Nigeria: Senate’s Minority Question and 2015
The choice of Senator George Akume representing Benue North West senatorial District as minority leader had raised a lot of dust in the Senate.
It was marked by intrigues and evoked some levels of disagreement. Some PDP senators had insidiously kicked against his choice, some of his colleagues from opposition parties made attempts to reject him. In fact, Senator Chris Ngige also of ACN openly opposed Akume’s choice by writing a protest letter to stop his confirmation.
However, the leadership of the ‘majority-minority’ party in the upper chambers (ACN) stood firmly in his support and Akume was confirmed.
Akume’s experience in his bid to become the minority leader of the 7th Senate is not different from what transpired in the state where he was forced to dump the PDP for the ACN. In spite of the PDP’s enormous powers in the state as the ruling party, Akume was able to trounce his estranged political ‘godson’, Hon. Terngu Tsegba to return to the hallowed Senate chambers for the second time.
Hence Akume’s triumph both at home and in the Senate have confirmed the goodwill and popularity he enjoys amongst his people and political associates. It is pertinent to state that the former governor raised the stakes of opposition politics in the state in the last general elections. In less than six months to the elections, Akume alongside some of his political disciples brought Professor Steve Ugbah all the way from the US. Ugbah instantly became a household name and gave Governor Gabriel Suswam the political fight of his life. Before the defection of Akume to the ACN, the PDP had enjoyed unfettered dominance in the state. In fact, after the death of Mr. Jonathan Biam, an ANPP gubernatorial aspirant, Suswam was virtually coasting to victory unchallenged until Ugbah emerged on the scene. But Akume changed the tide; he popularized what is now widely known as ’shoo changi’-the game had changed in the state.
It must be emphasized that Akume had been in the PDP since 1998 and had all along played politics from the mainstream. He served as governor of the state for eight years and proceeded to the Senate for another four years. Now, the question that is agitating the minds of many is what kind of opposition politician Akume would be.
Can he fit the bill? Will he be able to transform into an opposition leader that could match anti-peoples policies and laws initiated by a ‘monster’ like PDP? As a PDP senator, Akume was criticized for being largely anonymous. Most commentators carpeted the strong man of Benue politics for keeping sealed lips in the upper house even when matters of national interest were discussed on the floor.
Although, there has been a defence from the Akume’s camp that the challenge he gave David Mark for the position of Senate President in 2007 may have affected him. But that is a topic for another day.
As opposition leader, Akume is the mouthpiece of the down-trodden; the oppressed; the hopeless and the hapless citizens. As the ACN leader, Akume has stepped into the shoes of the Great Awo and is carrying on his shoulders the burden of all Nigerians who crave for good leaders and good governance that has unfortunately eluded the nation for many years.
Those who know Akume closely have agreed that the senator is not timid; neither is he a coward or a push over. And I intend to agree with them at least based on what I have seen of him so far. It is clear that in the face of daunting opposition and intimidation, he stood firm and was able to succeed. When he came to the Senate in 2007, the ‘ranking’ order was in place but he courageously dared the ‘gods’ and was able to garner at least 39 votes against Mark’s 68.
Apart from his experience in the legislature, Akume is an accomplished bureaucrat having risen through the ranks in the civil service to the top. He started as a lands officer and retired as a permanent secretary. As a politician, he held forte as governor for eight years and senator for four years. Before then, he had a stint as administrator in two local governments. He comes from a very courageous and political family and can hold his head high anywhere. I believe he has the facility to carve a niche for himself as an opposition leader.