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Senate Presidency: Akume in Shuttle Diplomacy

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Meets Obj, Tinubu, Atiku, Kwankwaso

By Ibidapo Balogun

As the ding-dong on the zoning of party leadership and political offices by the incoming administration of the All Progressives Congress, APC, continues, top contender for the Senate presidency, Senator George Akume, at the weekend intensified his consultations.

The APC has continued its prevarication on which zones will hold critical positions in the executive and legislative arms of government in the last few weeks. For instance, it was initially thought the zoning of the Senate Presidency to the North Central was a fait accompli. And names like Akume & Bukola Saraki emerged as frontrunners.

Not too long after, the North East came into the picture with Ahmed Lawan touted the man to beat.

The Speakership was also originally zoned to the South-West, but the North East and North West have stepped up their challenge for the position in recent weeks.

Similar uncertainty has pervaded the zoning of the position of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF. Originally believed to have been sealed for the South East, especially since the zone did not contribute even a seat to the APC in either chamber of national legislature, the SGF’S slot was meant to be a compensation to accommodate all geo-political components of the country in the emerging dispensation.

Unconfirmed reports at the weekend, however, suggested there may be a grand design to actually zone the SGF’S seat to the North Central zone. This would ultimately deny the South East the opportunity to produce another scribe of the Federal Government from the South of the Niger.

Not to be distracted in his subtle quest for the Senate Presidency pending the formalisation of the zoning template, Akume has been quietly oiling his machinery for the race.

The Senate Minority Leader who has adopted a quiet, discreet and unobtrusive approach in his quest for the exalted position since he was listed as a potential holder, hit the road on what a close confidant described as a ‘strategic cross-country diplomatic shuttle.’

Akume who was in the South-West last week, met prominent national figures and respected political bulwarks. Notable among them were Obasanjo, APC National Leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu and former Osun State Governor and one of the pioneers of the erstwhile New Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, which formed part of the coalition which produced the APC.

The former Benue State Governor who is returning to the Senate for the third time, met all the leaders in their respective domains in Abeokuta, Lagos and Okuku, respectively.

Akume served as Benue State Governor, concurrently when Obasanjo was President and both men maintained a good relationship until the end of their tenures in 2007, despite Obasanjo’s brushes with Akume’s kinsmen like Dr Iyorchia Ayu who was Minister in the Obasanjo government and Senator Barnabas Gemade who succeeded the late Chief Solomon Lar as PDP National Chairman.

And while Akume served in Benue, Tinubu was Governor of Lagos State, both of them belonging to the ‘Governors’ Class of 1999 to 2007.’

Oyinlola succeeded Chief Bisi Akande, former Interim Chairman of the APC as Osun State Governor on the platform of the PDP in 2003, but all three men have since found common grounds in the progressives’ camp.

While there was no official communication after each of the meetings, the interactions may not be unconnected with the topical issue of the Senate Presidency.

Akume has also had several engagements with former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, who may likely emerge as Chairman of the APC Board of Trustees. Akume was governor when the highest Tiv honorary traditional title, ‘Zege Mule U’Tiv’ was conferred on Atiku.

Akume’s backstage consultations have also taken him to see Kano State Governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso who has also been elected Senator to represent Kano State, Prof Ango Abdullahi, Vice-Chancellor Emeritus of the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Coomasie and former Kogi State Governor, Prince Abubakar Audu.

Sources in Akume’s camp will not readily draw a link between his recent travels and the issue of the Senate Presidency. As one of his aides volunteered, however, ‘Senator Akume is a very highly regarded statesman in his own right. Consultations with like-minded leaders on issues bothering on our socio-politics should be a routine affair.’

Pressed further, the source said: ‘If the APC is truly about change, that change should reflect in the way we do things so we send a very strong message to all Nigerians that they can be assured of a sense of belonging irrespective of where they come from. We have produced a President-Elect from a majority ethnicity, we have produced a Vice-President Elect from another majority ethnic group, APC must be sensitive to the sensitivities of the minorities, across both divides of the Niger.’

Continuing, he said: ‘Come to think of it, the outgoing President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is from a minority ethnic group. What is in stock for the minorities in the incoming administration?’

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