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The Plot Against Senator Akpabio

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OPINION

By Etim Etim

Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio

I had always suspected that it would be a matter of time before some forces move against Senator Godswill Akpabio. He occupies the most unstable political position in the country. There have been eight senate Presidents since 1999; five from the South and three from the North. All of them from the South have either been impeached or threatened with impeachment. But the three Senate Presidents from the North – David Mark, Bukola Saraki and Ahmed Lawan – served out their terms without as much as a whimper from the floor. Every season comes with its peculiar slippery slope. Chuba Okadigbo; Evan Enwerem; Adolphus Wagbara and Ken Nnamani were hounded by the then President. While the first three were removed under two years, Nnamani lasted till the end of that dispensation. But he fought many battles.

But the plot, or rumours of plot, against Akpabio are coming a bit too early, though. He’s only been on the job for three months! Obviously, the grievances are a carryover of the bad blood that ran through the leadership contest. Many from the northern bloc were against a Senate President emerging from the South, but the President and his party preferred a Christian southerner, to make up for the all-Muslim presidential ticket. Akapbio came highly recommended for many reasons, none the least being his contributions to the party. But he faced daunting challenges, and it turned out to be the first time that a President’s preferred candidate for the position was so openly opposed by members of his party. It was an open rebellion against the President. The election was hard fought and his opponents were very wealthy and formidable politicians.

Senator Abdulaziz Yari, a newcomer to the senate and former governor of Zamfara, lost to the former Akwa Ibom governor by only 17 votes. It was the first time a freshman would run for that job, and the slim margin showed just how formidable he was. Yari initially refused to accept the results and there were talks of him going to court to challenge the result; something unheard of before. Yari spent heavily in both Naira and dollars to get the votes. A Journalist friend of mine who worked for him during the campaign told me that he was paid in dollars. Senator Orji Uzor Kalu from Abia State was Yari’s main backer, and he was tipped to be the Deputy Senate President had Yari won. Now, Kalu’s newspapers, The Sun and New Telegraph, are the leading voices in the campaign against Akpabio.

The plotters are aggrieved that Senator Akpabio did not appoint them into lucrative committees. They are also complaining that Akpabio is too close to President Tinubu and that the Senate is becoming a ‘’rubber stamp’’ chamber. But Akpabio’s camp is denying that there is an impeachment plot. They claim that the senate is united behind their leader. Senator Akpabio himself played down on the matter when I spoke with him last Wednesday. ‘’There are some complaints about leadership and committee positions, but there is no cause to worry’’, he told me. He is comfortable that the plotters cannot muster enough support to oust him. A Senate President can only be removed from office with at least two-thirds of the votes, which is 72. Akpabio won his election with 63 votes and has since won more supporters from the Yari camp. He has a solid support of the majority.

The plot against Akpabio, or even a mere mention of it, is a reflection of the internal dislocations and indiscipline within the APC and, in a way, an afront to the Tinubu presidency. If the party were a disciplined and cohesive platform with strict internal controls, discipline and codes of conduct, it is unlikely that its senators would be instigating a coup against a popularly elected leader who had the backing of both the party leadership and the executive branch of government so early in the day. Any misgivings about sharing of positions would have been discussed at caucus meetings and thrashed out maturely. It is quite embarrassing for the senators to be quarrelling over committee positions when the nation is bleeding to death. This is the moment for the Chairman of the party, Mr. Abdullahi Ganduje, to show leadership and call the senators to order, if he has any clout given his own personal weaknesses. The polity is too fragile for such a distraction at this moment. It is also important for the President to intervene and assuage frayed nerves.

On its part, the senate should exhibit maturity and dignity in the conduct of its business, and be sensitive to the mood of the nation. Nigerians did not vote for them to be fighting over committee positions. There are many important legislative agenda for the 10th senate to accomplish, and the early they get down to work, the better it is for the country and the reputation of the senate. I am surprised that the clamour for restructuring the country has died down despite the fact that one of the nation’s main advocates for true federalism is now the president. What has happened to the calls for state police; fiscal federalism and decentralization of the functions of the federal government? These are the important matters the senate should debate on. Senator Akpabio also has a responsibility to pay attention to the mood of the nation which at this moment is against financial imprudence. The much talked about plans to acquire expensive SUVs for the senators, and indeed members of the House of Representatives, should be scrapped. The country has no appetite for such indulgences now.

Those of us who know Akpabio well can attest to his capacity to deliver at any position he occupies. In the last three months, he has provided a strong leadership, and I commend the lawmakers for not supporting the proposal for a 40% hike in electricity tariff and military action in Niger Republic, among a few other initiatives. They should drop whatever impeachment plot that is being hatched, and concentrate on major legislative agendas. Nigerians have no stomach for petty bickering.

Etim is a Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst, lives in Abuja

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