Where is Patricia Etteh?

We have a President who gave us very high hopes of making a difference and then we have been sort of let down for the most part but somehow we can’t bring ourselves to totally dislike him. It makes for a good way to reminisce about our experience with President Musa Yar’Adua who had promised the sweet goodness of the “respect of the “Rule of Law” but then under his nose, the number four citizen was accused of expending hundreds of millions of naira on the renovation of official living quarters. This was 2007 not these 490+ to a dollar times so wipe that smirk off your face. It was a big deal.

It is as good a time as any to wonder about the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh. Her tenure made for solid television for all of the 5 months it lasted between June 2007 and October of the same year.

She’d been elected to the House first in 1999 under the Alliance for Democracy umbrella to represent  Ayedaade/Isokan/Irewole constituency of Osun State but her time as a legislator was quiet until 2003 when she became one of the examples of “cross-carpeters” after she moved to the People’s Democratic Party to seek re-election. But even then, she still wasn’t one of the popularly known Representatives.

In 2007, after her re-election for a third time and her very surprising unanimous election as the Speaker of the House, Mrs. Olubunmi Etteh became something of a household name. For many, especially the ruling class, she was proof of their goodwill -“Look, our tenure heralded a female Citizen No. 4”. And did they show her off!

For others, she was simply the former hairdresser who had no business presiding over the Lower Chambers. These ones did not remember that at that time, she had already been a federal legislator for 8 years. There were so many stories and photos portraying her in that light made the rounds.

By September 2007 Patricia Etteh’s detractors had come up with something more solid to hold against her. The “Integrity Group” within the House of Representatives demanded her resignation on an allegation of misappropriation. They accused her of having unlawfully spent NGN 620 million on the renovation of her official residence and that of her Deputy, Babangida Nguroje.

In her defense, Mrs. Etteh said the money was spent on renovating “a cluster of houses”. It didn’t change the fact that the Integrity Group thought her sleazy and wanted her out even though she continued to enjoy the support of some of her colleagues (read: Dino Melaye) and even the former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Although it was resolved by the House that there was “no record or proceedings of the House where Patricia Olubunmi Etteh was ever indicted” for the alleged crime, on October 30th 2007, she resigned as Speaker of the House and the much younger Dimeji Bankole became Speaker afterward.

After embarrassing and often violent episodes that led to her resignation, Mrs. Etteh went back to being a quiet legislator and hasn’t contested any elections after that tenure.

She has stood by her actions still and says she does not regret any of them. In fact, her response to some rumours linking her romantically with former president Olusegun Obasanjo and saying that is why she got off easy was: “I don’t bloody care. I can have romantic interest with anybody. I am free to romance anybody. I don’t fear you media boys anymore. Go and write whatever you like.”

In 2013, Patricia Etteh enrolled at the Buckingham University for their undergraduate Law degree saying that she’d love to practice as a lawyer. “I went back as someone that really loves to know actually  what is happening around me, the laws that I am guarded with, laws that I know protect the less privileged in the society, most especially when it comes to the area of counselling; supporting people who cannot afford to help themselves when it comes to litigation. These are areas I want to be interested in and that is why I went back to school to read law,” she said in an interview once.

Dino Melaye had also confirmed that Mrs. Etteh had received a Diploma in Law from the University of Abuja before she became a Speaker. She completed her programme in 2015 after which she attended the Nigerian Law School.

It’s not clear at this point whether the former Speaker will return to active politics but in February 2015, Mrs. Etteh joined ruling party, All Progressive Congress at a ceremony where she explained that she was joining the party because of its progressive policies and love for the masses, and also in order that she’ll be able to contribute her quota to the development of the people. She also called Governor Aregbesola’s administration one that had been filled with transformative positive change.

It is safe to assume that Mrs. Etteh has not been very far from the corridors of power even if she has not contested or been appointed to any public positions since her last stint at the House of Representatives. Her joining the ruling party also points to a possibility of a return to active politics soon.

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