The Problem With Our First Lady Patience Is Not Her English But Rather Her

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When people talk about Patience Faka Jonathan, the first thing that comes to mind is her English.

The fact that she uses pidgin phrases such as “na you waka come” and “diaris God.” People feel that for a first lady in such a high position such language is inexcusable. But I beg to differ…. I will rather have a leader be authentic than hear an amalgamation of British-Indian-American forced accents that have become the norm in our Nigerian society today.

Because the way you talk, the way you pronounce words, the sophistication or the level of complex words you throw together is not a determinant of how intelligent you are, it has never been. That’s why when Patrick Obahiagbon speaks with his big words so complex that Harvard professor’s orgasm it gets lost in translation. Because Nigerians don’t understand him and at the end of the day he makes no sense at all…he sounds stupid.

I mean just flip through your radio dial and you will be hit with a plethora of grammar from American to British to Indian and sometimes ancient Latin, all this while you are still physically in Nigeria. All because we have somehow come to equate big grammar and sophisticated accents with intelligence.

That’s why I really have no issue with Patience grammar, because the first lady represents 170 million Nigerians and not just the so called sophisticated few. So when she speaks in her mixture of pidgin and English plus a strong accent, more Nigerians will understand and connect with her than a Patrick Obiagbon or an OAP’s fabricated accent. And we connect because it comes from a place of authentic understanding. As long as a person knows what they are talking about we would understand … I personally was taught Math’s, English and Science by teachers with strong accents and faulty grammar. We sometimes would laugh and make fun of them when they made grammatical errors but at the end of the day they made us succeed despite the grammar gap. The grammar was not important, it was what they knew in their heads that was important.

Ironically I think the whole pidgin English distracts from the real problem with Patience.

great leaders showIt was never about what she said or did not say at the #diarisGod conference, but rather the timing. It took her 20 plus days to address the issue but only after considerable international pressure. And when she did address it, she made a show of it.

Time and again she has been absent on critical issues that a first lady could help give a voice to…

Where was she when lawmakers were voting to approve under age marriage?

Where was she when students were killed by boko haram in Yobe?

Where was she when the video of the 5 gang rapists went viral?

Where was she when 4 University students aka the ALUU 4 were mobbed?

The answer frankly is nowhere. The criticism of the first lady is not for things she has said but rather for things she has not said! Plus her absence in selfless but important National issues which is a stark contrast to her political activism disruption in states like Rivers.

At the end of the day Nigerians are not looking for a first lady that wears Vera Wang or Calvin Klein, or one that speaks with American-British-Jamaican English and drops big words left right and center. What Nigerians want is a first lady that cares for her people whether the camera is on or off, a first lady that brings issues to the limelight not one that appears after the lime light has been created by others and then tries to hug the lime light. A first lady that is known not for what she says but for what she does, that’s what we need and that’s what we don’t have….yet….

twitterWritten By Okechukwu Ofili of
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47 comments on “The Problem With Our First Lady Patience Is Not Her English But Rather Her

  1. O_Intuition! on said:

    ‘”…What Nigerians want is a first lady that cares for her people whether the camera is on or off, a first lady that brings issues to the limelight not one that appears after the lime light has been created by others and then tries to hug the lime light. A first lady that is known not for what she says but for what she does, that’s what we need and that’s what we don’t have..”

    Some of us do not mind if she even speaks in her native language. …So long she has a Translator
    It is just painful that she has joined the league of those politicizing and trivializing critical issues that pertain to life vizaviz homicide.
    She needs to be sensitive to the plights of the ‘common citizen’ (too).

    In other news, Mr. Ofili what happened to:
    “@nkemay @teegirlo @o_intuition @ceesoum @shalygurll send me an email at
    [ ]
    It’s been one month since I sent the email … still waiting for response…#awoof

    PS: Thanks for the Insightful ‘Reads’

  2. Oluwafisayomi on said:

    Bola Tinubu’s wife was a full time government teacher before she assumed the post of a first lady.Before that,teachers were poorly paid,and always owed,she’d experienced it first hand and pulled all her weight when she had the power and was in a position to.Their salaries were increased and they get paid as at when due,I doubt if there’s been any state school strike based on salaries since she breathed into it,a govt school teacher jokingly told my mom of recent,they used to say teacher’s rewards are in heaven,but now,its here on earth.She was a state first lady and if nothing else she did something significant to be remembered for. Nigerians are too fickle minded,shallow and vain,focusing more on creating an impression than leaving an impression.She only came on tv that day to act a long over due drama,so like u said,it had little or next to nothing to do with her grammar.

