Akpabio’s Senate Presidency: Matters arising, By Kassim Afegbua

By June 5 when our 10th National Assembly will be proclaimed, a political tactician of uncommon hue, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would have crossed the first hurdle of taking a firm position to ensuring that dialogue and robust networking prevails over tantrums and bad blood in the emergence of the new Senate President. Godswill Akpabio will be crowned Senate President through a robust engagement and collective bargaining anchored by loyalty and focused political gamesmanship.

Asiwaju Tinubu is no stranger to political networking, agenda setting, and the use of foot soldiers to drive his aspirations in a seamless, effortless yet formidable manner to creating a political nexus that would signpost his presidency.

Unlike in the past when leadership of the National Assembly was secured by intrigues and democratic coups to undo the status quo, the deft political acumen of Tinubu will manifest with an Akpabio Senate Presidency.

The beneficiary of Asiwaju Tinubu’s network, another consummate politician of uncommon hue, Senator Akpabio, has just reaped the gains of his loyalty: from when he stepped down during the primary election to when he led his home state, a strong PDP stronghold to break the dominance and deliver to Asiwaju Tinubu, more than the threshold of 25% at the presidential election, aware that the Chairman of the PDP Presidential Campaign was the state governor, Akpabio doubled his effort during the campaign, even to having his wife, whom he most trusted, Lady Ekaette Unoma Akpabio, acting as the unofficial returning officer, who stood firm to ensure that the APC was NOT shortchanged by the PDP rampaging power apparachik and many other supportive roles he played to ensure that Asiwaju emerged as the President-elect.

Before this time, Akpabio had showed interest in the presidential seat when the opportunity presented itself. He had networked himself across the country, deployed resources to rally round a cross section of delegates who were ready to support him through the primaries. Alas, at a most auspicious time, Akpabio, a strategist par excellence, who was able to emerge a Governorship candidate before the very eyes of his boss and Governor, Victor Attah in 2007, simply delivered a remarkable speech at the APC primaries, steppped down as an aspirant, and openly endorsed the candidature of Senator Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. At a time when the non-fluidity of the process could have produced an upset, Akpabio’s endorsement was the needed tonic to fire the adrenaline of Asiwaju’s permutations to grabbing the ticket. In an uncommon way, the delegates watched how Akpabio stepped forward to announce his withdrawal from the presidential race, and instead of supporting his colleague, Ahmed Lawan, he opted for Asiwaju. If today, the president-elect decided to show similar gesture, it simply means that there are better days ahead for the Executive and Legislature; a mutual and symbiotic relationship between two like-minds who value the virtue of good naturedliness.

Senator Akpabio is referred to as an uncommon politician who does uncommon things. Even when he defected from the phlegmatic PDP to the APC, it was an uncommon defection; it altered the political arithmetic of the South-South geopolitical zone, and further deepened the inroads of the ruling party, at a most auspicious time. Akpabio has built a name for himself from being an uncommon performer and transformer as a governor to being an uncommon minister of the Niger-Delta and uncommon political player who understands the dynamics of politics and knows when and where to pull his strings. As a team-player of extra-ordinary hue, Akpabio’s understanding of the political temperature at any time, T, is nuanced with networking, loyalty and camaraderie. He is always full of laughter coupled with an uncommon ability to pursue his goals. Akpabio’s ability to leave his footprints on the sands of time, drives his followership, which speaks volumes of his leadership style. Little wonder when he rallied Senators to Port Harcourt to add colour and style to the banquet held in honour of the President-elect, where team spirit was displayed with firm solidarity, It became crystal clear that the die had been cast. As he marched out to mount the dias on the night of Wednesday 3 May, his fellow Senators who were present, in show of support for his aspiration and leadership, cheered him to go on to deliver a most high-powered speech, that caught the fancy of the President-elect, who praised the team spirit of the Senators that graced the occasion.

Senator Akpabio has since that outing, further deepened his network. His endorsement by the Governor of Kano state, Abdullahi Ganduje, and Ganduje’s Ebonyi counterpart have put a final seal on his aspiration. Akpabio is set to becoming the next Senate President. This has been achieved through a robust interplay of forces cutting across Senators from all the political parties. This singular reason is why it will be in the interest of Senator Ahmed Lawan, who patched his way to another election through a questionable process by displacing Machina in Yobe state, to quickly fall in line before his ego becomes deflated like a punctured balloon. Lawan had tried to alter the political pendulum of the Nigerian state when he joined the race for the presidency of the country, knowing full well that power was to shift to the Southern part of the country. He was part of the plot to alter the permutations of a Southern presidency after a decision had been reached to cede the opportunity to a Southern presidency. He was struck down by the role Akpabio and others played in puncturing that aspiration, which would indeed have hurt the political pendulum of the North-South divide. Today, against the run of play, Ahmed Lawan is threatening hails and brimstone to in turn, hurt Akpabio’s aspiration, but like an idea whose time has come, the President-elect’s deft political moves have altered Lawan’s shallow posturing. Majority of the Senators have seen the need to rally round Akpabio in deference to the President-elect.

The next Assembly will definitely wear the shape and colour of a robust assembly, necessary to give stability and support to the President-elect when he sets sail. Senator Akpabio, as Senate President will once again add a new titile to his long list, and be called, the “uncommon Senate President”. Hate him or like him, Akpabio is pro-development. His achievements as Governor of Akwa Ibom state, which lifted the state to the enviable rank of the national headquarters of infrastructural development, has become a remarkable record of public service in the country, and has remained a reference point in the leadership of promise and do. As Senate President, I am sure he will deploy his usual leadership style and approach to situate national interest over and above personal self aggrandisement. Also, he will be a good supporter and enabler of Asiwaju’s renewed hope agenda, for the overall benefit of the country; he is no stranger to politics of performance and achievements. He does not shy away from displaying his uncommon skills to any narrative. Furthermore, he values the ideas of the collective also. The Senate under his leadership will undoubtedly, churn out laws that would help to heal some of the wounds in our country and compliment the studied effort of the President-elect when he finally mounts the podium.

*Prince Kassim Afegbua is a former Commissioner for Information Edo State and a regular contributor to The Frontier.




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