As I contemplated writing this piece, I could feel the aura of laziness around me like a mighty gong on the neck of a town crier. But it was more of an internal than external factor. I had this conflict in my head: as someone who is apolitical, if I should be writing a seemingly controversial political article, but then it dawned on me that if we keep shying away from politics because of its perceived “dirtiness” or complexity, then questionable leaders will continue to go unpunished.
But this article is not calling for the punishment of Nigeria’s Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs and Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State, Senator George Akume, yet. Rather, it is a critical analysis of the political melodrama that the Minister staged at the Benue APC Stakeholders/Caucus meeting, on the 23rd of July 2021, in Makurdi.
Senator Akume who was Governor of Benue State between 1999 and 2007, had during the party’s caucus meeting at the state’s APC secretariat, overtly admitted that he has been imposing candidates on the party, and by extension, Benue people.
“As your Leader, I have failed you by always choosing candidates for you, but this time around, you will choose for me; let the people decide freely for themselves. All of us are better than one of us,” Senator (Dr.) George Akume stated at the meeting.
It is no longer news that GSM (Governor, Senator and Minister) as he is fondly called by his pipers, loyalists and political jobbers, has been the traditional kingmaker of Benue political sphere. All the two Benue Governors after him were selected by him before falling out with them in their second shots of power.
But his recently well-staged drama has caused many to wonder whether he has genuinely “surrendered” to the will of the people or just another case of “Judas’ kiss”, especially, the fact that another electioneering year is around the corner.
His critics are of the opinion that the Minister is only trying to redeem his already bastardized reputation and dwindling popularity ahead of 2023 general elections, since he is no longer the swan song in Benue political theatre.
A Makurdi based newspaper, Nigerian Concord, recently reported that Senator Akume had bowed to an alleged pressure from the Presidency to quash the incremental popularity of Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, who has been very vocal and staunch in his constant criticism of the appalling failure of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, which Akume is a Member of the Federal Executive Council; to find any meaningful solution to the escalating insecurity across the country. And that he (Akume) had consequently, concluded plans to launch a media crack team which will be straddled with the responsibility of defaming, delegitimizing and criticizing the Benue State Government under the leadership of his one-time boy now political rival, Samuel Ortom, both in the social and conventional media.
The newspaper reported that the hired “pen thugs” will also be charged with the responsibility of persistently pushing him (Akume) into the mind-view and reckoning of Benue people. Even as it alleged that the minister has threatened to fire his Media Adviser, Mkor Aondona (Ph.D), for allegedly frustrating efforts of Benue APC’s media handlers to further make false allegations against the government of Samuel Ortom on social media.
The paper which claimed its source was an insider very close to Akume, also accused the Minister of instigating the party (APC) in the state to suspend some members including former Benue North East Senatorial candidate, Mrs Mimi Orubibi who was recently suspended by the Kwande Local Government chapter of the party. And also predicted that the former Governor would soon storm the state to pull some “PR stuffs” as part of build up to 2023.
Whether or not the paper had prior knowledge of the state APC caucus meeting where the former Governor put up a “good show” as predicted, is not important. What is important is that, let the show be a “true repentance” and not another political gimmick.
On the other hand, if the new smiling face the “show performer” (Akume) is wearing is indeed a genuine one, then it is to Benue’s gain. Over the years, the people could barely hold their Governors to an account as they are always quick to blame their underperformance on the excuses of their godfather, Akume, forcefully collecting a huge percentage of both the State’s Federal Allocation and Internally Generated Revenues. If Akume truly surrenders to the will of the people and retires as the sole kingmaker of Benue People’s House (Benue State Government House), then the days of leadership scrutinizing and accountability are near in Benue. But, has he truly stepped down for the will of the people to prevail? Only time can tell!
(Sunny Green Itodo, a Public Affairs Analyst, can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.).