Patience Goodluck is in the news again and this time my gloves are OFF!!
The University of Port Harcourt has conferred on her an honorary Dokitarate of Widowhood studies.
My first blame isn’t with her, it’s with Professor Ajienka the VC of Uniport who is understandably seeking handsome donations for the University’s N5bn endowment fund. I understand. Really I do. After all, it has become popular for academic institutions to sell their souls for lucre. University of London is still clearing the mess of a $300,000 endowment fund from Libya’s Ghaddafi. Even my own Durham University got substantial funding from Israel to do some wonky research in Palestine. So if pedigreed schools like these are doing it, why not Uniport?
Be that as it may, that doesn’t make it right Prof Ajienka.
You could have thought of other creative ways to inspire her donation glands. I can think of a few:
Name the school's Art/photography studio after her. If she isnt an inspiring muse (look at what she inspired in TY Bello!!) I dont who is.
Name the English Dept's lecture room after her. If you are an English student wouldn't her grammar inspire you to do better?
Make her the celebrity Face for the Cancer dept's Skin cancer cause. "Use your umblella and prevent skin cancer". Heck all umbrellas used in the state should bear her image.
Change the school's motto to 'where patience is found, therein lies goodluck'.
See?? I didnt even have to think hard about creative ways that would have helped you achieve your aim without offending Nigerians and yet inspire her purse. Why make honorary doctorate degrees a joke?
I am not in your school’s shoes, I don’t know how it pinches. I am not even sure it pinches. For all I know, the 5bn endowment fund may just be another bottomless project that keeps taking without giving back. I don’t know. But, I do know that last year, under the chancellorship of Prof Badiem, UNIPORT’s honorary degrees were given to a more deserving group of people: Renowned jurist and former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Mohammed Uwais, Managing Director of World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, ex- governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke. Professor Sylvanus Cookey and Prof. Aniezonwu Okoro, a renowned professor of medicine.
I don’t need a visionary to tell me that you Prof Ajienka I fear, has thrown honor to the winds. If one’s choice is akin to one’s integrity or style of leadership, then yours is questionable.
As for the Dame, in accepting the honor you have joined in the deceit. I assume that before public announcements are made, the school would communicate with the receiver to be, intimating her of the award. If Patience had any humility if not honesty in her, she would have refused that degree, told them that she is unworthy of such an honor but thank them for they have spurred her to do even more. Since she didn’t do that and is probably rejoicing that her goodluck has prevailed once again, she will be the recipient of my rant.
What has Patience Goodluck done for widows? I am not talking of financial handouts loosely called empowerment given to a select few. Ordinary people can do even that out of their own volition. I am talking of a lasting solution to a widow’s experience. What has she done?
For someone who has some clout as the wife of a president she can do so much more. I want education for men. I want town hall meetings where she butts heads with elders about practices which dehumanise widows. I want bills which support a woman’s right to inherit even if her husband didn’t write a will. Bills which recognise a wife's contribution to a marriage. I want better support for legal organisations that do pro bono work for widows. I want ARV for widows living with AIDS.
I want her living and breathing widows. Look at Michelle the FLOTUS. Learn from her. She lives and breathes her cause to get American kids slim and yet without making as much noise as you, she is putting in place structures that will remain even after she is gone.
I would have wished the Dame to take on Maternal health which is dearer to me. but Widowhood is good. In fact it is a great point.
Last two years, I witnessed the plight of a widow close at hand, my cousin. If she had not been educated, had a husband who had been open to her about their properties and investments, had children who were adults and close kin, her story would have been similar to that of the millions of widows in Nigeria who lose both their ‘husband’ and a means to live ‘life’.
My cousin had to shave her hair when her husband died. She also had to chose between wearing white or black attires for 6 months.
Cutting the hair isn’t major, admitted, but it is a gendered tradition. Men do not cut their hair or make any physical representation of grief, heck in some places the guy can remarry in less than 6months. A woman dares not.
There are places where it is compulsory for a woman to stay locked up in a hut for 7 days without being allowed to bathe or change her clothes to show the extent of her grief…...a bit like using ash on your face and wearing sack clothes in the Jewish of old.
I know there are still places in eastern Nigeria where a widow is given to her husband’s brother to inherit. I exaggerate not. This particular lady didn’t have a child for her late husband so she was given to the husbands brother to impregnate. I met her in the hospital. Pregnant with AIDS from her new husband.
There are still places where a widow has to go to rivers and streams and swear before elders (mainly men) that she didn’t kill her husband. I should know, my great uncle God bless his soul, when he was dabbling in such matters used to be the chief priest in charge of such.
What has Patience Goodluck done to stop such practices?
In Nigeria, the typical advice given a woman if her husband dies is ; forget the crying now, mourn later. Go search his room, safe box, pack off all the documents you can find, if you own cars , find friends to drive them away to their homes or to some hideout, take away all precious items, jewelry, electronics in your home. When you’ve sorted that, then may you start mourning your beloved.
Ask the women whose in-laws took away all she and her husband had lovingly gathered – They were grief-stricken when the in-laws were spring cleaning. It’s not gold digging or greed. It’s war, it’s agency. It’s protecting your future and your kids future. And it shouldn’t be so.
Widows have a hard time in most communities in Nigeria and if Dame Patience has drawn a blueprint of what she wants to achieve with this pet cause, I will champion her. But she hasn’t and I don’t believe she intends to do more than slap the band aid of money when she feels like.
Interestingly her husband has single-handedly produced over a hundred widows, (help me do the maths and add up the number of married men who have died in massacres, bomb explosions, campaign stampede, riots in the past year under HIS tenure). Maybe she really is an Honorary Doctor of Widowhood (okay, that was a cheap shot but I’m vexed).
Dame, please, give it a rest.
I am really sick of seeing you in the news.