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Akpabio And Tinubu’s ‘Balanced Diet’ For Senate



Tinubu cautions on national assembly's disturbance of his ministers

It was distressing hearing the outgoing governor of Ebonyi State, Deacon David Umahi justify his decision to withdraw from the Senate leadership contest on the premise of the guidance given him by the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

Though Umahi’s prospects had not received any serious consideration, the justification for him dropping out in deference to the will of the executive is really troubling.

He has deposed that the legislature should give heed to the executive branch of government in fashioning the legislative leadership it believes it can work well with.  

Governor Umahi’s performance as two-term governor of Ebonyi State has been well celebrated near and far with even his worst enemies claiming that the engineer turned politician and Man of God, MoG has changed the physical landscape of Ebonyi that was once the backwater of the Southeast.

The elevation of the infrastructural landscape of Ebonyi has, however, not paired with the advance of democratic ethos given the governor’s eruptions.

After championing Southeast presidency in the PDP and leaving the party on the suspicion that the party would not yield, it is surprising that the governor is now easily bending back for the position of deputy speaker of the House of Representatives that has been offered the Southeast by the APC.

Indeed, as many would say, Deacon Umahi has faced the reality as Candidate Tinubu told Enugu APC officials on January 11, 2023 that they would be given bread soaked in water if they failed to deliver for the party during the elections.

As it is, APC chiefs were simply overwhelmed by the Obidients in the region and came last in the scale of votes produced for the ruling APC in the presidential election among the six geopolitical zones.

Is that enough reason to deny the region a position in the new government? The opinion is divided with some saying that the position of Deputy Speaker given to the region is fair enough especially given the fact that the North-Central was allocated nothing.

However, the main beneficiary of the allocation to the South, Senator Godswill Akpabio remains a contentious choice among some. The main issues against Akpabio are, however, of perception. As one of his aides rudely reminded your correspondent after a “quarrelsome discussion” a week ago, Akpbabio has never been convicted of any crime despite all the insinuations he alleged are against his boss.

Indeed, just like Umahi who politically decapitated his predecessor, Akpabio who did the same thing against Sir Victor Attah went on to engraft his name in history as the uncommon governor on account of solid infrastructure development.

Even more, if he succeeds in his quest, Akpabio would be the first lawyer after Senator Anyim Pius Anyim to occupy the office of Senate President.

What goes for Akpabio is his capacity to make deals even with the ‘devil,’ a quality that may be helpful in times of crisis.

Your correspondent is aware of how he faced realities as PDP Senate Leader and reached across the aisle to embrace the APC and then cohabit with some of his most vicious Akwa Ibom political critics who had left the PDP for the APC simply because of him.

It is telling that support in Akwa Ibom for the former governor’s aspiration for the office of Senate President is almost universal. The PDP in the state has been largely silent and it is not expected that the only PDP senator produced by the party would vote against him in the Senate election.

However, he faces still more arduous prospects. Even if some see him along with Senator Osita Izunaso as among the best prospects for the Senate President from the South, many in the PDP hierarchy are reportedly averse at embracing a man who they see as having abandoned them in the midst of battle against the APC and joining the enemy.

If the APC and Tinubu pass the first crucial test in pushing through Akpabio in the Senate where the clerk of the National Assembly is expected to start his duties of inauguration, the nomination of Tajudeen Abbas for speaker would be a more difficult prospect.

Before Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, the house had maintained a tradition of spurning imposition of its presiding officers by the executive branch.

It would appear that the APC may have become relaxed given the ease with which it imposed the outgoing set of presiding officers on the National Assembly.

Even more, the nomination of the four presiding officers appears to have been fashioned by a clique around the president-elect, a fact that is fueling the rebellion within the ranks. Even if the canvassers push through with Akpabio it appears that the task would be more formidable in the House where rebellion is swelling around the popular Aliyu Betara.

The party leaders should remember that Aminu Tambuwal and Yakubu Dogara who emerged before Gbajabiamila were the popular choices of members against less fancied prospects presented by the executive branch.

Betara is said to fit in that mould.

His cause is helped by the fact that the APC caucus is even a minority and it would seem foolhardy for the party to forge ahead with its proposal in the face of the seeming error.

Indeed, the unfolding development will do well to strengthen the independence of the legislative branch and rubbish suggestions that it is an adjoint of the executive branch. It certainly is not despite arguments by Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji to the effect that the president’s veto power over laws makes him the most important member of parliament.

But Abba-Aji forgets that the legislature by its power also can limit the power of the president to expend funds.

Remarkably, Hon Eseme Eyiboh, one of the early supporters of Tinubu in the South-South has come out strongly in support of the pairing of Akpabio and Barau Jibrin for the Senate leadership hailing it as a balanced diet. How Akpabio goes about to sway and win support even from former critics is indeed amazing.

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