By George Daniya


Mrs. Mary Noel-Berje

Ever since Governor Abubakar Sani Bello appointed the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alh. Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, and Alh Ibrahim Balarabe, an immediate past commissioner, as his chief of staff (CSO), the attention at the Government House, Minna, shifted to two main offices: the director general (DG), protocol, and the chief press secretary (CPS).

Governor Bello has so far caught many by surprise with his recent appointments when some prominent names said to be at the forefront to be nominated for an office will not be appointed in the final analysis. This was the case in the appointment of the SSG, who many even alleged was a member of the opposition party. By appointing him, to the surprise of many, the governor may be keeping to his promise of having an all-inclusive government.
As the jostling to get the seat of the CPS intensified, we heard of some prominent journalists being mentioned as vying for the position. They were both senior and junior colleagues, chalking up connections to clinch the office. It was the first time I have witnessed such an overt and intense contest, between the senior ones and even rookies for the CPS office. I can’t say of those who seek for the position covertly, but I learnt also that even those not in the media were interested to become Gov Bello’s spokesman. In the end, the governor surprised all.
Last week, a ‘screen diva’, a mother with the heart of gold, a renowned broadcaster and journalist with the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Minna, the chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women of Journalists (NAWOJ), Niger State chapter, Mrs. Mary Noel-Berje, was appointed as the CPS by the governor, ending the entire episodes of intrigues, lobbying, speculations, among journalists for the appointment.
Mrs. Mary’s appointment has been greeted with overwhelming acceptance amongst journalists. The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) is the happiest group, especially now that one of its members in the state council has been appointed. The union should be happy as this was the practice that has been done years back before the system went political.
The new CPS is coming with a background of knowing the intrigues involved with the job. She too served as correspondent of the NTA in the Government House for about eight years under the previous administration and thus cannot be regarded as a novice with the new appointment.
Two days ago, Comrade Abdu Idris, chairman, NUJ, Niger State council,went on a courtesy call to her. I am proud of the solidarity shown by this great profession to be the first to visit the CPS; this is a sign of solidarity and support.
She could not hide her joy, which was brimming over, with the visit and love shown to her by the NUJ for being the first to pay her an official visit, even though she was careful not to make any promise. However, she assured them of total support and a cordial working relationship.
There is a sort new life at the press section of the Government House, even though activities are yet to swing into action; we can only pray for her to succeed and do what is expected from her office.
Though, the office has its challenges, toughness and the ability to withstand pressure will enable her to excel in position adjudged to be a man’s world.
However, much would be expected from Mrs. Mary; journalists will come with both official and private demands.This is among the herculean tasks that will confront her. Well, she told NUJ that nothing has changed and that she remains Mary Noel-Berje.
The immediate past CPS was also came around two days ago to give his handover notes, during which he congratulated the first female CPS.He offered his advice and prayed that God guides her in the office.
She responded by thanking him for the services he rendered to state and also wished him well in his next endeavour. Farewell photographs were taken by staff of the media section.
Mrs Berje has said she now sees herself as a mother of journalists because she knows what her new role entails, but basically, she wants all journalists to work with her with one heart. She believes her senior colleagues will make her succeed. This is going to be a symbiotic relationship, I should guess. I share a lot with the new CPS; it was never a coincidence I made her the ‘mother of the day’ at my wedding. She was so kind to me, she took me as her son while serving as a correspondent, then at the Government House. It was May 7, and coincidentally it was the day she celebrated her birthday. Welcome, Mama Journalists, the first female CPS to the Executive Governor of Niger State.