Sunday, 25 September 2016


The admission by Patience Jonathan that she owns the whopping $31.4 million recently discovered in four bank accounts that were frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has placed her as the richest First Lady that Nigeria ever had, investigation by Daily Trust on Sunday has shown.

Checks have shown that none of her predecessors had ever owned up to having such an amount or has been accused to have amassed such wealth. Nigeria has had no fewer than 15 First Ladies - title of the wife of the president of Nigeria - since 1963, when Nigeria became a republic.

Patience became Nigeria’s 14th First Lady, 57 years after the wife of Nnmadi Azikiwe, Flora Azikiwe. She was succeeded in May 29, 2015 by the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Checks by this newspaper did not yield any record that is available to the public to link any of the other First Ladies with wealth that can surpass that of Patience, who is also known as Mama Peace.

This is despite the fact some of their spouses were military heads of state that headed regimes that have been accused of allowing wanton corruption in public life.

Mama Peace did not only blaze the trail as the richest, she also placed ahead of the pack as the most influential (powerful) and most entertaining.

During the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, some ministers were known to be at her beck and call, not to talk of police commissioners like Mbu, whom she ordered to do her bidding. She was also known to put cities on a lockdown whenever she was coming for a visit, to be unshackled only after she had left.

Patience’s Jumbo accounts

The funds were traced to Patience’s jumbo accounts when the EFCC took former presidential aide, Amajuoyi Azubike Briggs, Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, former Skye Bank official, Damola Bolodeoku and Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited to court in an alleged $31.4 million fraud involving the companies .

The anti-graft agency consequently placed a “Post no Debit order while investigating  the bank accounts of Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited; Globus Integrated Service Limited and Seagate Property Development and Investment Limited all domiciled with Skye Bank.

But while the EFCC claimed that all the funds traced these accounts linked to the former president’s wife were proceeds of gratification, the embattled former first lady also claimed that the money actually belonged to her and that they were meant for her medical bills.

In an affidavit deposed to by one Sammie Somiari, a lawyer, Mrs. Jonathan said she asked Mr. Dudafa to assist her to open the bank accounts, which the EFCC had frozen.

In laying claim to the money, Mrs. Jonathan filed an application on September 6, 2016, with file number FHC/L/C5/1233/16, asking the court to make an order for the enforcement of her fundamental rights in terms of the reliefs sought. She also prayed the court to make a declaration that the fund standing to the credit of the four of the companies, an account in her name with Skye Bank, belonged to her.

Also, a letter with reference number GA/Abibo/00226/2016, written by her lawyers, Granville Abibo (SAN) and Co, which was addressed to the acting chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu read in part: “It is noteworthy to emphasize that the said accounts, which were in US dollar denomination, were card-based accounts and our client is the sole signatory to these accounts.

Patience’s riches attracted media attention when she reportedly built a hotel worth N10billion in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. The hotel, known as Aridolf Resort Wellness and Spa, was inaugurated by the former First Lady in April 2015, barely a month before the end of her husband’s tenure.
Known for her numerous grammatical slips and comical verbiages, which found expressions on the social media, Patience Jonathan also courted controversies like the moth to naked light.

How Patience’s wealth surpasses other first ladies’

Flora Azikiwe
Flora Azikiwe was Nigeria’s First Lady from October 1, 1963, when the country became a republic, to January 15, 1966, when the military made its first incursion into the country’s politics, toppling the first civilian government. However, Flora was not known to be associated with wealth until her death in 1983 even though she was reputed to be a highly flamboyant lady who was always visible around her husband.

Victoria Ironsi
In the same vein, Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi became Nigeria’s second First Lady after the bloody military coup of January 1966. Victoria spent only about seven months as First Lady before her husband, Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi, was removed from power in a counter-coup. Like Flora Azikiwe, Mrs. Ironsi, who presently lives in Umuahia, maintained little visibility and was never associated with riches.

Vitoria Gowon

Also, Mrs. Victoria Gowon, who was First Lady from August 1, 1966 to July 29, 1975 and her successor Ajoke Mohammed, who became First Lady from July 29, 1975 to February 13, 1976, were never associated with riches.

Ajoke Murtala
Ajoke became known to the public after the death of her husband, Murtala Mohammed.

Esther Obasanjo
It was the same for Esther Oluremi Obasanjo, who held sway from February 13, 1976 to October 1, 1979.

The wives of Alhaji Shehu Shagari were hardly seen in public when he was the president from October 1, 1979 to December 31, 1983. It was, therefore, difficult to obtain records on their activities.

