It is Time to Give up on Jonathan

by Michael Egbejumi-David

It is a poorly kept secret that, in the Jonathan household, the Mrs, Patience, is the one who wears the pants. She rules the roost. She is the one in charge; the boss.

In some cases, the woman being in charge is not actually a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good thing. However, I’m not sure if this is the case with the first family. It certainly isn’t proving to be the case now. When you look at Jonathan, when you behold and have been thoroughly put off by Goodluck’s docility, his lack of vigour and rigour, you would understand why Patience had to take charge. It’s just a shame that she doesn’t know where to draw the line.

It was recently reported that Mrs Jonathan has remained on the payroll of the Bayelsa State civil service despite the fact that she hasn’t turned up for work for even one minute since her husband became the Deputy Governor in 1999. Regardless of all that, she was still considered an active staff member and was being paid in full by the Ministry of Education (of all places!)

I was still digesting that appalling news and wondering when Reuben Abati would come out and announce that Mrs Jonathan has returned all the salaries and allowances she has been pocketing since 1999, when worse news floated in. This one came directly from the Head of Bayelsa State Civil Service, Gloria Izonfo. She announced that the same Mrs Jonathan has been appointed a Permanent Secretary. I can just imagine Don King’s hair standing on end as he shouts, “Only in Nigeria!”

For one, this is sycophancy gone out of hand. People will recall that the current governor, Seriake Dickson was one of the Abuja politicians who were used to fight the previous governor, Timipre Sylva to a standstill until his election was annulled in April 2008 by the Court of Appeal. Back then, Dickson, a House of Representative member, avowed that the majority of PDP stakeholders in Bayelsa would not support Sylva’s candidacy to run again at a new election that was mandated after 90 days. He called Sylva “unacceptable” and a person lacking in skills to “build consensus.”

A Loyal Jonathan disciple, in 2012 Dickson was rewarded with the governorship after his oga became President and Sylva had been kicked hard into exile. Dickson was declared the winner of the governorship election by the State Returning Officer, Prof Joseph Ajienka. (More about him later)

As per our culture in Nigeria, Dickson is now thanking his oga through madam, however, he is doing it all wrong.

But, there’s a larger issue:

Mrs Jonathan stopped going in to work sometime in 1999. That is some 13 years ago. Let us do the math: According to her own bio, Mrs Jonathan got her NCE (Teacher training) diploma in 1989. Then she proceeded to the University of Port Harcourt for a 3 year Bachelor’s programme in Biology and Psychology, finishing, presumably, in 1992. Then she became a teacher at a Secondary School where she was until 1997. In 1997, she left and went into Community Banking.

Then things become sketchy. At some point, post 1997, Mrs Jonathan left the bank and returned “to the classroom briefly again as a teacher.” Then “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.”

So. Ok. Let’s say Mrs Jonathan stayed in the banking sector for just one year. That would mean that she returned to teaching in 1998. A few months later, she joined the Ministry of Education in Bayelsa. To be generous, let us say she was with that Ministry for a full calendar year before she became Second Lady of Bayelsa. Once they were in office, Mrs Jonathan never darkened the doors of the Education Ministry again. However, she continued to draw a salary. On 12 July 2012, with just one single solitary practical active year experience in the Education Ministry, she was made its Permanent Secretary.

Please stop laughing.

So, what are the duties and responsibilities of a Permanent Secretary? The number one job of a Permanent Secretary is to run the department on a day-to-day basis. Effectively, the Permanent Secretary is the chief executive of a particular government department, overseeing its operations including, budgets, personnel, training, etc, etc. The Permanent Secretary also provides reports and advice to the political head of the Ministry, the Commissioner. Permanent Secretaries are also the accounting Officers for their department, which means they are directly answerable to the Legislature for financial matters. Furthermore, Permanent Secretaries chair their departments’ Management Boards.

Mrs Jonathan will do all of this and more with just one year of entry level experience under her belt; an experience acquired some 13 years ago.

Please now. I told you to curtail your laughter.

We have been told however – in an attempt at clarification – that Mrs Jonathan will do this in absentia. A brand new concept; a Permanent Secretary in absentia. Only in Jonathan’s Nigeria. In effect, Mrs Jonathan was just awarded a title for later use. The First Lady appellation would appear inadequate. A further attempt at clarification was made on 14 July 2012 by a Special Assistant to the governor, Daniel Iworiso-Markson. He said, “The State government believes that the services of the First Lady to the development of Bayelsa State and Nigeria qualify as essential service, which should be recognised and rewarded.”

Good God! You cannot make this up, even if you were writing a very bad movie script. Provincial outlook is being nationalised. We are being force-fed parochial backwater thinking and behaviour from the riverside. Lack of refinement and outrageous buffoonery has been elevated to statecraft. God help us all.

As a man, when your truculent wife comes to you with news of such “promotion,” you are supposed to quickly pour deserved ice water on it. You are supposed to show her the million ways in which it is wrong and inappropriate. As a Head of State, you ought to then go further and insist on decency, pick up the phone, call the bloody governor of Bayelsa and tell him to keep his Greek gift. Tell him not to ridicule further a government that is already struggling to convince people that it is a serious one. I just don’t understand: Is it that some people simply lack the ability to see what everyone else can see or they just don’t care?

But it is clear Mrs Jonathan calls the shots at home. Clearly, the President is not able to curtail her overbearing and flagrant impulses. He gave up trying long ago. Our Jonah is just too happy for her to go do her thing at any cost and leave him alone with all her wahala. In any event, they own the day now, so anything goes. Weak, distasteful and very unseemly.

Not too long ago, ‘twas for the same Jonathan that an Italian construction company, Gitto Construzioni Generali, built a huge church in the heart of his village. Jonathan even saw it fit to defend such farce and obvious corruption. Why didn’t the same firm build churches in other villages before or after Jonathan’s?

Just last month, Mrs Jonathan was awarded a Doctorate by the University of Port Harcourt. On hand to confer that honorary degree on her was Prof Ajienka, the Vice Chancellor of the University. Yes, the same Prof Joseph Ajienka, State Electoral Returning Officer who declared Dickson governorship winner. Same day, President Jonathan approved N3 billion for the development of the University of Port Harcourt.

These are just the ones we know about o.

This is where we now find ourselves. Everything is so gauche. There is a complete absence of shame. No decorum, no circumspection. It is Idi Amin declaring himself the King of Scotland all over again.

And the sovereignty of 150 million souls is entrusted in the care of this man? Wasn’t it Fela who sang that ‘Upside Down get them meaning too?’ Nigeria we hail thee. This poor country just cannot catch a break.

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