My vote for George Akume, by James Ibechi
There is a rough rule of thumb that if the wrong kind of people are opposed to what you are doing, then you must be on the right track.
By those lights, the criticisms that some people voiced against the eight-year administration of Sen. George Akume, as governor of Benue State: that he paid premium to monetization of civil servants at the expense of infrastructure development and industrialization of the state, have in actual fact, when compared with the ruined legacy the incumbent governor Gabriel Suswam is passing to he next administration, indicated that Akume has after all not only performed better than Suswam, but also in the most satisfactory way.
I had not been a fan of the ex-governor neither had his narrative caught my special attention while I was still working for Vanguard Newspapers, Lagos, until the protracted supremacy war between him and his successor Suswam cropped up.
Suswam demonized Akume and portrayed his administration as mired in deep corruption thus when he started he showed clearly that he was distancing himself from the sleaze of the former governor who is now a senator.
Suswam even attempted to boost probe of Akume by EFCC of phantom sleaze.
I told the people who cared to listen that Suswam was playing “I am holier than thou” game on Akume from the get go and I was confident that in the end the senator will be vindicated.
Between Suswam and Akume, who now leaves a better legacy for the poor food basket state? We reserve the answer for another day for, this is only a digression from the focus of this piece. My main thrust is to personally write to back and garner support for Akume’s senate presidential ambition.
To begin with, political leaders are usually elected or appointed into significant political offices on the bases of their presumed competence or suitability and need to represent certain special interests or geo-political zones. Other considerations may include the candidate’s ability to command the respect and co-operation of his peers and the larger society and by so doing bring prestige and honour to the office he will be occupying. An appointment or election may also be a reward for loyalty or commitment to a cause or one’s contributions to the electoral fortunes of the platform on which he stands.
If these are some of the key criteria for the election or appointment of politicians to offices, then Benue State Senator George Akume is eminently qualified and most suitable for election to the senate presidency in the emerging Buhari presidency. In fact, it can be said without provoking any controversy that Akume is second to none in the race for the senate presidency because he has the qualification, the experience and the expertise or political dexterity to make a good senate president. A former two-time governor of Benue State, Akume is now a three-time senator on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and one of the principal officers of the Senate as Minority Leader. Now that the Nigerian electorate has transformed the APC from a minority party to a ruling one, it is logical to expect that the Minority Leader should enjoy the grace of becoming the first among equals in the Senate.
Unlike some of his rivals for the position who were more recent decampees to the APC, Akume cannot be accused of opportunism or of seeking to reap where he did not sufficiently sowed. It should be noted that Akume left the PDP eight years ago when it was then not very popular to leave the ruling party for an opposition party that at that time had no great prospect of becoming the ruling party. Without hoping for anything, he worked assiduously for the success of the party in Benue which was a predominantly PDP state. Akume faced persecution and threats from the camp of the party he had left. The Tor Tiv, the paramount ruler of the Tiv nation, who was openly partisan in the cause of the PDP and Governor Gabriel Suswam, and other powerful forces in the state, wanted the ACN to die in infancy.
Were it not for Akume’s courage, doggedness and single- minded determination to succeed, the precursor to the APC would not have taken roots in Benue where Akume had become its nationally recognized leader. And since he left the PDP to join the then ACN, one of the legacy parties that collapsed into a merger to form what is now the formidable APC, Akume has been a loyal, dedicated and hard-working party man who helped to nurture what has now become the all-conquering APC. A man is entitled to the fruits of his labour.
For his patience and dedication to the cause of the APC of which he more or less became a foundation member, Akume deserves serious consideration for the position of the senate presidency. But that is not the only argument that recommends Akume for the premier position in the National Assembly. As a former governor, ranking senator, active contributor to the debates on the floor of the senate and one who is also a noted voice of wisdom and moderation in the upper chamber, Akume will surely enjoy the respect of fellow senators and also have a good working relationship with the Executive Branch. Such a prospect will be good for everyone concerned. The senate will be in the hands of a capable man which will help to guarantee its stability and bring about progress in the governance of the nation. It will not be to the credit of the APC if during the tenure of its man, the nation does not see the kind of maturity and sense of purpose David Mark would be leaving as a legacy which is why the APC hierarchy should be interested in ensuring that a man like Akume is manning the affairs of the senate.
Given the weight of expectation on Buhari to perform and bring about the needed change that Nigerians have been yearning for, I expect that the Buhari presidency will not be indifferent to who occupies that exalted office in the legislative arm. One feels that the Buhari presidency will be much more comfortable with a man like Akume at the helm of affairs in the senate than it will be with anyone else. He is mature and his voice on national issues is mellow and measured. He also has a good knowledge of how the Executive Arm works.
Under normal circumstances, the position of the senate president should have gone to the South East to balance Nigeria’s geo-political equations. But for no fault of the APC’s, the zone does not have a candidate on the platform of the now majority ruling party. The TIvs are one of the six largest ethnic groups in the country. They are located in the lower North and not far west of the North or far east of the North who already have the presidency of the entire country. What is more, they are located close to the Ibo country. Therefore, getting one of its members, who by the way is also very qualified on other counts, to occupy the senate presidency is the next best thing in the circumstance to satisfying the requirement of spread in the formation of the federal government.
When the gods are in favour of a man, they confer all advantages on him and clear what would have been obstacles to his progress for him. This seems to be the case with Akume. He has the prerequisite qualifications and in addition, what would have been hindrances on his path have been cleared by a benevolent spirit. What remains is for the APC to zone the position to the North Central and with that done, back Akume to win the seat. He deserves it and it will be for the good of the APC and the nation to have him.