space and time, and the President knows this, and, of course, the first lady is taking advantage of our new world.
Mrs. Jonathan's manner is almost like that of former American President Bill Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose strengths and abilities her husband never attempted to hide. He was known to often joke that that a vote for him was a two-for-one deal because the nation would get a woman who was as loud as him.
Ms. Clinton was progressive-minded and engaged in some policies that later backfired badly as it related to healthcare reform during her husband's presidency, and she was known to be a meddling and overreaching First Lady. She was bold and, at times, tried to pass herself off as her husband's equal in power and influence.
Like Nigerian men, many men in America reminded her that she was just a First Lady and not a two-for-one deal.
The idea was clear that she was too politically active and her bold views were sometimes too troubling but her husband was never threatened in terms of protest votes and party support. With time, she subsequently learned that she cannot be too bold, nor try to overtake her husband on political matters.
Mrs. Jonathan as the First Lady has acted as a champion for the working mothers. She has shown support for women's issues, and yes, she remains overbearing but embarrassing her husband who will, in turn, let the wife feel the pinch is not good for his overall health and stability.
What will Nigerian political higher-ups do if suddenly Mrs. Jonathan declares, like President Robert Mugabe's wife, Grace Mugabe, that she would like to be husband's successor now or in the future? Mrs. Mugabe has even called on Vice President Joice Mujuru to resign, a top contender to succeed her husband. What if this was Mrs. Jonathan?
As Nigerians, we must stop being hopelessly misguided by male power, as Nigerian females young and old will no longer stand by and be terrified of political harassment or discrimination, nor endure spitefulness from men.
There are more respectful ways of judging first wives like Mrs. Jonathan, in terms of repackaging her political manners so she does not become a habitual liability to her husband, and one way of doing this is not to destroy her human rights character. Instead, open up to her that she and all women have the full and equal rights to participate in public and political life, and, while no one is trying to deny her these rights and freedoms, her sometimes militant approach could be counterproductive towards what she is trying to achieve in the long run.
Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi is a Forensic, Clinical and National Psychologist and a former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association. [email protected]