By Mannasseh Aondohemba
For the past 16 years, Nigerians yearned for improved standards of living and ways of doing things in a manner that would ensure equitable distribution of resources/positions to appeal to geographic and economic expectations. This struggle assumed a radical dimension in 2011 and with the slogan of change, Nigerians are home in 2015 with the much needed and anticipated change.
Many thanks to Attahiru Mohammadu Jega, Nigeria’s electoral umpire helmsman who would rather offer his neck than compromise the will of the people, a trait that is highly uncommon among our present elite. It is this firm stand by INEC, Nigerians and opposition political parties that Mohammadu Buhari, a former Head of State has emerged Nigeria’s President on the 4th contest on the platform of the All Progressives Congress APC, a merger of opposition political parties in Nigeria.
The APC has also won majority of seats in both Senate and House of Representatives and have won more states in
last Saturday’s Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Elections. This means that APC will take over the leadership of Nigeria’s Bi-camera legislature after inauguration in June 2015.
Consequently, many interests have already risen to see who gets what, how and where. What occupies many Nigerians at the moment is the Chairmanship of the National Assembly which goes to whoever becomes President of the 8th Senate. Since the return to democracy in 1999, only the South East and North Central have occupied this position. With the South East and South-South out of the present power configuration of the APC, the Senate Presidency is still coasting home to the north central.
With this arrangement, it has become imperative for Nigeria to look the way of the former Governor of Benue State and current Minority Leader of the senate Dr. George Akume. While many believe that the Senate Presidency be given to Akume on geographical basis, I make bold to say that Sen. Dr. George Akume deserves the Senate Presidency on issues base on merit, antecedents, and rules of the Senate and in effect, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As governor of Benue State, Akume who is the first to rule the state for eight years and proceed to the senate was awarded best performing governor North Central Zone. Akume effectively attacked the state’s ecological challenges leading to the opening up and expansion of the state capital, Makurdi. He improved on Benue’s housing challenge by embarking on the building of unit houses for the state civil servants. It is this effort that saw the Judges Quarters on Gboko Road, Owner Occupier Housing at the Abu Shuluwa Road, New Assembly Quarters at Nyiman and other units in the North Bank area of the state capital.
As governor, Akume also improved on Benue’s industrialization drive through the Industrial layout, the first of its kind in Benue State, an initiative that was aimed at tackling the challenge of unemployment in the state. Through this effort, Benue had a fertilizer blending plant, a plastic industry and a Tomato Processing Factory in Wannune, Gboko Road.
The Benue State University also received the attention of the Akume administration. Apart from interventions in the office/lecture halls crisis through the state ALGON, the Akume led administration built an international standard College of Health Sciences and University Teaching Hospital. The government also built a permanent NYSC Orientation Camp in Wannune.
Akume displayed his leadership skills and ability to quickly understand the dynamics of Nigerian politics when he successfully ran a tenure as Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum. In that position, Akume did not only serve the north creditably but rallied his colleagues to fight the tenure elongation agenda of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. The collapse of the third term agenda earned Sen. Akume a lot of respect among his colleagues who conferred on him the title of Hero of Democracy.
Akume’s stand against the federal government was in line with the spirit of progressive politics which has today materialized into the election of a president under the platform of a progressive political party. The former governor’s move was apparently courageous bearing in mind the vindictive posture of the Obasanjo administration. Not many governors stood up to be counted. It was an unprecedented attempt to defend the country’s nascent democracy from degenerating into tyranny or dictatorship.
It is base on the above effort that when the Senate Presidency was Zoned to the North Central in 2007, the north central zonal caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party unanimously presented the former governor to the leadership of the party for the position. But for the fact that his fight against Obasanjo was still fresh in the mind of the former president and his associates, Akume was stopped using all resources from becoming president of the 6th senate. His political rival and senator representing Benue South David Mark was chosen as a way of check mating Akume’s expansive political influence.
This was the beginning of series of organized attacks against all interests and political career of the sociologist in politics. He was made Chairman of a redundant senate committee on Integration in Africa. This made his first tenure in the senate uneventful as he was never given opportunity to articulate his views. This is akin to an African proverb which says that the cockroach can never get justice where Mr. Cock is the chief judge.
This crisis climaxed into the a grand plan to stop Akume from returning to the senate for the second time. With the support of the Benue State governor Gabriel Suswam, Akume was denied the PDP senatorial ticket for Benue North West in a very brazen manner leading to his defection to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria ACN. They feared that should Akume return to the senate as a ranking senator on the platform of the PDP, he would pose a big challenge to Mark’s second term ambition to retain his seat as chairman of the National Assembly. Akume became the first person to win election on the platform of the ACN from northern Nigeria in 2011. He became leader of the ACN caucus in the senate and later elected Minority Leader of the 7th senate.
In that position, Akume actively participated in the formation, and registration of the All Progressives Congress. He helped defend the party at all levels and give it electoral value. Akume rouse when it mattered most and helped like he had done before to defend Nigeria’s democracy in its most trying time prior to the 2015 General Elections. The history of the success of this election can never be told without Akume. As the voice of the opposition in a PDP controlled and dominated senate, Akume made sure that the will of Nigerians to have credible elections prevailed by strongly and articulately defending the tenure of the INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega, the time table of the rescheduled elections, the electronic card readers, and permanent voters cards. The involvement of all the aforementioned as defended by Akume is what has given us reasons to celebrate across Nigeria today.
It is for this reasons I posit that Nigeria owes Akume a big deal of encouragement as a way of inviting others to this path of Honour by ensuring his emergence as the President of the 8th Senate.
Manasseh Aondohemba is Director of Media & Publicity
John Dyegh Campaign Organization.