You know in your head that you
should be inured to corruption stories by now. Since the defeat of President
Goodluck Jonathan in the election of March 28, 2015 and the change of
government that was consummated on May 29, 2015, you have been inundated with a
staple of scandals that confirm he ran Nigeria like a kleptocracy. You have
seen a glut of evidence that proves that “corruption is not stealing”
was not a gaffe but a directive principle of state policy. You have read of
countless, jaw-dropping plunders in the order of billions of naira, of loot
packed in septic tanks, and of some salted away in offshore tax havens.

But you are shocked by this umpteenth scandal, nonetheless. You are appalled –
in spite of yourself – by reports that former first lady, Patience Jonathan,
has gone to court to lay claim to ownership of $15 million deposit in four bank
accounts frozen by the EFCC. She is standing on the premise of her
constitutional right to “own property” to assert that the curious
accounts opened and maintained in the name of the houseboys of her former
domestic aide were hers, in actual sense. And she is demanding 200 million
naira in damages for the anti-graft agency’s infringement on her convenient
money laundering scheme!
And, while you are trying your level best to process this obscenity without
compromising your sanity, a corrective arrives to complicate matters: The EFCC
has found a fresh $5 million in another Patience bank account. Which means that
the balance of her deposits in the Nigeria banking system, as we know it today,
stands at $20 million –‘only’!
You remind yourself that you know the Patience in question. She has never been,
at any time, a household name in the Nigerian business environment or
elsewhere. The highest position she ever attained in her almost non-existent
civil service career was permanent secretary. Bayelsa State Governor Seriake
Dickson gave her a ludicrous ghost worker appointment for the sake of his own
political survival. Beyond that, she was nothing more than the wife of a man
who became president by a stroke of fate.
So you find yourself wondering how she managed to earn $20 million. Has she
been paying her taxes? What investment yielded her such abundant profit? Where
might one locate a trail of sweat or handprints of labour or any in-demand
product or service that could account for her Olympian dollar heap?
It turns out that the companies Patience used to launder money were fairy tale
entities. They had no earthly address, no staffer, no robot. The firms did not
exist. She conjured $20 million out of nothingness – by sheer magic!
Patience Jonathan’s $20 million is the stuff of occult fortune. It is not
anything like the quotidian case of personal enrichment at the expense of the
Nigerian treasury. It’s something more mysterious, more ambitious, more
audacious: it’s a money ritual!
Money ritual is a fabled protocol for getting rich in an alternate world where
avarice answers to mysticism. It’s a grand Faustian exchange of one’s soul for
mammon. It entails a series of sacrifices whose nature is known only to the cult
of initiates.
Patience couldn’t have gotten $20 million from anything except a voodoo mint.
She had to be printing dollars by herself to come about that amount. In a real
world where money flows in the direction of value, it’s impossible to imagine
that she could have amassed tens of millions of dollars without producing or
offering anything of relative significance.
Her so-called $20 million balance, mind you, is not a picture of the total
leafage on her money trees. It’s only a pruned remainder. Patience had been
cutting off many branches since the Nigerian electorate evicted her husband and
her Aso Rock.
An affidavit deposed on her behalf by her aide, Sammie Somiari, said Patience
discovered she could no longer access her accounts overseas. She was abroad on
medical treatment. It was at the time she needed to access her accounts most
that they had been frozen.
This goes to show she had been disappearing money from those accounts up until
when they were frozen. EFCC placed a No Debit Order on the four accounts on 7th
July, 2016. The fourteen months between May 29, 2015 and July 7, 2016 is an
ample period for her to significantly reduce her lodgements to a pittance. And
given the demonstrable zeal with which the Buhari presidency has pursued the
probe and prosecution of figures that served in her husband’s administration,
common sense would have suggested to her to empty her loaded, smoking gun as
fast as possible.
There is no way to make sense of the phenomenon of a Patience Jonathan boasting
$20 million as part of her net worth. More so, you cannot understand the
surpassing stupidity of her public declaration that she is the owner of an
amount of money she is absolutely incapable of earning legitimately. Her coming
out of the closet as an amazon of money laundering is as outrageous as it is
stupefying.
The Patience Jonathan that Nigerians know cannot make a clean $1 million except
through a lottery. She has won none. Her claim to ownership of $20 million she
obviously stole from the Nigerian treasury is the salt of a lie on the wound of
a heist. Her preposterous possessiveness resembles the spectacle of a thief
pleading that the stolen goods that represent the collective wealth of an
entire neighbourhood belongs to him!
It’s clear that keeping those millions of dollars for too long gave Patience a
false sense of ownership. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. But, the truth
is that the number of years she has had the spoils doesn’t make her the
rightful owner. Neither does it make her less a thief. If anything, every new
day she kept the stolen goods made her a more impenitent thief!
And talking of repentance, Patience is impervious to it. Even a close shave
with prison has not transformed her covetous core. In 2006, during her
husband’s term as governor of Bayelsa state, EFCC caught her twice trying to
launder money.
First time, Patience tried to launder 104 million naira through her ‘business
associate’, a certain Nancy Ebere. Ms. Ebere implicated Patience in a sworn
affidavit.
Second time, Patience was intercepted at the Murtala Mohammed International
Airport while trying to smuggle out a baggage of $12.5 million cash.
She escaped prosecution on the two occasions. She was allowed to go home and
sin some more. Obasanjo had, before then, decided to make her meek-looking
husband the running mate of Governor Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. So he declined to
authorize EFCC to expose the wife of the future vice president as a
kleptomaniac!
The free pass gave Patience the impression that she was above the law. She could
steal without fear of any repercussion. If she was caught, she would not do the
time. She would be set free to relearn the art of stealing and escaping with
the booty!
An excursion into the land of the dead also proved insufficient to educate
Patience on the vanity of life. By her own telling, she once fell sick and had
to be rushed to a German hospital. Her condition was bad and it so worsened she
‘died’ for one week. It took 13 surgeries in a world class health facility to
bring her back to life.
At a thanksgiving service in Aso Villa chapel, Patience testified that her
aides stole her jewelleries and personal effects because they thought she would
come back in a coffin. She said she owes her survival to divine mercy. God gave
her a second chance. And in appreciation of that grace, she would be a better
human being. She would serve the society. She would help humanity.
We now know that vow she made in a place of worship were empty words. She
didn’t become born again. She continued in her money laundering habit.
During her husband’s re-election campaign, Patience fought like her life
depended on her extended stay in the presidency. She was more desperate and
aggressive than her spouse. She militarized her home state of Rivers. She asked
her husband’s supporters to stone members of the opposition. She called her
husband’s main rival “brain dead.”
Now, we know why. She was fighting to protect her bloated bank accounts. If her
husband had won, she wouldn’t have had any reason to fear she might be found out
and disgraced. She would have had four more years… to launder more taxpayer
money.
Patience thought a big deal of being the first lady. After her husband became
president upon the death of Yar’Adua, she began to contend with Yar’Adua’s
widow, Turai, over a parcel of land. She had to announce her apotheosis with a
land grab!

