Dr. George Akume and the quintessences of a true democrat
By David Wayas, Ph.D
Dr. George Akume is a politically skilled elite that has been so sacred in his political navigations since he ventured into politics as a career. Though Akume’s leadership and political battles had however bruised and left him with some scars, his unwavering determination has catapulted him to where he is today and is one of the most admirable and amiable leaders and politicians in Nigeria today.
His successful wriggles through the rigmaroles of political webs have made him so experienced, qualified and was deservedly appointed the present Secretary to the Government of the Federation in the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the Presidency of Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Let it be understood that as long as we remain clear about what we can do for democracy, the whirlwinds of fear and doubts about our competence in leadership by king makers and even the followers can never thrive against us. And this has been the story of Dr. George Akume who has made sure he continue to shake the very foundations of political “ordering”, hatred, envy and selfishness until democracy is apparently introduced into our kinship, not only in Benue State but in Nigeria at large.This perpetual icon on the political terrain has been in power in one form or another by way of election or appointment since the country’s return to democratic rule in 1999.
As a successful career Civil Servant, an accomplished Administrator who hails from Wannune, Tarka Local Government Area of Benue State, a local government named after the famous minority right crusader, Late Senator Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, Akume, a fervent leadership technocrat started his journey of an accomplished politician when he became governor of Benue State in the year 1999 and served two terms of four years. In a fine democracy, people should demand for all of their rights there and then whenever they perceived they are being deprived of such rights, guided by this philosophy, throughout his two tenures as governor of Benue state, George Akume opened his arms to embrace and entertain the yearnings and aspirations of the people of the state as well as both constructive and unprintable criticisms. He usually expressed in his leadership style that the way of life can be free and beautiful. This was manifest in his appointments, policies, personal generosity and egalitarianism.
At the end of his tenure in 2007, he facilitated the emergence of his successor, Gabriel Suswam, who was then a member of the House of Representatives, while the political adventurer cum survivalist rolled into a yet another battle to thicken his sub-national and national political skin. He contested and won the elections to represent the people of Benue as a senator for Benue North-West at Nigeria’s senate, all on the platform of the PDP. As political relationships mostly hit the rock due to a clash of interests, ego, supremacy battle, ambition etc, George Akume’s political rapport with Suswam reportedly fell apart given irreconcilable differences.
This political alienation made Akume become “politically internally displaced” in the PDP, making him to lose his gallantry as a garrison commander in the state and so he was knocked off the political rail in the PDP, signalling an apparent impossibility for him to go back to the senate on the wheels of the party. Dr. Akume however, later found soft-landing in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), a political invention of Bola Tinubu, who formed the party to advance his own political interests and those of his confederates. Fortunately for him, the ACN found him a way back to the Senate in 2011 on the platform of the ACN, thus surviving the booby trap.
During this turn at the senate , he served as the Minority Leader of the 7th Senate. Senator Dr. George Akume would later find himself in the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a result of the political hurricane that happened in the country by year 2015. It caused a tsunami and stirred the political waters and altered a lot of things and made the opposition parties teamed up to form the APC in February 2013, which wrestled for power at the federal level and won in the 2015 presidential election, defeating the then President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP.
Being the leader of the ACN in Benue State, Akume automatically navigated to the leader of the APC in the state. According to the insider revelations, Samuel Ortom, who had just lost his bid for the PDP governorship ticket abandoned the party and sought refuge in George Akume under APC and so he offered the party’s gubernatorial ticket to Mr Ortom, who thus contested the 2015 election on the ticket of the APC and won. Dr Akume, on the other hand, won his re-election to the senate to continue representing the people of Benue North-west.
Fortunately or unfortunately, just the way the political rapport between Akume and Suswan caved in, his relationship with Mr Ortom also swooned and did not last long enough till the next election cycle.But this time, Akume did not lose that grip of party control and thus Mr. Ortom took a U-turn back to the PDP, where he was re-elected for a second term in 2019. Dr. Akume, however, lost his return bid to the senate for a fourth term to Emmanuel Oker-Jev of the PDP, but he did not stay in political oblivion for too long.That was when former President Muhammadu Buhari offered him a latitude room to escape political nothingness, by appointing him Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, a position he held until the expiration of the administration on 29 May, 2023.
