Nigeria’s First Lady: The Decimation of a Hero Brand.

NnankecolumnpixI love Patience Jonathan. She has verve, vitality, a vivacious spirit and candour. She is also the wife of our president, Goodluck Jonathan, thus she is Nigeria’s First Lady, an unconstitutional but ceremonial office introduced by Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria’s only former military president. Mrs. Patience Jonathan has fought hard for everything she believes in with gusto and determination and has been bedrock of support and inspiration for her husband. She believes in women empowerment and has pushed for the support and encouragement of womenfolk in the polity. Her sound bites have been very women-centric and so far she has been a great champion. She would usually reel out the number of women in political office as part of the democracy dividends of the Jonathan presidency. Her Excellency, Mrs. Goodluck Jonathan is a good woman.
Our first lady could hardly contain herself when President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday, July 16 swore in Nigeria’s first female Chief Justice, Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, Mrs. Jonathan was on hand to witness and relish the moment as well as give a ‘well done hug’ to madam chief justice. Mrs. Jonathan, without doubt loves her gender constituency and is obviously doing a great job from the home front as at no other time in Nigeria’s history do we have this many number of women at the helm of ministries, agencies and departments (MDAs).
I suspect that because of this obvious achievement, someone or a group of persons with first class qualifications on sycophancy sold the idea that the first lady ought to also do something for herself by way of getting a recognized office and that the result is her ludicrous appointment as a permanent secretary in her home state of Bayelsa but this is no way to appreciate a good woman.
The media has been awash with the justifications, the pros and the cons of this appointment by a man who will not have become governor of Bayelsa if President Goodluck Jonathan had not sanctioned it. Some commentators have concluded that this action is part of pay-back to the president. I beg to disagree. The Mrs. Patience Jonathan brand whether she knows it or not is bigger, repeat, much bigger than a permanent secretary position
whether it is in a state or federal civil service.
Whether we want to admit it a not, we live in a male dominated world. That is why if a man is King, his wife is automatically Queen, but it is not the same if a woman is made Queen as is obvious in Britain. Therefore, the wife of my president is ‘like my president’. How therefore can she who is ‘like my President’ be swearing an oath of allegiance to a governor who my president more or less installed in the first place. It is not only an insult to my president and my president’s wife but also to me. Whoever wrote and sold this script to our president has done the Nigerian nation brand a great disservice. On the face of it, it looks like …oh Mrs. Jonathan is humble, that is why she can accept to serve as permanent secretary despite her conventionally accepted (but constitutionally unrecognized) office but it beggars belief that our first lady can truly report to a governor. For those who may not know it, a permanent secretary position is indeed a political appointment. Somebody who has never been a civil servant can be appointed into the position as far as the governor or president is favourably disposed to that person.
For the records, there is nothing wrong with Mrs. Jonathan ‘rising’ to become permanent secretary since she was a career civil servant before she went on to becoming a governor’s wife, a vice-president’s wife and, finally, a president’s wife. She who God
has blessed, no one can reduce. My take on all this is Mr. President did not receive good advice on this issue. If I were to have advised the president and our first lady, I would have said to them to thank Governor Dickson Seriake effusively for his kind ‘unsolicited’ gesture but gracefully decline to be sworn in for now, due to the demands of the first lady’s high office. She and, therefore, the presidency will have retained the respect of all.
Patience Faka Jonathan was born in 1957in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. She obtained her first school certificate in 1976, and passed the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in 1980. She moved on to obtain the National Certificate of Education (NCE) in Mathematics and Biology from the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Port Harcourt before finally proceeding to the University of Port Harcourt where she and studied Biology and Psychology.
Mrs. Jonathan began her career as a teacher at the Stella Maris College, Port Harcourt and Sports Institute Isake also in Port Harcourt.. She ventured into banking in 1997, when she established the first community bank in Port Harcourt called the Akpo Community Bank. She served as Marketing Manager of Imiete Community Bank and returned to the classroom briefly again as teacher. Eventually she was transferred to the Bayelsa State Ministry of Education, where she served until 29 May 1999 when her husband became the Deputy Governor of the state. She has quietly been complementing her hugely blessed husband over the past 13 years before this distraction about a ‘promotion’ came to jolt our collective sensibilities.
My strong recommendation is for Mr. President to prevail on madam to please take an early retirement since she has attained the pinnacle of her career so that she can stay focused on the challenges of her high office of first lady of Nigeria. My unsolicited counsel is because I love our first lady and I want her to enjoy her term undistracted, to the hilt!