Buhari: Akpabio’s Shot in the Dark

Buhari: Akpabio’s Shot in the Dark

Enefiok Ekanem

Nigerians have been having harrowing experiences since President Bola Tinubu took office, as they are confronted by mounting unprecedented hunger and insecurity as well as crushed naira whose value keeps tumbling without restraint, heading towards exchanging for probably N2000 to a dollar.

Though these are true reflections of the goings on in Nigeria, not a few citizens were shocked by the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, when he publicly shredded the immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari, and dumped the country’s economic woes at his doorstep.

According to him, the National Assembly is beginning to understand the full extent of the economic damage allegedly done by Buhari and the former Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, whose policies he claimed left the country indebted and its people living in extreme penury.

Speaking at Senator Barinada Mpigi’s thanksgiving service in Koroma, Tai Local Government in Rivers State, Akpabio reportedly said: “A lot of people will not understand the kind of debt and economic mess that we are in, but I remember (former) President Obama saying that you cannot know Washington until you get to Washington. It was awful by the time we arrived to examine the nation’s economic status.”

Truly, Akpabio deserves to hold his views, rightly or wrongly. The problem is, Who is Akpabio?

In fact, he does not need any introduction. He is the President of the 10th Senate. He is a former governor and senator of the Federal Republic but above all, Akpabio served as a minister in the Buhari administration where he presided over the all-important Niger Delta ministry.

It is worrisome that a character like Akpabio, like many others, is occupying such a sensitive office in a land in which he has no moral scruples. If, indeed, Buhari is responsible for the mess Nigeria is currently undergoing, by blaming the former president, Akpabio has also self-indicted himself because being part of the Federal Executive Council, he was part and parcel of whatever he is now accusing Buhari of doing.

Unfortunately, Nigerians are too docile or tolerant. Akpabio should have been chased out of the senate chambers by now. How could Akpabio, who was a key player in the Buhari administration assault and insult our intellect with such balderdash? At least, there was never any report that Akpabio disagreed with the president over any policy.

Besides that, how has Akpabio fared as the senate president to give him a solid ground to stand and criticise others? Akpabio’s bland senate presidency has not only led to the clamour for his resignation, but he has also drawn the ire of his lead colleagues, who are not comfortable with how he has turned the Red Chamber into a cowering and groveling extension of the president.

He has been called out for his penchant for ambushing senators by foisting deliberately delayed presidential communication on the Senate in a manner they would not have time to debate and scrutinise such issues.

Some leading senators like the Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, had even confronted him on the floor of the Red Chamber over this and accused him of not giving senators adequate opportunity to interrogate and scrutinise bills, especially money bills.

Ndume warned that history would judge him for approving executive requests and passing important legislation hastily.

Ndume is just one too many in the swirling criticism of Akpabio over his dour leadership of the National Assembly. It was as a result of this and the fear that he would be impeached at the least opportunity that drove him to amend the Senate standing rules to the effect that no first-term senator is qualified to vie for the position of presiding officer, which clearly breaches the constitution that allows senators to freely choose their presiding officers at their first sitting irrespective of ranking. Also, Akpabio has remained an unserious lawmaker, a chronic latecomer, who philanders while urgent matters of state require his attention. Nevertheless, it is doubtful if he would last in the gilded office.

Strangely, Akpabio has suddenly turned the people’s advocate and can now blame Buhari. Here is a man, who only recently mocked the masses when a senator commented that the government should ‘let Nigerians breathe’. He turned such a serious matter into a joke, evoking guffaws from his unempathatic co-travelers

To be fair to Akpabio, he is standing on the same slippery ground that they manipulated to get him into the senate and consequently foisted him on the upper chamber as its president. There are far too many skeletons in his cupboard for which he is being blackmailed or so it seems. He is desperate to cling to the office because all that his blackmailers need is to pick up one of the items on his brimful file and whip him back in line, using the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Unsurprisingly, he is more of the president’s errand boy than the leader of the country’s legislature.

It is difficult to know whether Akpabio was joking when he said the government does not know the offence to charge the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele with.  This exposes the government he purports to represent to ridicule because they should as well let the man go if they don’t know what his offences are.

By the way, the only difference between Emefiele and Akpabio is the fact that Emefiele is already answering for his alleged offences while Akpabio is privileged to have so far put a lid on his. We in Akwa Ibom, and Nigerians know that the Senate President had been a guest of the EFCC over the alleged theft of N108.1 billion of Akwa Ibom funds and we eagerly await the conclusion of the matter.

He also has explanations to give over allegations of a N40 billion fraud perpetrated in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, a parastatal under  him as the Minister of Niger Delta Ministry for three years. There were also allegations of over N86 billion contract scams, involving him and a former Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, which is still under investigation by the anti-graft agency.  It is, therefore absurd that Akpabio should use his undeserved privileged position to try to pull a wool over our eyes.

It is time Akpabio was told that the current state of things in Nigeria has gone beyond his sickening jokes. It is time the Senate woke up and shoved him aside because he has made the chamber so colourless and spineless with his tasteless style. Furthermore, he should resign or be forced out for failing to do the needful while in office, only to now embarrass the Buhari government by trying to exonerate himself.

It seems however, that  his brain was overly clogged with his EFCC troubles and he chose to speak when he would have remained silent. Sadly, he will also run down this government tomorrow.

With Akpabio’s ouster, President Bola Tinubu would also benefit from a National Assembly that could help sharpen his policies rather than one that endorses everything without any input. He should realise that Akpabio has overstayed his welcome and outlived his usefulness. He must refuse to allow Akpabio to use the senate presidency to escape prosecution for his alleged numerous missteps in Akwa Ibom as a governor or in the Niger Delta Ministry as its minister. The president has so much on his plate to deal with and jokers like Akpabio can only complicate issues for him.

Nigerians are reeling under the worst economic hardship ever. Allowing Akpabio to trivialise the issues is most insensible and senseless. Come to think of it, it is no longer relevant whether Buhari is guilty as alleged or not. The man has done his best and since left. It is uncharitable for Akpabio to take shots at Buhari, his benefactor, in the dark. It shall achieve nothing and, in fact, boomerang.

After all, someone said it was his turn, now realised. Is it his turn to create or add more to the hardship being experienced by the people? I think not. It should be his turn to make things better for the people from where Buhari signed off. Looking in the rear mirror and seeing Buhari to blame is an accident waiting to happen. Great shall the noise of the crash be.

Tinubu should be wary of shifty characters like Akpabio, who would hail you in the morning, only to shout ‘crucify him’ in the evening. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.

 Enefiok, a social commentator wrote in from Oron, Akwa Ibom State.

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