By Donu Kogbara
SINCE Henry Seriake Dickson, the Bayelsa State Governor, bestowed a Permanent Secretary appointment on Dame Patience Jonathan, I have spoken to several people – foreigners as well as Nigerians – who have made extremely disparaging remarks about the giver, the recipient and the recipient’s spouse.
Disparaging remarks galore have also been made by readers of various online publications. Dickson has been dismissed as a shameless arch-sycophant. The Dame has been described as deluded, silly, grasping and ill-qualified. The President has been roundly abused for allowing his wife too much latitude.
Meanwhile, Mr. Morris Alagoa, who is Chairman of the Bayelsa state chapter of the Civil Liberties Organisation, has made it clear that he regards this development as “unacceptable” for a number of reasons, including his belief that Perm Sec jobs should not be dished out like political appointments or honorary university degrees and should only go to individuals who have steadily worked their way, on a full-time basis and for many years, to the top of the civil service.
Going down a dodgy path
I have said quite a few nice things about The Dame and Dickson in this column in the past. But I have to criticise both of them on this occasion and say that I don’t understand why they have chosen to go down a dodgy path that was bound to lead them into the painful, humiliating realm of mockery and insults.
Talk about playing into your enemies’ hands! Do Dickson and The Dame honestly, in their hearts, think that she deserves a slot that normally goes to dedicated senior career bureaucrats? Did they not realise that they would expose themselves to negative comments such as the following observation, which was attributed to writer Kaanayo Nwachukwu on an internet site I recently visited:
“Even the wives of Idi Amin, Eyadema, Omar Bongo, Mugabe, Charles Taylor, Jammeh, Mbasogo, Kerekou, Gbagbo, Ben-Ali, Mubarak, Ghaddafi, Olusegun Obasanjo, Abacha, Babangida, Rawlings, Dos Santos, Idris Deby, Paul Biya, Zenawi, Afewarki, Mobutu, Kabila, Bokassa…who have ruled and ruined Africa – and continue to rule and ruin – are not half as ambitious as Patience Jonathan”.
But I am more interested in the personal angle than the ethical, legal and procedural aspects. So while most of Dickson and The Dame’s detractors are focusing on issues such as her eligibility for the post and his motives for offering it to her, the questions that keep reverberating through my mind are:
Why bother about a Perm Sec title
Why is The Dame bothering with a Perm Sec title in the midst of all this damaging controversy when the title she already has – Her Excellency, First Lady Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria – puts her at the pinnacle of our society? Is the Perm Sec thing not a demotion rather than a promotion?!
Whether we like it or not, First Ladies in ANY country have more status than females who have been high achievers in their own rights…and have performed impressively as businesswomen, lawyers, doctors, journalists or whatever.
Do people queue up to meet Michelle Obama or Samantha Cameron because they are mega-talented professionals or because they happen to be the consorts of the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain?
Grace Kelly, a dazzlingly beautiful 1950s movie star, attracted tons of fawning adulation in her heyday. But there are different levels of adulation; and it was not until she got hitched to Prince Ranier, the ruler of Monaco, that people started to courtsey in her presence and address her as “Your Serene Highness”.
When The Dame embarks on countrywide tours, do Perm Secs in various states not line up to almost kiss her feet? So why did she accept membership of a group that is compelled by convention to treat her like a revered superior?
Being respected because of who you married is probably not as satisfying as being respected for what you have actually done. And The Dame can get the best of both worlds if she GENUINELY commits herself to worthy causes.
WORDS like “bush” and “nincompoop” are routinely and contemptuously bandied around whenever the current administration is being discussed nowadays; and a lot of Yorubas, Fulanis, Middle Belters and Igbos have, in recent months, a) bitterly berated me for hassling them to vote for my “Big Brother” Goodluck Jonathan and b) assured me that they will never EVER vote for a Niger Deltan Presidential candidate again because they regard Jonathan a huge flop.
I find this attitude immensely offensive and ridiculously tribalistic.
Since I myself am deeply disappointed in President Jonathan, I cannot blame anyone who shares my view that his leadership style is flawed. But I don’t see why every single Niger Deltan politician should be tarred with the same brush!
Why should an acknowledgement of one person’s weaknesses expand to the point where you blindly despise the entire population of an entire region? I don’t remember any of the folks who are complaining about Jonathan saying that we should never again tolerate a Northern or South-Western president because of the multiple shortcomings of Shagari, IBB, Yar’Adua, Abacha and Obasanjo!,
I’m yearning for Jonathan to shine and am so very sorry that he hasn’t done well enough. But Niger Deltans are as entitled to be ineffective or disastrous as indigenes of other geopolitical zones! And, for the record, there are plenty of Niger Deltan men and women who will do better if they are given a chance.