    • I beg to differ dear, Lagos teachers did not get any improvement in their lots due to Oluremi. The improvements came due to increases in mimumum wages paid to workers which were approved by the federal government. Lagos state teachers are poorly paid, over taxed and do not receive many benefits.
      Did Oluremi do anything to improve education in Lagos state? O Yes! She did so much and will never be forgotten but did she improve the lot of teachers? No Sireee.
      And yes I’m the child of a Lagos state secondary school teacher
      Adaeze latest post is Where I am at the momentMy Profile

  3. chidi on said:

    U hit the nail on the head
    my problem wasn’t her grammar but the way she turned the whole Chibok incident into a comedy-drama #diaris God
    sometimes Im perplexed at her insensitivity.

  4. Ofili, I agree with your piece above. It is quite unfortunate and to some extent unforgivable that whilst the entire world is working on bringing the girls back, our very own patience is questioning the authenticity of the kidnapping. To even think that the president said in his press conference that he would not sleep well until the girls are rescued. This is coming after how many weeks? Her dramatic performance in fron of the cameras was unconvincing and uncalled for .

  5. Adelowo Oreoluwa on said:

    I am a Big Fan of Originality, that I really admired in the first Lady, obviously she knew it was going to be aired! All though I feel some precautions could have been taken though, Before she got to this stage.

  6. Like you said… Madam Dame was missing in action when needed most. AWOL playing politics and mother of the nation in the enclave of rivers state. Deris God o, all you people dissecting her dramatic show of shame and incoherent speech just for the camera. My main grouse with the charade is that, what took the commander in chief and the mother of the so called nation three weeks plus before voicing their unconvincing talks?

  7. danbasy effiwatt on said:

    for once I dont agree with you totally Mr Ofili. if I understood you well…you dont agree that nigerians should ridicule our first lady for her gramatical flaws. what about a credit pass in ssce, jamb, use of english for academic purposes in universities gss1101 and gss1102? why is english very important in our school curriculums? which causes more restraint and frustration to an individual…getting D6 in english in waec or the first lady’s grammer?

    if the first lady’s grammer is to be overlooked for the reasons you have mentioned above, then not passing english language as a subject in all of our institutions must also be overlooked.

    in my ssce, I had B2 in biology, geography and economics. c5 was the least but I had D7 in english and had to write the exam again. I remember my mother wondering if the subjects I passed very well were written in vernacular.

    buttomline: u cant get admission into any university in nigeria without passing english in waec. you cant graduate from uni without passing gss1101. …likewise employment by certificate loving institutions. so why should the office a first lady be different?

    • Oluchi Juliet Emelogu on said:

      Reading the comments, I was scrolling to see someone point this out. You are absolutely correct. I disagree with Ofili because English is fundamental. Yes, it would have made a great deal of difference if she had not responded as late as she did. But if her response was the same, I’d still be disappointed. Her message would have been missed. People are angry that she trivialized the tragedy… What made it a comedy if not for her grammatical blunders?

      • Not that I support PEJ or anything about her, but pray tell, which part of the Nigerian constitution says English is fundamental for anyone seeking office(or his spouse) or anyone else? I’m of the opinion that she even starts to speak pidgin. If you insist English Language is fundamental, do you insist she did not pass all her English exams? Let’s not make this about her grammar, please. Besides, Turai Yaradua’s grammar was also very bad(if not worse) yet there wasn’t so much noise about it. Madam PEJ has immersed herself in politics and godmotherism and abandoned her duties as 1st lady, I would like to think that’s what the noise should be about.
        Owgee latest post is 100 Truths.My Profile

    • Danbassy, shey you know that spoken English and written English differ? I know quite a number of people that speak very good English but cannot write and vice versa. Besides, what if I told you that PEJ had a B2 in English Language(key words: WHAT IF)? Would you have any proof to counter it?
      Owgee latest post is 100 Truths.My Profile

  8. It is the insensitivity of the leaders to this issue that pisses me off. 1500+ people have died this year. 267 were kidnapped and you tell us “Diaris God?”

