OPINION - Senator George Akume: The Senate President We Need. By Sanusi Ohiare

Date: 2015-04-22

A new wind of change blew across Nigeria with the election of General Muhammadu Buhari as President on March 28th, 2015. This is the change that all Nigerians have craved for over the years and thanks to the INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega, the change came without the expected violence and bloodshed.

General Muhammadu Buhari is well known for his zero tolerance for corruption, fair play and justice as was exhibited during his short lived military regime.

The expectation of all Nigerians is that, General Muhammadu Buhari when sworn in, on the 29th May, 2015 will bring the magic wand that will instantly solve most of the problems that have bedeviled Nigeria all these years.

However, unlike the military regime that he headed well back in the 80s, General Buhari will now be heading a democratic government that will have three separate arms complementing each other in order to succeed.

Although most people know Buhari as a merciless person who jailed politicians after the 1983 coup, I have always told people that I have a different view of the man. At the time of the coup, I was the National Publicity Secretary of the ruling party the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and like all other politicians I was arrested and interrogated but while my colleagues even in the opposition party were detained, some for two years or as the regime lasted, I was cleared and asked to go as they said they found no traces of unjust enrichment on me.

I had a personal encounter with Buhari well back during the civil war when he was a Brigade Commander in Makurdi during the civil war. I visited Makurdi on an official assignment as a reporter with the New Nigeria Newspaper Kaduna and on insistence by my editor Malam Mamman Daura, I stayed the night in Buhari’s house. He received me very well and the day I was traveling back to Kaduna, he too was traveling my way and decided that I should accompany him in his car. Also in the car was his brother Sani then a veterinary student from ABU Zaria. Just before Kachia, the car had an accident and somersaulted several times. On getting out of the car, I heard Muhammadu Buhari then Lieutenant Colonel calling my name Simon!! Simon! Asking me I hope nothing is wrong with you? Instead of his younger brother Sani. That testifies to the humanness of the man who later answered the call of duty and became intolerant to corruption and misnomer in the society.

Already there is in place the Chief Justice of the Federation who is well known for his fairness, firmness and non-tolerance for corruption. A man who is simple, humble, but very firm in handling his duties.

The next arm of government is the Legislature which is headed by the Senate President as the chairman of the National Assembly, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. These two serve as the principal officers of the Legislative Arm of Government which makes laws for smooth operation of government.

The All Progressive Congress APC has 64 Senators while the People’s Democratic Party has 45 so it behoves that the APC will produce the Senate President.

From negotiation going on in the party caucuses, it seems the Senate Presidency has been zoned to the North Central geo-political zone. This is particularly so that both South South and South East have not been able to produce any Senator from the ruling party.

In the North Central, mention is made of Senator George Akume, a former Governor of Benue State and Minority Leader of the current Senate. Also in contention is Senator Bukola Saraki, former Governor of Kwara State and two time Senator of the current Senate.

Senator Saraki rode to power on the back of a powerful father, Dr. Olusola Saraki a Medical Doctor and Second Republic Senate Majority Leader. Olusola Saraki was for years a power broker of Kwara State politics and he planted whoever he wanted as Governor of that State, ranging from the days of Akanbi Oniyangi in the Second Republic to his son Bukola, who took over the dynasty from his father.

Senator George Akume, a career civil servant who rose to the position of a Permanent Secretary became the Governor of Benue State. He was known for his humility and humaneness. A consensus builder, he won the Benue North West Senatorial election three times, with landslide in three different parties, the PDP, ACN and now APC.

A keeper of friendship, George Akume warmed himself to the leadership of ACN, maintaining good relationship with Senator Bola Tinubu, who was introduced to him by Senator Dr. Iyorchia Ayu in the days of the Babangida administration.

– Shango is a public commentator and political analyst

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