Continued from yesterday
She has been ‘walking the talk’ because under her watch, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, has recorded the highest number of women holding some of the most strategic portfolios ranging from Finance, Petroleum, Education, Aviation, Housing, Communications, Environment and, of course, Women Affairs. Additionally, women are also junior ministers in Defence,the Federal Capital Territory and Foreign Affairs, bringing the total number to 11 female ministers.
The First Lady, Patience Jonathan, does not claim to speak English language like the Queen of England because it is not her mother tongue and she does not pretend to posses the wisdom of Socrates because she was just a school teacher before divine forces propelled her husband to the dizzying heights of Aso Rock where as a good housewife she keeps our President company, but what both her friends and foes can not deny is that she is passionate about the cause of women and proud of her humble beginning.Like every reasonable man and woman, l believe the foregoing lofty ideals are enough to earn garlands for Madam First Lady.
Yes, some Nigerians may be offended by her recent elevation to the rank of Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa State civil service, arguing that she does not merit it.
Again, it would appear that she has been a victim of poor communication because people are not taking into cognisance the fact that the First Lady was a school teacher in Rivers State from where she transferred her service to Bayelsa State about 14 years ago when her husband was elected Deputy Governor, then Governor, later Vice President and now President.
Frankly, it is not impossible for a teacher to attain the rank of Permanent Secretary in 14 years but Patience Jonathan’s rise has not been properly documented and articulated hence the public odium it attracted.
Being on sabbatical, leave of absence or on secondment is not an anathema in the civil service of our country, so allegations that she has not been at her duty post as a teacher are untenable because as the wife of a Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President and President in these past 14 years, Madam First Lady has been rendering more strategic service to this nation than as a school teacher.Let’s face it, do her critics prefer President Jonathan to suffer the loneliness of a ‘bachelor’ in Aso Rock to the companionship of a dotting wife?
At this critical time of Constitution review by the National Assembly,NASS,the controversies thrown up by her civil service job as opposed to public service duties should be resolved through the creation of well defined constitutional roles for our first ladies.If that happens,Patience Jonathan would have been the catalyst for another landmark accomplishment for the fairer sex in Nigeria.
Strikingly,when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to the presidency of USA (1933-1945), Eleanor, his wife, was reluctant in assuming the role of first lady but she proved herself to be a good innovator when she became the first activist-first lady by calling press conferences and keeping the public up to date on government policies, in particular, “the new deal”.
She is also on record to have persuaded her husband to create the National Youth Administration, NYA, which provided financial aid to students and job training to young men and women amongst other great accomplishments.
So First Lady, Patience Jonathan is in good company when she proposed that 35 percent of public and civil service jobs should be reserved for women for which l became a victim when my political party barred me from contesting for the House of Representatives seat for Ika federal constituency in Delta State because it was occupied by a lady whom it was alleged the First Lady had instructed the party machinery to ‘deliver’.
The rest they say is history but as our dear energetic First Lady battles exhaustion related illness in a German hospital, she deserves our sympathy not jeers, more so as she is about to make history again if and when the charismatic Central Bank of Nigeria,CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi makes good his promise to introduce the controversial N5,000 currency notes into the Nigerian financial system with Nigerian heroines-Margaret Ekpo, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Gambo Sawaba as mascot, emblem or symbol on the new currency.
•Mr agnus onyibe, a former broadcaster and commissioner, wrote from Abuja.