Safinatu Buhari

However, Safinatu Buhari maintained a degree of visibility while her husband was head of state from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985, but she did not wield any power or influence.

Maryam Babangida

During her time as the First Lady, Maryam Babangida was not known to be influential or powerful; rather, she was seen as a glamorous and classy woman.

Between 1985 and 1993, she founded the popular pet programme, the Better Life for Rural Women and used it to promote women issues.

The famous lawyer and rights activist, Gani Fawehenmi, however, accused her of getting money from government to fund her Better Life project.

She is known to be the owner of the Al-Amin International School in Minna.

Maryam Abacha

Like her predecessor, Maryam Abacha brought some glamour to the office when she held sway from 1993 to 1998. Even though her husband was accused of being a dictator, Maryam was not known to be involved in financial scandals.

She was, however, said to command some influence in governance at the time.

There is no record of her financial worth, even though her late husband is accused of stashing billions of dollars in foreign accounts which successive Nigerian governments have been battling to repatriate.

She founded the Family Support Programme and the Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP), for which the government appointed a permanent secretary.

Fati Abdulsalami

As First Lady from June 8, 1998 -May 29, 1999, Fati Abubakar was hardly visible in the public glare.  A former chief judge of Niger State, she founded the Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), a non-governmental organisation that advanced the course of women rights. There are no records either involving her with financial impropriety or riches.

Stella Obasanjo

Until her accidental death in 2005, Stella Obasanjo was visible and fashionable, but she was not interfering in government. When she became Nigeria’s First Lady in 1999, following the election of her husband as president, Stella established the Child Care Trust for the care of underprivileged and/or disabled children.

Turai Yar’Adua

Hajiya Turai Yar’Adua was very powerful and visible as First Lady from May 29, 2007 to February 9, 2010. Her interference in government became a problem when her husband, Umaru Musa Yar’Adau, began to fall sick. It was at that time that the nation first heard about a cabal operating in the presidency.

As the head of the said cabal, Turai became the de facto acting president, running the affairs of the country as Yar’Adua’s condition deteriorated.

She was embroiled in a land ownership tussle with her successor, Patience Jonathan. There is no record to show how much the former First Lady is worth, but last week, the announcement by the police that her domestic aide was arrested for allegedly stealing a whopping N91million from her, six years after leaving the Aso Rock, left Nigerians speculating that she could be in big money.       

The current First Lady, Aisha Buhari, has been in business before her husband was elected president in 2015, running beauty parlours in Kaduna and other places. Although some men around the president are being accused of accepting financial gratifications, Aisha’s name has not been linked to the allegations. She is said to have sponsored some of her foreign trips even as wife of the president.

She has come up with an initiative called Future Assured to promote the health and wellbeing of women and children through community mobilisation and health promotion.
Going by her husband’s anti-corruption posture, it is almost predictable that Aisha would not be a First Lady to amass wealth.

Battle of the First Ladies

Among all the First Ladies mentioned, two stand out - perhaps in exercise of political power and influence. Turai Yar’Adua and Patience Jonathan make the duo. They were engaged in a battle over the ownership of a large parcel of land located in the Federal Capital Territory.

The disputed land, plot no. 1347 at Cadastral Zone AOO, Central Business District, Abuja, FCT, was initially allocated to Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation (WAYEF), while Mrs. Yar’Adua held sway as First Lady. But the FCT Minister under the Jonathan administration, Bala Mohammed, revoked the allocation for what he described as “overriding public interest” and re-allocated it to Mrs. Jonathan for the building of African First Lady Peace Mission headquarters on November 2, 2011.

Mrs. Yar’Adua complained that the land allocated to WAYEF on February 19, 2010 was being trespassed upon by Mrs. Jonathan and got a court order in 2012, restraining Patience from affecting WAYEF title and interest over the land.

As part of the moves to get a negotiated settlement, the then Federal Capital Territory Administration had offered WAYEF Plot. 1838 Cadastral Zone AOO Abuja, measuring 6119.29 square meters as replacement plot, while another plot 1839 was also proposed to be in favour of the African First Lady Mission, measuring 6100.51 square meters.

Interestingly, the battle of the First Ladies ended in the court, where Hajiya Turai Yar’Adua eventually floored incumbent Patience Jonathan as Justice Peter Affren of the Abuja High Court delivered a judgement setting aside the purported revocation by the FCT Administration, of the dispute land.

Going by her claim over the ownership of the whopping $31.4 million, Patience Jonathan has proved that in the battle for financial power amongst First Ladies, she is currently the champion.

Source:Daily Trust

Share This