Patience was intoxicated by privilege. She pushed back criticisms of her pride
and power show. A frustrated then-governor Babatunde Fashola complained several
times about an unelected official’s penchant for forcing a proper lockdown on
the biggest city in Nigeria each time she came to Lagos. The lady refused to
make her visits less painful. Instead, she called for a constitutional
amendment so that the names of she and wives of other political office holders
will be officially entitled to enjoy their own perks and “retire with
benefits” like “our husbands.”
The amendment she asked for did not happen. So, she seized the initiative. She
awarded herself no less than $20 million dollars in retirement benefits!
What’s saddening in this matter is not she stole from the Nigerian people. Very
few Nigerians can hold on to their integrity in the face of the temptation to
steal “government money.”
What makes this case very grievous is that Patience is insisting on her right
to squander all the money she has stolen. She says she has a right to ‘own
property.’ She implies that the Nigerian people have no right…not even to the
right to reclaim what is left of her loot!
Patience Jonathan once requested Nigerians to call her by the new name of “Mama
Peace.” Her concept of ‘peace’ is totally divorced from justice. She wants to
be left alone. Her definition of ‘peace’ is a state of respect for her ‘right’
to consume millions of dollars of Nigerian taxpayer money!

Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu is a columnist for SaharaReporters. You can reach
Emmanuel at immaugwu@gmail.com