Remarkably, there was one thing that was very particular and recurrent in the faceoffs that Akume harvested from Suswam and Ortom: accusing him of overbloated interference in their administrations. Like it is said, he who goes to bed with itching anus would surely wake up with smelly fingers, Akume’s political rivalries had bruised him in some ways as the state forces appeared to have played significant roles in some of his unsuccessful political outings at the national level. For instance, until the morning of the election in June 2015, Dr. Akume would probably have been seeing himself as the next Deputy President of the 8th Senate. He was the Minority Leader in the 7th Senate. Had he clinched the position of the DSP in the 8th Senate, it would have been some political upliftment for him. Though he was endorsed and selected by a faction of the party which supposedly had the warrant of Mr. Buhari in a mini intra-party election. Senator Ahmad Lawan was nominated and endorsed as the Senate President by the same faction. The group reportedly had the backing of the then designative National Leader of the party – Bola Tinubu, now president. But the group’s ambition steamed off on the day of the election following the adept and dexterous move of Bukola Saraki, ex-Kwara Governor, who emerged as the Senate President alongside Ike Ekweremadu, a PDP senator then who is presently cooling his heels in jail in the United Kingdom for organ trafficking.
Mr Lawan eventually became the Majority Leader after the removal of Ali Ndume and then Akume was picked to head the senate committee on the army. His futile attempt to become the national chairman of the APC will also count as one of his unsuccessful political outings. Recall that the position of the APC substantive national chairman became bare in 2020 following the removal of Adams Oshiomhole from the seat. The leadership of the party as well as the Buhari Presidency, had zoned the position to the North-central geopolitical zone, after which the Mai Mala Buni-caretaker-led committee was asked to conduct a national convention to elect a new chairman for the party, among others.
Dr. Akume, even as a serving minister threw himself into the running. He encased his vast political networks to canvass for the bid, which eventually did not materialise as the Presidency, in leagues with the most dominant faction of the party, preferred Abdullahi Adamu from Nasarawa State, who eventually became the party’s helmsman.That was even as Akume craftily withdrew from the race at the end of the campaign and declared support for Mr Adamu, who was, until then, a serving senator. Aside intra-party headaches, Akume has suffered several extra-political confrontations ranging from group and individual allegations bothering on both his private life and public life.
As it was his personal character and leadership style, throughout his political career, this political horse-power machine demonstrated that greed, vengeance, hatred, half-truth and envy would poison men’s souls and so it would barricade the world of men’s goodwill and therefore goose-step the society into misery and unpredicted throes. He never allowed any political ideological difference to thwart the dividends of democracy he could bring to his constituents and any person he could reach.
At all times in his political stewardship, he rather strengthened his particular sense of speed in executing economy-friendly constituency projects both in rural and urban areas in his region. It is important to acknowledge that our individual speed most of the times makes us cynical; our cunningness and cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much of ourselves and feel too little of our brother’s pains but fortunately the personality and leadership of Dr. George Akume has proved over time that we must discover that fairness, honesty, justice and truth are all that we need in all that we do.
Given his track records, during the leadership of Muhammadu Buhari as Nigerian President, the distinguished political life-line was nominated and confirmed a Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nigeria for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs. Indeed, more than selfish cleverness, we need transparency and love in all that we do. For without these qualities, life will be chaotic and even violent and all will be lost.
Democracy and its credentials should bring us closer together. The very nature of these credentials of democracy are crying out for the goodness in us; crying out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all and for the growth of the nation. With these personal and political credentials, Akume has gained the political control of Benue State in a ruthless fashion most evidently in the 2023 general elections. With the help of Akume’s political mechanism, the APC bounced back as the ruling party in the state, trashing the PDP in almost all the elections: from the House of Assembly to the House of Representatives and Senate to the governorship seat.
George Akume, a graduate of Sociology from the University of Ibadan, where he also bagged a Master’s in Labour Relations, perhaps copying from the playbook of the Late Jeseph Sarwuan Tarka, whose influential and material political stewardship had earned him a local government counsel as a monument, has been facilitating political turn around in Nigeria as a whole. With such unfaltering spirit of craving for democratic front and national growth, it is an article of faith that the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation would allow his wealth of experience to consolidate the good intention of Mr. President and the progressive voices and actions will reach throughout the country. The millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people in the streets, in market places and even in homes would now have a cause to smile. For regimes come and go, and dictators expire, and the power they took from the people returns to the people. And so long as men expire, democracy will never perish.
Dr. Wayas, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics, University of Nigeria Nsukka, UNN, wrote from Nsukka in Enugu State.