Breaking News

Perm Sec, Patience Jonathan, PSPJ

By Dele Sobowale

“Elect a joker and you get a lot of jokes – including bad ones”. Dele Sobowale, May 2011.

“A leader is best/when people barely know he exists/….worst when they despise him – Lao-tsy, 6th century AD.

Mrs. Patience Jonathan, PSPJ, has certainly made history; even if atrocious history. And Bayelsa State has also entered into the Guinness Book of Records – in a way that now indisputably demonstrates to the world that the Dark Age is not over in Nigeria.

The history of the civil service is as long as the first organisation of human beings under governments; that is over two thousand years ago. Nigeria, or more specifically Jonathan State (forget Bayelsa the Jonathan family now owns the state) will certainly go down in history as the first in which someone who has not worked in the civil service for more than 15 years; and even then as a low level officer, gets promoted to the highest rank. Bad joke, you say? Well, Nigerians, “My Fellow Countrymen” (only God knows how many fools there are among them) asked for it.

Last year, before the Presidential election, every effort was made to warn all of us of the consequences of voting for an untested, relatively unknown, inexperienced person as President. The campaign fell on the usually deaf ears of the majority, who “voted for Jonathan, not for PDP”. Is it the wife of the PDP who is now involved in this embarrassing comedy?

There is overwhelming research evidence to support the fact that nearly all people, male and female, growing up in abject poverty, bordering on destitution, later become avaricious. The few, like late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, who also went shoeless as a kid, who turned out to be generous and share the wealth, when given the opportunity are very few.

The vast majority of the rest develop into adults, who, like ownerless alley cats, regard every fish within their reach as theirs to be grabbed and consumed. Their sense of propriety has been dulled from childhood and everything, within arms length, is up for grabs.

Even when they have providentially escaped poverty by acquiring material things, poverty clings to them like a leech. They never know when to stop grabbing.

One blockhead of a defender of the President, when carpeted for the N1billion naira budgeted for food at Aso Rock this year, invited me to go and eat there. That shows the quality of thought of some supporters. They cannot understand that the Presidency is an institution imbued with power, prerogatives and symbols.

Unfortunately, the fellow failed to read into the admonition the call for the President to exhibit greater restraint. A Chief Executive Officer who is perceived as too greedy sends a powerful message down the line for others to help themselves. Belt-tightening, as a policy, if it is to succeed, must start with the owner of the longest belt. A Yoruba adage tells us that “A ki gbe eran erin s’ori; k’a ma fese wa era nile”; translation: “you shouldn’t be carrying a whole elephant on your head and still be searching for maggots to feast upon”.

What on earth could the wife of the President, who has not worked as a civil servant for more than a decade, want with the post of Permanent Secretary? Is she exceptionally competent in any field such that no other citizen of Bayelsa could handle the job?

Meanwhile, the unfortunate “good boy” who appointed Mrs. Jonathan, no first lady please, as Perm Sec, has merely demonstrated that Nigeria, as the largest collection of black people on earth, is also home to the largest group of black numskulls. Why anyone will use his own hands to appoint his own BOSS is a mystery which will take a long time to unravel.

Certainly, it is clear that while no other Perm Sec or Commissioner (I am sure no Commissioner wants her in his Ministry) can interrupt the governor while talking, he has one who will not hesitate to say, “Hey, you, listen to me”. Having a subordinate you can’t fire when necessary is the beginning of indiscipline in any organization. Dickson has one. In fact, he has an alternate governor on board.

The Bayelsa governor should have learnt from the experience of Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State who appointed President Obasanjo’s daughter as Commissioner. He will spend the rest of his days on earth regretting it.

Mark my words, Dickson too will curse the day the thought of appointing Mrs. Jonathan Perm Sec under his administration.


“During the campaign our emphasis was more on job creation, power, but now what worries us most is security. This is because you must be alive before you will eat food…If you are not safe, you can’t even think of hunger, because a dead person does not need food”. President Jonathan at the 60th National Executive Meeting of the PDP.

“He [Gerard Ford] cannot chew gum and walk straight at the same time”. President Lyndon Johnson, USA, 1960s.

The last statement by President Johnson, a Democrat, was his opinion of Gerard Ford, a Republican, as someone who could not handle two simple matters simultaneously – chewing and walking. And, although Gerard Ford later became President himself, Americans soon discovered that he could not handle complex issues with which presidents and Prime Ministers must deal all the time.

Nigerians deserve the insults contained in the statement President Jonathan made at the PDP meeting; it is a meeting of the unfit, ruling over the un-educated and un-committed citizens.

Let me explain what Jonathan said, and you will weep for Nigeria for having a “Gerard Ford” in office. Because there is insecurity, his government has given up on jobs, power and food. So, if you have no food; tough luck; no power, stop complaining; no job, you can go to hell.

That is the plain message from the President who does not “give a damn”. Even in war torn Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Sudan etc, no Head of State will dare declare that jobs, power and food are no longer priorities. But, Nigeria’s “Gerard Ford” just did that, with a straight face, and nobody walked out of the meeting. Nigerians deserve the insult.

Shortly after the President was sworn in last May, a regular reader of Sunday Vanguard asked me if I was not impressed by Jonathan’s humility. In a two part series published on these pages, I replied that humility is not a cardinal attribute of political leaders. Courage, justice, empathy, clear vision, planning, execution and integrity are among at least twenty characteristics distilled by scholars on leadership.

Jonathan fails the test in most of them; including language and persuasion. Keeping promises is an integral part of integrity. Jonathan has a bad record of keeping promises and his declaration at the NEC meeting about jobs, power and food, merely confirms what we at Unijankara warned the whole nation about last year. Meanwhile have they stopped eating at Aso Rock because the country is unsafe? You can bet they are eating and Madam has a new job too.

“Non sibi sed alis”, (Latin) is the motto of the Methodist Boys High School in Lagos. We took delight in our secondary school days translating it as “There is no spoon said Alice”. But in reality, it means, “Others first; self last” or “Not for ourselves but for others”. That should be the motto of all leaders.

Alexander the Great, according to legends, was campaigning in the desert with his troops and they ran out of water except one jug-full. When the great one was brought the water, he asked if there was any more water. They replied “No”. He, there and then, poured the water in the sand and announced, “We will suffer together until we find water for all”.

That is why he is great; and the fact that Nigeria lacks such a leader is why no historian will ever write about a great Nigerian leader; only selfish transient holders of power. Perhaps that is why history has been removed from the curriculum; they don’t want the kids to know that they are being badly led.

Personally, I am the last to eat in my house because my father was the last to eat when he was alive and he told me his father was the last to eat in his days. I asked him why? And his reply has shaped my perception of leadership till today. “I am the provider; so, if I don’t provide enough nobody else should suffer but me”. And he added, “Remember that, Dele Ojuoto”. Till today, I never hustle for food or anything else when junior ones are around.

Nigerians deserve the insults. There will be more before the man returns to Otuoke…


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.