    I was told she had community influence, long before politics and a lot of her influence is what got GEJ started in politics (I dunno how true this is). She needs to show real empathy.

    There’s a strong disconnect from reality, on the part of the leaders.

    Nice one Ofili, as always

  9. So true. It was just for show. Then she went on to order the arrest of two of the protesters? Sad. However, she needs to have a carriage worth respecting even if her English will be bad. I know First Ladies of my state back then could not really speak English but they spoke like queens not like hawkers trying to prove a point.
    PS: I like Patrick sha, his English is hilarious and pretentious but you sure he has an accent?

  10. Daisy on said:

    I have stated repeatedly whenever I have had the opportunity more or less the same that u have. It was not her grammar (or lack thereof) that is the problem but her insincerity. We did not hear a peep from her when the school children were slaughtered like goats and chickens in Yobe. About a month later a lavish wedding is thrown for her adopted daughter. If just one of those kids were hers would she have gone ahead with that? She is our 1st Lady=Mother of the nation (in good n bad times). The very next day after the “diarisGodo” fiasco, she appears on d front page oif d Gurdian welcoming the Kenyan President all dressed up in her sunday best. Who is fooling who?

  11. Amenze Igbinedion on said:

    Ofili, this is one article I enjoyed reading. Thank you!!!!

    First, I thought I was the only person irritated by the fake multilingual accents of OAPs. Gosh, can someone please tell them to stop because they are not communicating? Ofili, use your social network and advise them please!

    Secondly, the fact that many Nigerians responded to the grammar blunders rather than the key issues you raised, presents the picture of what our priorities are, and the choices we now make as a people. It seems we will rather have a trendy First Lady than the one who truly lives up to that title. And this poor choices and wrong priorities have impacted on other aspects of our lives as Nigerians.

    • Sisi on said:

      We don’t want a trendy first lady per se, we simply do not want someone that misrepresents us…and aunty P does that quite well.

      Also, the reason why there was undue attention to her grammatical errors is because even with all the blunders, she still didn’t have any worthwhile message to pass. It was all an act!

  12. Thank you Oo. People can be so hypocritical when it is regarding the First Lady’s grammar.
    Why should they all speak Queen’s English? How many Nigerians speak that way anyway?
    The lady is being real and unperturbed by her grammatical impediments and I love her for it.
    Nonso latest post is Women shouldn’t wear pants to church?My Profile

  13. Ifesinachi Okee. JR on said:

    As usual Okey you have hit the nail on the head. We want a mother in the first lady not a showbiz woman who wants to put out a show.

  14. Omorinsola on said:

    i also do not agree with you on the ‘grammarticals’. I dont expect the First Lady to speak ‘queens’ or ‘americanized’ english. I however expect a Woman that the face of all Nigerian women in the international community to do better than ‘you only you waka come’. A+ response Danbasy Effiwatt
    So yes its the grammar + the prolonged silence for me!
    PS Ofili i love you, but it sticks a pin in me when someone says ‘There are high school dropouts that have gone on to become great and influential people’ –
    Please dont look at the few that society has glorified, compare the standard of living of educated vs uneducated in NIGERIA and then we talk.

