Akume: Unveiling Of The “Just” George By Sufuyan Ojeifo
He is unassuming and urbane. He is also sedate but highly fecund. 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, not as much of the jesters, pretenders, carpet baggers, transactional leaders and deceivers who have taken over the political terrain and have unconscionably violated the pristine nature of politics, which was from the outset an instrument for aggregating activities of governments, politicians and/or political parties and disaggregating the benefits of the social contract that exists between the government and the governed. He has consistently proved that public service, whether through civil service instrumentation or through orchestration of politics, is a trust, which finds anchorage 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 followers and associates in political engagements, apparently drawing from his background as Labour Relations pseudo-intellectual, are simply phenomenal. This, largely explicates the ease with which he 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. It is to his credit also that he was able to embrace sociology as a course of study to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct the society, the humans in it and their conditions. The intricate knowledge derived from the intercourse between academic exertions and work place experience had prepared George Akume for public service and politics.
In a recent piece, which 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, a development that pigeonholed the determination of political contestation of national magnitude in a local context. The political battle and direction to which the pendulum of victory would swing was somewhat decided from that cusp. Charity, according to an aphorism, begins at home. Anenih’s SDP trounced Ikimi’s NRC in the Edo enclave and the defeat was escalated to the national. 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 de javu- 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 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.
APC still has time to ponder on this. So far, it has not foreclosed the possibility of an Akume option, going by feelers from the APC governors’ meeting held on Wednesday night (February 16, 2022) in Abuja that the position of national chairman had been zoned to the North Central. That significantly narrows the field and the number of aspirants to five, to wit: Senator George Akume (Benue), Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (Niger), Malam Saliu Mustapha (Kwara) and Mohammed Etsu (Niger). It is expected that by Tuesday, next week (February 21, 2022), the power centres and 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 Hon 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 here that George Akume approximates these virtues.
Born on December 27,1953, in Wannune in Tarka Local Government Area of Benue State, Akume’s political trajectory has been as eventful as they come for those whose palm kernels had been cracked for them by the benevolent spirit and he has remained humble about his accomplishments. That is a good leadership lesson that inspires loyal followership.
Akume had his Primary Education at the then Native Authority (NA) Primary School, Wannune (1960 -1966) and the former Government Secondary School, Otobi now Model Science School, Otukpo, Benue State (1967-1971) for his Secondary Education. George was at St. Louis College for his Advanced Level (1973), and thereafter proceeded to the Premier University, the University of Ibadan for his Bachelor of Science Degree in Sociology (1978). He also obtained a Master’s Degree in Industrial and Labour Relations (MILR) from the same Department and University (1986).
Akume was at the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) where he obtained a Certificate in Management (1988). He commenced his working career as a Land Officer with the Benue State Civil Service after his successful completion of the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme from 1978 – 1979, during which he taught at the Advanced Teachers College, Jos (now College of Education) Akwanga, Nasarawa State.
▪︎ Work Career
Akume had a steady progression in his career as a seasoned administrator. Suffice it to say he is an administrator par excellence. He held several positions at various times: Assistant Secretary, Research and Policy Analysis (REPA) in the Governor’s office, Principal Secretary, under Secretary and Director of Personnel Management in 1994; he also handled several special assignments including Secretary/Chairman, white paper drafting committee, Secretary, Gboko Local Government Council, one of the most difficult Local Councils in Benue State, (1988-1989), Sole Administrator of Idah Local Government Council (now in Kogi State) (1989-1990).
Akume was also the Sole Administrator of Gboko Local Government Council (1991). He was Director of Protocol, Government House, Makurdi, Benue State (1992). Between 1994–1995, he was on secondment at the Federal Ministry of Education, Lagos as Deputy Director. He became the Director-General (1996) and later, Permanent Secretary (Establishments and Management Services), a position he held until 1998, when he voluntarily retired from Public Service to participate fully in politics.
▪︎ Politics of Governorship and Senate seats
Akume registered as a member of the defunct Congress for National Consensus (CNC), one of the five registered political parties during the Sani Abacha’s transition to civilian rule programme and sought the governorship ticket on that party’s platform. At inception of General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s regime, after the sudden demise of General Abacha on June 8, 1998, the new helmsman dismantled all political structures set up by the late General Abacha and ordered the formation of new political parties.
The new dispensation gave Akume the opportunity to realize his ambition in as he actively participated in the formation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and contested election on the party’s platform, emerging as the fourth Executive Governor of Benue State. He was re-elected for a second term in 2003. In 2007, Senator George Akume was elected into the National Assembly as a Senator representing Benue North West Senatorial District under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In 2011, Akume moved to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to join hands with other progressive minds to change the socio-political and economic face of the nation; and was re-elected as Senator. He was subsequently elected Senate Minority Leader by the minority Caucus of the Senate. In 2015, he was, for the third term, elected as Senator and was subsequently appointed Senate Committee Chairman on 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.
▪︎ As Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs
On the 21st day of August, 2019, Akume was sworn in by President Muhammadu Buhari and he assumed duty as Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs. His ministerial mandate is to assist the President in ensuring the proper, effective and efficient implementation and performance of all decisions and policies approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in the management and administration of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) of government as carried out by the heads of such MDAs with stated objectives and targets across the springboards of intergovernmental or inter-tier relations.
Similarly, under the statutory responsibilities of the Minister is the provision for Mr President to delegate and divest special authorities to Akume to carry out General and Specific Duties(GSD) on behalf of the President and Commander In Chief (C in-C) for the general purpose of good and smooth running of his administration and government.
▪︎ Recognitions and Awards
Akume has been honoured with many 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, 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 a widely travelled man. He has visited the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Cuba. He has been to Ghana, South Africa, Jamaica, Israel, India, Brazil, Colombia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Mexico, Switzerland and Jamaica, etc.
As it were, he 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 of national chair is beckoning on him, 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 chair, he will certainly be home and dry, quod erat demonstradum (QED).
▪︎ Mr Ojeifo contributed this piece via [email protected]