September 19, 2016
The Riches of ‘Mama Peace’
How much is Patience Jonathan worth?
You can keep your guess. Here is mine: Goodluck Jonathan does not know. Some people say, he dares not ask, but that is just hearsay.
What is important is: Patience has a general, and better idea. General because it is one thing to invite a bank to your presence and open several accounts, it is another to be able to swear as to how much is actually in which account.
According to emerging accounts, pardon the pun, on March 22, 2010, Mrs. Jonathan opened four accounts at Skye Bank. Actually, the bank, shepherded by one of her husband’s all-purpose “special advisers”, appeared in her presence to open the accounts.
His name: Waripamo Dudafa. At the time, he carried the powerful label of “Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs” to Mr. Jonathan. He it was who led to Mrs. Jonathan at home, two senior officers of Skye Bank: Demola Bolodeoku and Dipo Oshodi. Her husband was Nigeria’s Acting President; in 43 days he would become President.
When you are as powerful as Mrs. Jonathan was, you do not go to the bank. And so the bank came to Mrs. Jonathan. Mission: to open five accounts for the First Lady.
People worldwide have been asking one question since this story broke: What kind of person opens five accounts in one bank in one day?
It is probably a silly question, but I will provide the answer: it is the kind of person who has, or is expecting more money than will fit into one account!
Anyhow, these are the facts we know. It however seems that Mrs. Jonathan, who had the accounts opened in her presence, perhaps as she got her pedicure done or gave commands on the phone, somehow “discovered” that “Derring-Do” Dudafa had opened only one of the accounts in the name of the most powerful woman who ever ate eba with her right hand.
Yes: despite Mrs. Jonathan personally, and with that same right hand and an expensive pen signing the five accounts that night as Dr. Dame Chief (Mrs). Patience Fakabelema Jonathan, Mr. Derring-Do—in the equivalent of signing your own death warrant—allegedly opened not one, not two, not three but four, in the names of his own companies.
In other words, we have to suppose that all of the funds that Mrs. Jonathan laboured so hard for before and during her First Ladyship, went to Mr. Dudafa four-fifths of the time.
It is unclear exactly when Dudafa performed on Mrs. Jonathan the dastardly bait and switch the “umblerah” party had perfected. It is even less clear exactly when Mrs. Jonathan found out.
She may blame her husband. Mr. Jonathan it was who early in 2014 appointed into the governorship of the Central Bank of Nigeria, one Godwin Emefiele. But even though Patience had once declared as “brain-dead” Muhammadu Buhari, the man who would succeed her husband in office, Buhari somehow contrived to keep in office the said governor.
And Emefiele it was who superintended the Bank Verification Number (BVN) exercise in 2014, which is how the EFCC entered the story, leading to some account freezes.
And that, we assume, is how the news came to Mrs. Jonathan one day in that month: her high-value medical accounts of about $15 million (US) had been frozen. By the EFCC.
That is news bad enough to make anyone wet their bed. Not Mama Peace. Instituting a legal challenge, she affirmed that each and every dollar in the accounts in question was hers. $15m in “medical” money.
I have always said that the BVN exercise was fraudulent. Were it honest, the government would have since the first few months of 2014 trapped so many wealthy Nigerians in their own vomit this country would have changed, no pun intended.
Okay, I know her husband insisted that stealing was no corruption, but think about it: Mrs. Jonathan is the first Politically Exposed Person to be openly—but only accidentally—linked with one of those huge chunks of funny money.
Last Thursday, the case became even more fascinating, as the four companies involved pleaded guilty to money-laundering.
Some housekeeping: For those who are neither old nor literate enough, Mrs. Jonathan and I are old acquaintances in this column. It is nearly 10 years and 10 days since the EFCC seized from her the astounding sum of $13.5 million dollars, and accused her of money-laundering, the second such charge within one month. Earlier, brandishing a court order, the agency had frozen N104 million she allegedly tried to launder.
At the time, Mr. Jonathan was the governor of Bayelsa State. Nonetheless, as the EFCC bustled off to the Federal High Court in Abuja, I fully expected Mrs. Jonathan to end up in jail.
But despite all of the grandstanding, Mrs. Jonathan was not prosecuted. As a matter of fact, it would appear that the EFCC quietly withdrew the cases and returned the confiscated funds to her, perhaps with a written apology. The agency never offered an official report or explanation.
Back in the news 10 years later, Mrs. Jonathan, conveniently out of the country at the moment, wants back $15m she refers to as her medical money. The authorities also found $5m in another account in her name after the first story broke. She responded with a N200m “fundamental rights enforcement” action against Skye Bank Plc for giving to the EFCC information that was then “used to inconvenience and embarrass” her.
I believe Mrs. Jonathan has done Nigeria a big favour by claiming that the funds belong to her. She should therefore be given the money, all of it.
First, however, she must establish how she earned it. Let us remember: she does have a track record, including those 2006 EFCC seizures. It is also on record that in its report on the 2007 election, the American Council on Foreign Relations described Mrs. Jonathan as the “greediest person in Bayelsa State.”
Greed: If she opened five accounts in one night while her husband was Acting President, how many did she have when she was establishing that reputation as Bayelsa’s worst, and how many when he became President?
Mrs. Jonathan is said to own Yenagoa’s Arisdorf N10billion Resort Wellness and Spa. She has also been linked with a string of other properties, especially in Abuja, including the sprawling high-end but currently abandoned estate in Kado-Kuchi. This is an opportunity not only for her to recover her so-called medical allowance, but her soiled reputation.
I am reminded of her thanksgiving service in Aso Rock in February 2013 when she confessed she had nearly died in hospital in Germany. She said she suffered through eight or nine surgeries in one month, and had spent seven days in some sort of coma.
She then pledged to embark on “things that will touch the lives of the less privileged…[as God] gave me a second chance because I [died]…”
In my comment, I challenged Mrs. Jonathan to show proof of her pledge. Three years later, we have only evidence of astounding wealth she suggests she is entitled to, in the midst of extreme poverty.
The question is: who is going to ensure justice, not rhetoric?
About the Author:
Sonala Olumhense is a Nigerian writer and a columnist for Punch Newspaper.