  15. Damilola on said:

    Another angle to the issue of dropouts is that most of them still learnt the neccessary they didnt get from school, after at least becoming successful, Nothing stops her from doing better than that, she does nt have to be americanised etc. So for me its both the grammar and her serious silence on critical issues, tnx

    • Bloodiemary on said:

      Thank you for this. How many years has she spent as a first lady? Her husband didn’t just walk into the corridors of power. They rose to it after occupying other public positions. What stops her from attending a finishing school? Or getting private tutors to groom her. It’s not just her grammar, it’s her demeanour when she speaks. Turai didn’t blow plenty grammar but she didn’t rob it all over our faces. PEJ is a talkative and doesn’t know how to express herself. People like that shouldn’t make a lot of public appearances without being prepared on what to say.
      My mum couldn’t really express herself well in English language so when I was in primary school, my lesson teacher also taught her. My dad had a lot of elite friends so she had to catch up. You don’t just let things like that slide just because you think it doesn’t matter.
      So how she go relate if she go other countries for meetings or so? To read sef dey hard am.
      She sounds unserious with that pidgin abeg. You will agree with me that if she didn’t make those grammatical blunders, that scenario wouldn’t come out the way it did.
      As she no gree show empathy, make she try learn english abeg.

  16. Emmm, this woman is a graduate, she’s worked in the civil service and is even a permanent secretary in Bayelsa, she’s been the wife of a man who’s held public office for fifteen unbroken years. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR HER TO SPEAK HORRIBLE ENGLISH. That being said, I totally agree with your article, She should have acted faster.

  17. Yemx on said:

    … Her delayed responses, poor carriage, inability to express herself well… We are not saying she should have a “combination of accents” but at least use the right construction and SHOW UP ON TIME! And when she does show up, try not to make light of issues…
    plus I think it’s “hog” not “hug” (hog the limelight…)
    P.S. I see we have changed it, now it cures stupidity 🙂

  18. Pingback: If I were Patience Jonathan… | whatkindofchildisthis

  19. Hi. I just want to say No one asked Patience to speak with American,Indian or any other foreign accents(at least I don’t). Infact she wasn’t asked to speak @ all. But if she’s gonna publicly address people in that position as a 1st lady I don’t see why she can’t ever(and not even try) to speak in a clear and concise way. I mean its just English language na. Its inexcusable to me cos she cld have had a speech written for her if she needed to. Let’s stop being sentimental bout it and be real and admit that Presentation matters. She’s the wife of a president for goodness sake. She should brush up on certain skills such as appearance,communication,etc.
    Its not worth being made an international mockery of. The whole thing is a fiasco on social media. My advice is if she can’t speak right then she should be silent and ACT right instead. Its not like she still did anything sef after the tears she shed or did she?

  20. (The issue of PEG’s negligence to urgent national matters is disgusting but that’s not my priority based on the already ‘truth based facts’ handled by the article) It’s funny to see how we all pretend in our own little ways. We see our pretence but fail to acknowledge it. I read a couple of comments that’s says they never bothered about PEG’s grammar. lol. Who actually never did pay attention? Who wasn’t ‘wowed’? Who didn’t give a big laugh or grin sheepishly at her composition of words? You? You? Or YOU? Have we thought about her place and OUR representational place globally? This is politics and what we want is perfection even if no human is perfect. If the common man should be judged in all ramifications based on his level of written and spoken English, then all men should be judged with the same stick. Who doesn’t feel the auditory sweetness at the articulation of good English? Have you paid attention to Ogun State’s gov’s wife speech? Who pays less attention to good gestures and carriage? These are paramount qualities in our everyday life as commoners, these are features we admire at our ordinary level, these are major features we seek in our spouses (to be or being), from our friends and children, talking less of someone of statutory prominence. See ehn.. Before we taught about her non ‘impactful’ impact in the society, we definitely have(even if we didn’t voice it out) squeezed our minds face at her use of English.. Well, for me sha o, she only makes or should I say, MADE the market bloom.. Businesses have thrived ever since ‘only you waka come’ and God bless PEG for coming. I’m glad the common man has been able to make a little more for himself. Shikina.

  21. Kenneth Ezere on said:

    Dis woman ws a govt official b4, i wonder hw she got into dat position. Wen pple are bein denied admission nd jobs bcos of failure in english and gramatical errors.My broda everytin is wrong wit her gramar. We dnt expect her 2 speak lyk queen Eliza or Michel Obama bt bros her grama is an insult on dat ofice. Let her speak in her native language nd use a translator abeg. She shuld jos stay away from d camera, her presence or intervention wil nt change much. No body is forcin english on her, if she cant speak it,she shuld be cool wit her local dialect, we wil understand as usual.

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