Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has barred Patience Jonathan, the wife of the President, and the other 18 new permanent secretaries in the state, from participating in partisan politics.
Mr. Dickson, who made this known at the inauguration of the 19 new permanent secretaries in Yenagoa on Friday, said the new appointees should only work as technocrats to help his administration actualise its transformation agenda.
The governor did not say whether he is exempting Mrs. Jonathan from the regulation but the President’s wife is known to be a card-carrying member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, and has always campaigned vigorously for her party and husband.
It is not known how Mr. Dickson, who owes his ascension to the governorship of the state to Mr. Jonathan, will enforce this directive on the president’s wife.
Under Nigeria’s civil service rule, civil servants are expected to steer clear of politics.
But by deliberately appointing the president’s wife to a top civil service position, Mr. Dickson, experts say, has breached the law and might not be able to compel Mrs Jonathan to obey his instruction.
Mrs Jonathan wouldn’t say whether she would comply with the governor’s order. When contacted, her spokesperson, Ayo Osinlu, said he was too busy to grant an interview on the matter.
“My hands are full right now,” he said. “You have to call me later so we can talk about it.”
At the inauguration ceremony, the governor again tried to justify Mrs Jonathan’s appointment.
Mr. Dickson said due process was followed in the selection and appointment of the new permanent secretaries and that none of them lobbied for it.
He said the Head of Service was given the task of selecting the most senior public office holders from each of the eight councils as well as the list of the most senior women in service for gender equality.
Speaking at the event, Mrs Jonathan lauded Mr. Dickson for her appointment, promising to ensure the sustenance of the transformation agenda of the governor.
She said the appointment signposts the administration’s determination to transform the state economically, socially and politically.
“We wish to acknowledge your strategic mobilisation of resources, especially the critical human capital, part of which are our appointments.
“We also assured of our resolve to deploy our collective expertise and experiences to work harder for the collective development of our dear state.
“I wish to personally express my gratitude for the opportunity extended to me to be part of this initiative that will transform the state and bring the gains of democracy to our people,’’ she said.
According to her, “I consider this a new beginning for Bayelsa and we will work hard by assisting you to make life more comfortable for the people.”
Mrs Jonathan told reporters after her inauguration that she felt great, saying: “I think this is the best thing that can happen to me.”
She thanked Dickson for the confidence reposed in her, adding that her last promotion in the Bayelsa civil service was 13 years ago.
She said that her appointment as permanent secretary was not the first, adding that it had happened to wives of other political office holders.
Mrs Jonathan made particular reference to the wives of former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubarkar, former Gov. Peter Odili of Rivers and Gov. Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, who were all judges.
The wife of the president, however, advocated constitutional roles for wives of political office holders in the Nigerian constitution.