Dame Patience Jonathan was sworn in yesterday as a Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa State along with 18 other persons yesterday, 20th July, 2012 in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State capital. Nigerians bemoaned her appointment though, but after the books were set straight that the governor reserved the right to appoint anyone into office, the flares went down. Now, Dame Patience Jonathan, Nigeria’s first lady is a Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa State.
There is nothing strange about a first lady having a job as the office of the first lady does not even exist constitutionally, but it becomes wrong when such first lady was last seen in civil service 13 years ago. Dame Patience Jonathan stopped working in the civil service in 1999 when her husband became Bayelsa state deputy governor, except she has remained in service and has been a ghost worker because she’s been half-way round the world ever since. Either ways, she’s not entitled to the post of a permanent secretary. The Bayelsa state government claimed the most senior officers were chosen. Has Dame Patience Jonathan been working from Abuja to have merited her promotion to the most senior level, or has she been at that level since 1999? Whichever way, I’m sure there are many workers in Bayelsa State civil service that merited the position more than the first lady. They are aggrieved but none would dare say a word, especially if they are not ready to retire.
The appointment of Dame Patience Jonathan among other things is evident of how governors can misuse power and would if given more authority like controlling a Police force. State governors will only use the police to further their ambitions and harass their political enemies. The legislators should ensure creation of state police does not crawl into the amendment of the 1999 constitution. If it does, God save us!
18 senior officers who deserved their elevation and appointment as Permanent Secretaries were seated two hours before the event. Dame Patience Jonathan who obviously had forgotten civil service ethics and had been used to being a first lady for more than a decade strolled in later flanked by her boss, the governor of Bayelsa state, Seriake Dickson on red carpet laid in her honour. Despite being the last to arrive of the Permanent Secretaries to be sworn in, she was sworn in first and alone, while others were sworn in in three batches of six each.
Many people may not understand why Seriake Dickson appointed Dame Patience Jonathan, but I believe he simply found the easiest way to be in Goodluck Jonathan’s good books after issues were raised against a construction company’s gift of a church in Goodluck Jonathan’s Otuoke hometown. He was constitutionally right to have appointed Dame Patience Jonathan, and so he didn’t break the law in giving the president’s family a salary of about half a million Naira for life; as Permanent secretaries are paid the same salary they were receiving in service even after retirement.
The question on everyone’s lips now is; where do we go from here? In an era where political office holders use the powers vested in them as a result of our mandate to further their own agenda, what hope do we have? May God save us!