Akpabio And His Chances As Next Senate President

By Gbadebo Adeagbo

The race to succeed the current Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan has begun earnestly with many pundits predicting that the Number 3 position in the country should be zoned to the Southern part of the country for ethnoreligious balancing.

In light of this, there seem to be many qualified candidates from the South who can succeed Lawan to direct the affairs of the legislative institution for the next four years.

Out of the array of qualified senators-elect, one of whom may likely emerge as the next Senate President, analysts have singled out the duo of Godswill Akpabio and Orji Uzor Kalu as likely to clinch the top coveted seat.

Nevertheless, one may be curious to assess the credentials and scorecards of these duo and their contribution to the body politic of the country concerning how the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress has benefitted, given that both of them have served as two-term Governors and leaders of the ruling party in their respective states.While Kalu served as Governor of Abia state between 1999- 2007, Akpabio was Governor of Akwa-Ibom between 2007-2015. Akpabio would later win his senatorial seat in the 2015 general election when he defeated the APC candidate in a landslide.

But Akpabio is not your regular politician. He is an ideologue of political struggles to win even in the face of hurdles and impediments. Only a few serial decampees in the country in the class of Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso can take the risk he took in the build-up to the 2019 presidential election and remain relevant.In the conventional Peoples’ Democratic Party stronghold, Akpabio disrupted the political configuration of the state in less than 1year and made APC competitive as though it has existed side by side with PDP since 1999.In 2019, Akapbio narrowly lost his senatorial contest to his closest PDP rival, Christopher Ekpenyong in an election that should ordinarily be a walkover for the Peoples’ Democratic Party.

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Four years later, the politics of the Akwa-Ibom Northwest Senatorial district took a paradigm shift, and Akpabio was declared winner having pulled a total of 115,401 votes to defeat his arch-rival, Emmanuel Enoidem, who scored 69,838 votes.

One lesson that must be learned is his can-do spirit and penchant to entrench the progressive ideals which still seem largely unpopular in the southern part of the country.Given his excellent outing as the Minister of the Niger Delta, one may presuppose that his people appreciate his service; first, as the former Governor who helped reshaped the face of the state via infrastructural upliftment and second, as a former Minister who exposed the NDDC multi-billion frauds via forensic auditing that has impeded the growth of the region since its establishment.

These accomplishments may also have cascaded into the outing of the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who did excellently at the poll in the state, pulling a total of 160,620 votes. Surprisingly, Akpabio started the steps to deliver his state for the APC when he mobilized thousands of APC supporters to fill up the campaign ground.

This was something seen as historic. Analysts opined that with the mammoth crowd at the stadium that day, only a mass rigging by the PDP may stop the ruling party from taking a big chunk of the Akwa-Ibom votes.

There is no doubt that the contributions of people like Akpabio and other progressives from the Niger Delta allowed the now president-elect to not only score the required 25% mandatory cut-off mark from each state but also went neck to neck with the PDP in the geopolitical zone.In reality, the Southsouth has positioned itself strategically as another frontier of progressive politics which has now been visible in their voting pattern from such states as Rivers, Edo to Cross Rivers, and so on.

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The growth of the party may be attributed to the likes of Akpabio who defied all odds in the build-up to the 2019 poll to pull something of gymnastic stunts that have sunk the likes of Saraki, Atiku, and Melaye which in all indications is gradually pushing them into political oblivion.

Since power is not served but grabbed, this writer feels that the intention of Senator Orji Kalu to run for the Senate Presidential seat is not antithetical to our thriving democracy.

But Kalu stirred the hornet’s nest when he made his first official media outing last week. He told Nigerians that it is his turn to become the next Senate President, perhaps taking a cue from the political lexicon introduced by the president-elect.

But he failed to give credence to the author of that statement which made it seem like he authored such a bold statement. Only a few people can make that bold statement and see it to fruition.

Kalu, it seems to me, lacks the temerity to utter such a statement because he has demonstrated low capacity as the ‘assumed’ rallying point of APC in Abia state not to talk of the entire Southeast region.

One is worried that Kalu pulled over 30,000 votes to win his senatorial re-election bid in Abia North senatorial district, but failed to deliver its equivalent to his party’s Presidential candidate if at all Asiwaju would be denied votes from other senatorial districts.

Scoring a mere 8,000 votes by APC has dented whatever justification Kalu may have to throw his hat into the ring for the Senate President.

If at all he would argue that the Southeast has been marginalized, one needs to evoke his consciousness that the Senate President was like a chieftaincy title for the Southeastern. Out of the eight Senate Presidents produced since 1999, the Southeast had already produced five.

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All the states in the Southeast had one Senate President at one time or another, no thanks to former President Olusegun Obasanjo who changed the leadership of the senate almost at will.

Although Kalu may be riding on the equity and justice pedestal this should not be the only rationale for deciding who becomes the Senate President. The South-South hasn’t produced the Senate President. It should be a matter of capacity and track records.

While Akpabio declared his intention to step down at the APC convention ground on the night of the primary election, Kalu was still strategizing for Lawan to emerge a victor.

Aside from that, there is a perceived bad governance in Abia state. Even Abians cannot exonerate Kalu for the role played in the politics and governance of the state while serving as governor.

The state, until the Labour party won in the just concluded guber poll, has been at the mercy of PDP’s misrule, a scenario where a sitting Governor mentioned Domino’s Pizza as one of his achievements without seeing it as an affront to the people of the state.

Whether one admits it or not, Kalu is largely responsible for the misfortune of the state and should be held responsible for handing over to crooks who ran the state aground.

The task of a Senate President is a serious business. It goes beyond presiding over lawmakers and providing other oversight functions. It is deeper. With Akpabio as the next Senate President, the APC can form the majority party in the zone.

But the people need to see that they are appreciated for their efforts in the just concluded election if the APC wants to make the South-South the exclusive domain of the party in future elections.

(C) Heritagenews

Gbadebo Adeagbo can be reached via Adeagbo76@gmail.com

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