Mama Peace, as Dame Patience Jonathan is fondly called by admirers, remains an enigma due to her passion to canvass for peace across the length and breadth of Africa, in her capacity as the President of African First Ladies Peace Mission, a platform for African First Ladies to propagate peace and national development in the continent.
She is also a mobilizer of the first order. In 2011, precisely during the presidential elections of that year, kudos were given to the First Lady for her unrelenting efforts at rallying Nigeria women to participate in the general elections
Women came out in their thousands from far and wide, undeterred by innumerable difficulties, to cast their votes for President Jonathan, which gave him an overwhelming victory and vis-à-vis a platform for women in national politics never seen before.
Today, 2015, Mama Peace is still on that familiar terrain, as she has started mobilizing Nigerian women again towards the forthcoming elections in March and April, 2015 for the greater good of women. The First Lady under her pet project and rallying platform for Nigerian women – Women for Change and Development Initiative, WCDI – has started the PDP women campaigns across Nigeria, beginning from the Ikom Stadium in Cross River State, which witnessed an unprecedented mammoth. On the entourage were women of substance, the PDP women leaders across Nigeria, women stakeholders, party stalwarts and the entertainment industry, who all came in their droves, to be part of the auspicious occasion.
The Cross River State rally will remain evergreen in the hearts of women when the First Lady drove home and mooted the idea that henceforth all the aspirants for elective positions for the elections, must first of all, show the women what they have in stock for them. She said their parties’ manifestoes must state clearly and categorically the plans they have for Nigerian women and they must sit with women to discuss what they have to offer, and at the end of the day, the women will now decide which of the parties to vote for.
As if this was not enough, in Delta State, Dame Jonathan charged women to vote for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), stressing that any woman who votes for the opposition is an enemy of herself and all the women agreed and chanted in affirmation of her call. At Okpe Local Government Area, the First Lady echoed the message of the President’s achievements which include, the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria, (YOUWIN) and Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), and some of the other empowerment programmes the President Jonathan’s administration is using to empower women and youths in the country.
According to her, “PDP is a party that talks less and does more,” unlike the opposition that tells new lies every week,” adding, “when you catch them today, they will tell another lie tomorrow.” She pleaded with the women not to allow themselves to be deceived, but should open their eyes and cast their votes for a man who has given Nigerian women a voice and a platform to aspire to any positions of their choices.
Having said that, she affirmed we are now in a digital age and we should reject anyone who wants to take us back to the analogue era; pointing out that President Jonathan, has brought a lot of innovations and empowerment programmes for women. “This is true because no one loves the Nigerian women more than Mr. President and the best way to pay him back is by re-electing him,” she said.
The Benue and Kogi rally was laced with razzmatazz, colour, songs and dance. It was, infact, a gyration of some sort, a home-coming and grand reception for the First Lady, who sees the wife of the Governor and the women in Benue State as part of hers. The same message of consolidation was re-echoed by her and she used both occasions and to reel out the unprecedented achievements of the Jonathan’s administration towards the uplift of the women in all strata of our national life.
She addressed the mammoth gathering in Pidgin English: “wetin him dey find again? Him dey drag with him pikin mate?” and then went further to ask, what is change? Why did he do the things he wasn’t able to do before?” Referring to Jonathan’s love for women, she said, “the Chief Justice of the Federation is a woman; Okonjo-Iweala is a woman, Diezani is a woman, 70 per cent of the present cabinet are women and Mr. President also gave women the opportunity to start enrolling for the regular combatant course at the NDA (Nigerian Defence Academy). All these show that Mr. President has a lot to offer to womenfolk. Nigerian women should appreciate Mr. President and show him love by reciprocating his good gesture and make sure they have their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) so as to cast their votes for Mr. President. Your vote counts; it is your power and it is good to vote wisely.”
Umuahia rally in Abia State raised the bar, as part of her campaign in support of President Jonathan’s re-election. Mama Peace at this rally alternated between English or Pidgin English and vernacular to drive home appreciation of Mr. President and the PDP in general. She enumerated the present achievements of President Jonathan including improvements in maternal health, the establishment of 127 Almajiri Schools and also improvements in power distribution, onslaughts against Boko Haram, the President’s message of peace, love, and reconciliation in spite of the mischief by the opposition, the remodeling of Nigerian airports that is comparable anywhere in the world, which is no mean feat.”It is no longer news that for the first time, more women have been appointed to head key government positions as members of the Federal Executive Council. Today, more than ever before, the President presides over a cabinet of 42 ministers, 13 of whom are women amounting to 31 per cent. There are also six Female Special Advisers out of 18, representing 33. 1 percent. And for the general good of all Nigerians, it is an exciting time to see rejuvenation of the rail system in the country,” she said.
On agriculture, she said there are “14 million farmers, out of which two million are women. All of them have access to fertilizers with mobile phones through the e-Wallet system, a thing of pride to Nigerian farmers. Mr. President, for the first time in the history of Nigeria and the entire world developed a system to reach farmers with subsidized farm input through their mobile phones, thereby making also agriculture attractive to the youths of Nigeria.”
According to the First Lady, Mr. President had demonstrated giant strides in the empowerment of women and youths through the Community Services Women and Youth Empowerment Scheme (CSWYE), under the SURE-P programme and the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) which have given over a hundred thousand women as well as youth empowerment in various endeavours. It is the PDP Government under Dr. Goodluck Jonathan that said “women should not die while giving birth” and as such created the “Saving one million lives” initiative, where over 433,650 lives were saved from November 2012 to June 2013 by scaling up six cost effective interventions including maternal and child health; prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, malaria control in line with the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and of course, the Maternal Child Health (MCH) programme of the present administration also under SURE-P scheme has reduced the country maternal and infant mortality rate.
She assured the women at the rally and indeed Nigerian women in general of Mr. President’s avowed determination to empower and promote women in all endeavours. She said since the present administration came on board it has scored first in everything, for instance, during the four years of Mr. President, we had the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria, the first Female President of court of Appeal, first female Rear Admiral in the Navy, first set of female combatant cadets of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and first female President of OPEC.
She therefore called on women to appreciate Mr. President gesture towards them, saying he will surely do more if given the opportunity of continuity, adding that a vote for the PDP is a guarantee for sustainable transformation of Nigeria.
She ended the rally with a powerful reminder about the importance of peace: “No meaningful development can be achieved without peace and good neighborliness. It is not enough to talk about peace, one must believe in it and it is not enough to believe in it, one must work for it. As mothers, let us spread the message of peace and unity to our wards so that they must reject any form of violence before, during and after the polls. And this message of peace, I must take to the remaining states of the federation ahead of the forthcoming elections,” she said
Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele is the Media Adviser to the First Lady.