Patience, wife of President Goodluck Jonathan, says she will not be relocating to Bayelsa state to perform the duties of a permanent secretary, in line with her new appointment.
Mrs. Jonathan was on Wednesday appointed a Permanent Secretary in the Bayelsa state civil service by the state Governor, Seriake Dickson. She was appointed alongside 17 other senior civil servants in the state.
But unlike the others, she will hold her office in absentia, Mrs Jonathan told PREMIUM TIMES through her spokesperson, Ayo Osinlu.
“She is on leave of absence,” Mr. Osinlu said. “She is not going to function in the office of the permanent secretary in Bayelsa state.”
Ms. Jonathan however, is apparently delighted at the appointment as her spokesman argued that she had no cause to publicly accept or decline the appointment.
“It is a civil service position,” Mr Osinlu said. “She is a staff of the Bayelsa state civil service.”
Ms. Jonathan will also not collect any perk for the office, Mr. Osinlu said.
“It will be illegal for her to draw salary from the office,” he said.
The president’s wife, who left the Bayelsa state civil service 13 years ago after her husband became the deputy governor of the state, was elevated to the position, usually reserved for senior civil servants.
Governor Seriake Dickson said he made the appointment in line with the constitutional powers conferred on his office.
On behalf of Ms. Jonathan, Mr. Osinlu argued that the appointment is a routine civil service career promotion, as opposed to insinuations that it is a political appointment by the governor to curry favour from the president’s wife, whom many believe was influential in the governors climb to his office.
Retired permanent secretaries who explained the process of appointing a permanent secretary at federal and state levels, told PREMIUM TIMES that during the military eras and until recently, assumption to the office of permanent secretary was strictly based on seniority.
“Those days, only the most senior director in the ministry will succeed an outgoing permanent secretary,” a retired permanent secretary who sought anonymity said.
“Now, in addition to seniority, they add politics. Nowadays, most times, not the most qualified is appointed but whomever the governor chooses.”
Ms. Jonathan, a native of Okrika in neighboring Rivers State, had worked both in the Rivers and Bayelsa states civil services up till 1999.
She holds a National Certificate of Education in Mathematics/Biology, obtained in 1989 from the Rivers State College of Education. She also has a degree in Biology and Psychology (Education) from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Her appointment has raised controversy in the state, residents contend the president’s wife is unqualified to hold the position.
It is also not clear which department, ministry or government agency she worked in while in the Bayelsa Civil service.
Her spokesman, Mr Osinlu, declined to confirm her rank before leaving the state’s civil service to embark on her current “leave of absence.”