Akume: Unveiling the ‘just’ George
He is unassuming, urbane and highly productive. His mien anywhere he goes is writ-large as it bears his trademark sartorial elegance. Yet, he is characteristically unobtrusive. His gait and speech mannerism combine to paint a composite picture of a rare politician, who aggregates the benefits of the social contract between the government and the governed. He has consistently proved that public service, whether through the civil service or politics, is a trust, anchored in the public perception of leadership accountability as circumscribed in governance.
Welcome to the world and apt deconstruction of the existential values of George Akume, former two-term Governor of Benue State, three-term Senator and Nigeria’s current Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs. In his close political circles, he is understandably referred to as the “just George,” a judge, indeed, no pun intended, of good conscience. His sagacity and capacity to deploy the same in utilitarian benefits of supporters and associates in political engagements, apparently drawing from his background as labour relations intellectual, are simply phenomenal.
As a sociologist, this largely explicates the ease with which Senator Akume understands tendencies, behavioral patterns, peculiarities of the disparate personas that congregate around and relate with him in the constantly changing shapes, contexts and contents of real politics and politicking. The intricate knowledge derived from the link between academic exertions and work place experience had prepared George Akume for public service and politics.
In a recent piece, I penned, entitled: “Why APC should settle for Akume as national chair,” I had called for a re-enactment of the defunct Third Republic scenario where Edo State and the Esan ethnic nationality produced the national chairmen of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the late Chief Anthony Anenih and the National Republican Convention (NRC), Chief Tom Ikimi, respectively, a development that pigeonholed the determination of political contestation of national magnitude in a local context. My proposal was informed by the fact of Senator Iyorchia Ayu’s emergence already as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The possible emergence of Akume as APC’s National Chairman will create a feeling of déjà vu – a rebirth of a path once treaded. Both of them are of Tiv ethnic nationality in Benue State. The determination of the outcome of the battle for 2023 general elections can crystallise from that North Central enclave.
Let me quickly underscore a critical point that was not contained in the piece referenced supra: whereas, a PDP governor is in Benue, a time will come when a supremacy contest will erupt between the governor and the national chairman to the discomfiture of the party. Historical precedents are many to validate this assertion. But for Akume, there will be no APC Governor to contend with in the build-up to the 2023 general elections. This, at least, for now is beneficial and helps the party’s leadership in the state, working in tandem with the national chairman, to focus on the most important schema winning the general elections, especially the presidential seat. So far, APC has not foreclosed the possibility of an Akume option, going by feelers from the APC Progressive Governors’ meeting held last week in Abuja, that the position of national chairman had been zoned to the North Central.
It is expected that soon the critical stakeholders in the party under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari would have micro-zoned the position to a consensus candidate. It is clear that the party needs a national chairman that will build on the legacies of reconciliation, stability and political accommodation of the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Committee. The party needs a just man with good conscience, a man with audacity of purpose, inimitable equanimity, profound solemnity, huge respect and team spirit to oversee the activities of the party in an era of transition from one administration to another. Although no man is perfect, I make bold to posit that George Akume approximates these virtues.
Rewind to 1998: Akume did not hesitate to take the opportunity of his immersion into politics to actively participate in the formation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on whose platform he contested and won election as the fourth Executive Governor of Benue State. Akume was re-elected for a second-term in 2003 and in 2007, he was elected PDP Senator representing Benue North West Senatorial District. In 2011, Akume joined other progressive minds in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) with a view to changing the socio-political and economic face of the nation. He was re-elected as Senator and subsequently elected Senate Minority Leader. In 2015, Akume was, for the third-term, elected as Senator and was eventually appointed Senate Committee Chairman on the Army.
In the build-up to the 2019 Presidential elections, Akume’s excellence in service was acknowledged by President Muhammadu Buhari with his appointment as the Vice-Chairman (North) of the APC Presidential Campaign Council. On 21 August, 2019, the popular politician was sworn-in by President Muhammadu Buhari as Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs. He has been discharging this national assignment creditably.
In recognition of his service to his community, state and the nation, Akume has so far been given a good number of awards including “Most Distinguished Alumnus” (MDA) of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association (UIAA); “Honour Awards” by the Benue State and Rivers State branches of the UIAA, and a Life Member UIAA; “Distinguished Humanist Award”; “Best Performing Governor of PDP Governors from the North Central Zone”. Others are “Patron of the Institute of Public Relations”; “Fellow of the Sociological Association of Nigeria”, and “Ambassador of Peace”, among others. Akume is also a recipient of the key to the City of Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. He is very widely travelled.
As it were, Akume is on a flight in search of an opportunity to offer service to his political party-the APC-at the highest level. Whether he is beckoning on the position of the national chair or the position is beckoning on him in the gritty political race, as long as there is consensus ad idem or a meeting of minds by the APC apparatchik that takes him into consideration as a perfect fit for the APC National Chair, Senator George Akume will certainly be home and dry
Ojeifo contributed this article via email@example.com