Jul 21, 2012

President Jonathan’s Wife Sworn In As Permanent Secretary

Nigeria’s first lady was on Friday sworn into a senior government post in the oil-rich state of Bayelsa, an appointment tagged as scandalous by some opponents.

Patience Jonathan, wife of President Goodluck Jonathan, was named a permanent secretary in Bayelsa by Governor Seriake Dickson.

At the ceremony today, Dickson insisted that the first lady “merits the appointment”.

“I have not done anything wrong and illegal,” Dickson said at the ceremony.

Many Nigerians, including opposition politicians have condemned the appointment in strong terms.

On Sunday Frank-Oputu, the state chair of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, an opposition coalition, said the appointment was greased “with the oil of corruption”.

He charged that she lacked the requisite experience and that her official credentials were doctored following the public uproar that ensued when her appointment was revealed on July 11.

“They must have re-arranged the document to cover-up the scandal that followed the announcement,” he said.

While Bayelsa is one the top three oil rich states in Nigeria, the world’s eight largest producer, the sector is managed federally, with state officials playing almost no formal role in the petroleum industry.

A permanent secretary is the administrative head of a ministry and Jonathan will be assigned a specific portfolio at a later date.

In her response after the swearing-in, Dame Patience Jonathan justified her acceptance of the promotion to the office of a Permanent Secretary in the civil service of the Bayelsa State government saying that outside her role as the wife of the President she deserves and reserves the right to pursue her career to its heights.

She said that she wasn’t the first person in such position in the world or the country to pursue a career outside her role as a wife of a political office holder.

She said that she was last promoted 13 years ago even though she had been working in the state as a teacher before transferring her service to the ministry of education.

She disclosed that she had been working as a teacher before she met her husband who was her lecturer in school.She wondered what the uproar about her appointment was all about when her role as the First lady of the federation was not even constitutional and the fact has been drummed to her hearing by several people.“When it suits them, they will say we don’t have office. Remember when I went to Lagos for peace advocacy, the Governor of Lagos State said that my husband should call me to order since my office is not in the constitution and that I have no office. Why now won’t I pursue my career that I am sure of?“

“We the wives of political office holders, if our name is not in the constitution and our husbands will retire with full benefits then they should find a role for us when they are amending the constitution. They should look into our own affairs,” she said.

“We should be included in the constitution so that we too can retire with benefits. With that, we can enjoy our career.

“When it suits them, they will say we don’t have office. Remember, when I went to Lagos for peace advocacy, the governor of Lagos State said that my husband should… my name is not in the constitution that I have no office. Why now won’t I pursue my career that I am sure of.”

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