The tiff between the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, and Hajia Aisha Buhari, over the leadership of African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM), has continued to rage, reports Peterclaver Egbochue
With barely two weeks to May 29, the Presidency of the African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM), has become a subject of contention. Dame Patience Jonathan, is currently the president of the AFLPM. She has been accused of attempting to prevent the wife of President-elect, Hajia Aisha Buhari, from emerging President of AFLPM. This comes on the heels of plans by Mrs. Jonathan to host the 8th AFLPM summit on Friday to mark the end of her tenure, a situation some pundits say was in order to deny Mrs. Buhari of the position.
Consequently, eight Nigerian women under the platform of “Concern Women for Peace and Development” approached an Abuja High Court to restrain Dame Jonathan from holding an emergency meeting of AFLPM in Abuja on Friday. The plaintiffs, who include Nana Module Onwodi, Ekemma Ugborough Arisa, Louisa Ono Eikhomun and Deborah Oboh, claim that the said emergency meeting called by Dame Jonathan was called in “bad faith” as it is aimed at scuttling any chance of Aisha Buhari becoming the President of AFLPM. Other defendants in the matter include Juliet Mene, Juliet Pearce, Sonia Adolf and Kate Duru.
However, when the matter was called up on Thursday, hearing could not go on because the procedure for proof of service had not been completed. Accordingly, Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf adjourned the matter to enable Barrister Mohammed Ahmed, file an affidavit of service and attach the Proof of Service to the said affidavit averring that the service had been effected on the defendant – Dame Jonathan. His words, “You should have filed an affidavit of service and annex the Proof of Service. The document does not speak for itself. Normally, if it is service on a party directly, you file the copy endorsed by recipient party. “But if it is service by substituted means, you file an affidavit to say pursuant to the order of substituted means, we have effected service. “I will adjourn to tomorrow, May 14 (Yesterday) to enable you file the affidavit of service. Your application will be taken tomorrow.”
The plaintiffs had filed a writ of summons for themselves and on behalf of concerned Women for Peace and Development, seeking to stop the emergency meeting called by Patience Jonathan aimed at picking a new President of AFLPM from among the other African first ladies to succeed her. They explained that the defendant became President of AFLPM after Turai Yar’adua stepped down following the death of her husband and then President, Umaru Musa Yar’adua.
The plaintiffs averred that the tenure of office of President of the Mission is three years, which is expected to elapse in July 2015 and therefore any attempt for the defendant to convene a meeting to elect a new president would amount to shortchanging Mrs. Buhari who ought to get a chance by May 29, 2015 to participate and even contest the office of President in July. They averred that, “the defendant/respondent’s intention to hold an election in May 2015 is inimical to the progress and development of the country” as “not only shall we be affected as individuals but the entire nation will be affected as our position in the committee of African nations will be relegated.”
They further averred that, “the other African nations who are members of the Mission have unanimously agreed that the summit and the election be held in July.” They submitted that Jonathan’s interest is “selfish and totally in bad faith” and urged the court to grant an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendant/respondent from convening, hosting the said meeting for the purpose of the electing the President for the Mission or from taking any step that will prejudice or foist on the applicants and the court a fair accompli pending the hearing of the suit. But in a swift reaction, Dame Jonathan has denied the report that she was attempting to deny Hajia Aisha of a chance in the mission, saying that the mission is governed by its own rules and protocols. Mrs. Jonathan’s position was disclosed in a statement released by her media aide, Ayo Adewuyi, on Tuesday.
The statement reads in part, “Arising from the above, it is therefore clear that this is not a personal matter nor specifically a Nigeria sole affair but a continental platform governed by its own rules and protocols just as similar international organisations. “It would therefore be out of place for anyone to insinuate that it is intended to shut out the incoming First Lady. This cannot be far ther from the truth. “We state therefore without any iota of equivocation that it is mischievous for anyone to scheme to cause disaffection between the outgoing and incoming First Ladies, Dame Patience Jonathan, and Hajia Aisha Buhari.
“Let us therefore come together in our tradition of hospitality to heartily welcome our guests, the African First Ladies, as they arrive Abuja for the 8th Summit of the Mission. “Let us always remember that the personal ambition of anybody is not worth destroying the image of the nation.” Mrs. Jonathan is expected to resign her position as the mission’s President at the summit, slated for May 15. Though in the build-up to the just concluded general elections, there were hate speeches from both camps but President Jonathan promptly congratulated Muhammadu Buhari, and his wife, Patience followed suit and called Hajia Buhari. The leadership of AFLPM is ceremonial, but it is believed that it could mobilise funds and other support for member countries.
It would be recalled that AFLPM is an umbrella body for all African First Ladies established to promote peace and harmony in Africa with the primary purpose of addressing the peace situation in the continent, with regard to the role of women, and mobilize both government, non-governmental resources to help reduce violence and their effects in Africa.
It aims at building and strengthening the farculture of peace and development in Africa; To offer support and services to victims in conflict affected countries, especially women and children; and To use appropriate mechanism and institution to protect women and children in armed conflict areas. The AFLPM came into being in 1995 after the International Conference on women in Beijing, China. The initiative was taken by the First Ladies of Nigeria, Gambia, Benin, Uganda, Lesotho and Burundi to undertake a mission of peace to the rest of Africa.
Following series of activities at regional levels, the Formal Declaration of the African First Ladies Peace Mission was made in Harare, Zimbabwe during the OAU Summit in 1996. This initiative led to the establishment of the African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM) by the then Nigerian First Lady, Mrs. Maryam Sani Abacha in collaboration with other African First Ladies. Nigeria hosted the first summit of the Peace Mission and was elected the pioneer president of the organization in 1997. Since 1997, six other summits have been held, with the last being at Abuja in July 2012, coming after the 6th summit in Congo Brazzaville in 2008.
Prior to the Abuja summit of 2012, aside from Mrs. Abacha who was the pioneer President on behalf of Nigeria, other countries that have produced the president of the Mission were Congo 2000; Equatorial Guinea 2002; Burkina Faso 2004; and Congo 2006. Nigeria was elected President of AFLPM in 2008 at the summit in Congo Brazzaville during the tenure of former First Lady, Hajia Turai Umaru Yar’Adua.
Turai’s tenure however ended abruptly following the demise of President Umaru Yar’Adua, in office, in 2010. After the death of President Yar’Adua, the current First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, was called upon to complete Nigeria’s tenure. Thus, in 2011, following the prodding by other African First Ladies, Dame Patience Jonathan initiated steps to revitalise the Peace Mission, which had been in limbo for some time.
Her painstaking planning and meticulous arrangements led to the successful hosting of the Abuja summit of the peace mission in July 2012. That summit unanimously elected Dame Patience Jonathan to lead the organization for a two-year term of 2012-2014. Others elected at the summit were regional Vice Presidents and Ex-Officio, namely Widad Babiker of Sudan for Eastern African region; Chantal Biya of Cameroon for Central African region; Safia Farkash of Libya for Northern African region; Nompumelelo Zuma of South Africa for Southern Africa region; and Anthoinett Sassou N’guesso of Congo Brazzaville as Ex-Officio. It was unanimously agreed at the Congo Summit in 2008 that Nigeria should provide a permanent secretariat for AFLPM. This followed an intense lobby by Libya to host the secretariat and also offering to bank roll its activities as well as building its secretariat.
This made many of the countries present at that summit uncomfortable, particularly with the then profile of Libya in international politics. It was felt that only Nigeria’s candidature could match the ploy by Libya, hence the offer given to Nigeria to host the permanent secretariat.