POLITICS OF LIVE AND LET LIVE
"All the primary schools in Okrika are surrounded by houses and we don't want the schools to be surrounded by residential houses where people cook and sell and distract the pupils, so we have to demolish them. We want to pay them compensation and demolish the houses".
~ Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State of Nigeria on August 24, 2010.
"But what I am telling you is that you always say you must “demolish.” That word (demolish) must you use it? It is not good. It is by pleading. You appeal to the owners of the compound because they will not go into exile. Land is a serious issue".
~ Mrs. Patience Goodluck, Nigeria's First Lady and wife of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The altercation above, between Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State of Nigeria and Nigeria's First Lady, Mrs. Patience Goodluck Jonathan, happened in Okrika on Tuesday August 24, 2010. Mrs. Jonathan had criticized the governor for insisting on demolishing water-front residential houses to build a primary school.
The First Lady may have been upset because after the unpleasant exchange of words, she left the state in a hurry, without completing her tour. In anger, she returned to Abuja from her civic reception ground in Okrika. In doing so, she failed to visit prisons where some inmates were waiting to be released and she cancelled the inspection of the Model Secondary School at Eleme.
That incident may have been the genesis of the misunderstanding between the First Lady, Patience Goodluck Jonathan, and Governor Amaechi. It's about four years now. Since then, what appears to be a political campaign of slander has trailed the First Lady – with some people claiming that she had been throwing her weight around, supported by touts in President Goodluck Jonathan's camp, including many Nollywood actors who have been paid millions of naira, to use image laundering to neutralise the money laundering case made earlier against her and her proxies.
I would normally not have become interested in the controversy in Rivers State. But after reading Aso Rock Lens columnist, Olalekan Adetayo's well thought-out online article in the Punch newspaper edition of 24 August, I changed my mind.
There are many, many lessons we have to learn in this life. Which is why our people have a proverb that says: “there is no age (or position) when a man can say 'I have known it all!'”
I remember one of those days some 36 years ago. My wife and I were newly married then. And as it is the case with all newly married couples, there was bound to be misunderstanding once in a while. And I had this one with my wife. She was pregnant. Seven months pregnant. I noticed that she was gradually becoming more and more aggressive by the day. It came to a stage that I had to report her to my mother. It was then that my mother taught me this one. She said, “My son, you need to understand this because it is important. Whenever a woman is pregnant, she tends to be aggressive because when the baby in her womb kicks, it can be painful. We mothers feel the pain. The baby must kick from time to time. It is a sign that not only is baby alive, but that it is also healthy. The would-be mother becomes uneasy each time baby kicks in the womb. When that happens, it is only her loved one, her husband, that she can possibly take it out on. It's like saying indirectly to her husband, “it is because of you that baby is doing this to me!” So you find a man who returns from work, very tired, for example. He picks up a cup and gets a bottle of water from the fridge to drink. His pregnant wife reels out: “and what the hell do you think you are doing? Did I put the water in the fridge for you to drink? Do you think I am a slave in this house?” And an embarrassed husband would begin to wonder what is going on if he was not as fortunate as I was to be lectured by his mother on this aspect of the psychology of pregnancy.
When I read Adetayo's recent article, I realised that the psychology of political pregnancy was playing out in Rivers State, and the “gladiators” were possibly not aware of what is going on, just as many men won't know if they are not told.
Come to think of it. Did we all realise early enough what it means to lose one's biological mother at the tender age of only two? Then one is fostered by a good natured woman who is there as Mother. One has no close relations as such, or they would have taken the one into their own custody. No brothers. No sisters. No matter how it is conceived, one would have loved to have one's own biological brothers and sisters living and growing up together with one as one united loving family. This is the point. One grows up somehow without them. And the option is that because one needs them, one can't help finding them on a wider scale. You don't want others to pass through the ugly side of your life's experience.
I am one man who is beginning to feel that the face-off between the President's wife, Patience Jonathan and the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, predicates on the psychology of pregnancy – political pregnancy. As far as Patience is concerned, Amaechi is her brother. And then he is also brother-in-law to the President. The President's wife, given her experiences in life and her ability to come to the top at the end of the day naturally expects Amaechi to play that part of a caring brother and a committed brother-in-law, even by political standards. So, I totally agree with Adetayo that Amaechi must use this opportunity to start mending fence with the President's wife. So long as both President Jonathan and Governor Amaechi are in the same PDP, if Amaechi plays his role well as brother and brother-in-law, both himself, his family and his followers will have no regrets. Surely, the need has arisen now, more than ever before, to keep up the spirit of live and let live. Amaechi and his wife should visit his sister and sister-in-law in Abuja. They should meet Patience and pay her a condolence in Aso Rock. That will be the beginning of shaming those who said to themselves: "Rivers State is finished!"