by Isi Esene
Nigeria’s first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan will tomorrow be sworn in as a permanent secretary in the Bayelsa State Civil Service.
Her appointment, which was made along seventeen others, by the state government has drawn widespread negative reaction from different quarters describing the gesture as an attempt to garner favour from the Presidency.
While defending its action, the Bayelsa State government through its spokesman, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, dismissed this assertion and explained saying:
“Unknown to a number of people, the first lady joined the Rivers State Civil Service in the 90s; and upon the election of her husband as deputy governor in 1999, transferred her service to the civil service of Bayelsa State. She rose through the ranks of the public service of Bayelsa State and was last appointed into the directorate cadre as a level 15 officer in 2005.
“By the traditions of the Bayelsa State Civil Service, officers on directorate level, some of whom are even junior to her present position have been appointed as permanent secretaries before now. Even among the list of those currently appointed, not all of them are the most senior officers.”
The first lady through her spokesman, Ayo Osinlu, also allayed fears by claiming that she will hold her position in absentia without receiving remuneration which should normally accrue to her appointed position.
He argues that the constitution does not exclude her from taking up the position since “it’s a civil service position”. He continued saying, “She is a staff of the Bayelsa State Civil Service.”
Meanwhile, Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate, has taken a different tack over the first lady’s appointment stating that.
In response to questions for newsmen today, he said: “The lady in question [Dame Patience Jonathan] is not constitutionally disqualified from the office.”
Mrs. Jonathan will take her oaths with others today and they will be posted to their respective ministries.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.