A VOTE FOR AKUME SENATE PRESIDENCY
Long before the tectonic plates of Nigeria's political architecture shifted in favour of the progressives' camp as represented by the All Progressives Congress (APC), George Akume, who served as Governor of Benue State from 1999 to 2007 under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had already changed alliance, being a far-sighted leader.
It is pertinent to recall that, Akume, after his eight years of stewardship in Government House, Makurdi, was elected the Senator representing Benue North West in 2007. In 2011, he was once again re-elected Senator but this time on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Given this historical fact, when the ACN, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) came together on 6 February 2013 to form the APC, Akume could rightly be described as a founding member of the new party.
In the aftermath of the 2015 general elections, the APC has emerged the majority party in both houses of the National Assembly. The APC is expected to hold 64 of the 109 Senate seats, and 225 out of the 360 House of Representatives seats. With regards to the Senate, the APC's number of seats guarantees that the party will dictate who becomes the Senate President in the 8th Senate of Nigeria's Fourth Republic. Interestingly, as reported in the media, the national leaders and national caucus of the APC have officially zoned the office of the Senate President in the 8th Senate to the North Central geo-political zone. Being a founding member of the APC, and the longest serving Senator of the party from the North Central geo-political zone, all eyes are now on George Akume as the man who will become Nigeria's next Senate President.
A soft-spoken and easy-going gentleman, Akume is certain to sustain in the Senate Presidency the maturity and level-headedness that have been demonstrated by the incumbent holder of that office, Senator David Mark, who incidentally is also from Benue State. Indeed, it would seem Benue State has become a veritable training ground for future Senate Presidents as another one-time Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu, is also from the same state.
Besides continuing the tradition established by Mark of keeping the Senate relatively rancour-free, Akume will bring to the post his political acumen for consensus-building and peaceful resolution of contentious issues. These are attributes that Akume has amply demonstrated in his role as the current Senate Minority Leader. Moreover, Akume's long and impressive career as a successful politician holding elective positions has shown that he is a man of the people who understands their needs and prioritizes pursuing the collective good over his personal ambition.
Recently, on the occasion of the one year anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls, Akume further demonstrated his people-focused brand of politicking when he decried the abduction and detention of the more than 200 girls from Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram as “harsh, undeserving and as a heinous crime against humanity.”
In further showing his compassion for the Chibok girls, Akume also said, “The refusal of their abductors to release them and the failure of the Nigerian government to negotiate their release or forcefully secure the same has prolonged their plight and the agony of their families. I wish to use the opportunity of the one year anniversary of this captivity to appeal to those holding the girls to release them immediately.” As those who are familiar with Akume's politics of service to the people above all else already know, his compassion for others knows no bounds. It is for this reason that forward-thinking politicians like the master strategist of the APC, former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, must be commended for throwing their weight behind George Akume as the natural choice for the position of Senate President in the forthcoming 8th Senate.
For instance, the Tinubu support is anchored on the platform of progressive liberation, which dates back to pre-2011 general elections when Akume who had been in the Senate since 2007 via the sponsorship of the PDP, propelled by the force of his conviction, dumped the PDP for the ACN and was re-elected to the Senate for a fresh four-year term. Tinubu, realising that Akume is strong force to reckon with, strengthened the chord of political alliance and friendship by throwing his weight behind him to emerge as Minority Leader in the Senate in 2011. The support has continued to blossom, translating into needed impetus to drive the strategic move to custody and crystallise an Akume Senate Presidency in June, this year, when the 8th Senate is inaugurated.
Whereas there are bound to be those who, despite being relatively newcomers to the APC, will covet the position of Senate President simply for their own selfish political ambition, the incoming senators of the 8th Senate owe themselves a national duty in seeing that loyalty to one's party, even when it is in opposition, is amply rewarded. This the incoming senators can only do by ensuring that Akume emerges the next Senate President.
Furthermore, as President-elect Muhammadu Buhari has indicated, the APC cannot engage in rewarding decampees with senior political positions when others who were with the party right from its beginning are eminently qualified to hold such posts. This principle must be extended to include those who betrayed the PDP simply because they felt the fortunes of that party had dipped and they had to jump ship in order to preserve their political relevance, or the perpetuation of so-called political dynasties.
Indeed, the simple and unalloyed truth of this matter must be stated very clearly and without any ambiguity: so far, as the APC has officially zoned the office of the Senate President in the 8th Senate to the North Central geo-political zone, the one APC Senator who is eminently qualified by experience, temperament and the requisite geo-political consideration, is none other than Senator Akume.
Written by John Ainofenokhai, a Public Affairs Analyst.