First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan was one of 19 permanent secretaries appointed by the Bayelsa State government yesterday.
The state broadcasting station, Radio Bayelsa, referring to a statement signed by the state’s head of service, Mrs. Gloria Izonfor, said Governor Seriake Dickson made the appointment on the strength of the constitutional powers conferred on him under Section 203, Sub-section 2C. Governor Dickson later confirmed the appointment to LEADERSHIP.
Jonathan had worked in the Rivers State and later Bayelsa State Ministry of Education before her husband became deputy governor and later governor of the state.
Her elevation to the status of permanent secretary was described as “routine” by the senior special assistant to the governor on media and public affairs Markson Iworiso, who also confirmed the appointment in an interview with LEADERSHIP last night.
Others on the list of permanent secretaries were Mr. J.E. Oye, Samson Ayibeboa, Mrs. Antonia Koroye, Ziwari Billie, Buruboyefa John, Dikuro Ayebameh, Serge Williams, Olu Kuruom, G.I.Izein,Mrs.Philomena Alodie, Dr. Omietimi Kojo, Ese Izonebi, Ohougha Mathias, James Clinton, Mrs. Linnet Tebepah, Moses Teibowei, Dr. A. Sanayi and Vivian Odiwei.Mrs. Jonathan’s appointment raised eyebrows in view of her current position as first lady.
However, the SSA Media to the Bayelsa governor insisted that the appointment was purely based on merit, as Mrs Jonathan has served in the civil service of the state where she rose to the position of director.
Asked whether someone who retired from service can be appointed a perm sec, Mr. Markson said: “in reality, Her Excellency is still in service, on a leave of absence. All those appointed with her were her subordinates.
The First Lady should not be discriminated against simply because she is now the wife of the president. The pride of every civil servant is to attain the position of perm sec, which is the zenith of the profession.”
Meanwhile, prominent lawyers Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) and Mr Bamidele Aturu have reacted to the development, saying it is was unbelievable that Patience Jonathan who left the service of Bayelsa State in 1999 could be elevated to a position of permanent secretary.
The lawyers said if the story is true, then it smacks the point that Nigeria is in confusion and needs urgent and drastic arrest.
They described it as too condescending and degrading for anyone to contemplate that the first lady would be made permanent secretary in Bayelsa State.
According to Sagay, Governor Dickson has demonstrated the highest level of sycophancy, adding that it is an act of privatising governance in the country.
Sagay said: “If that is true, it means there is no longer a limit to which people can descend in Nigeria. Such thing should be too low to contemplate. It looks like degrading oneself.
“It clearly shows that there is no act of sycophancy such a state governor that did the appointment cannot go. It looks ridiculous and uncalled for.
Ahamba stated: “It is very good. I congratulate her on her new job. The whole place is in confusion. Let Nigerians talk about it and count me out of such nonsense. It is a vexation to an innocent spirit and can cause one to vomit. How can it happen?”
Aturu also said: “It is unbelievable. It must be a mistake. If it is true, then, only God can help Nigerians out of it. How can you unnecessarily privatise governance? I am short of words to state my mind. It is shocking because just for the reason that she is the wife of the president, so it is a licence to just go and assume a position anywhere. Nigerians must begin to think of how to take their destiny in their own hands.”