Godswill Akpabio: Building Legacy of Peace, Stability in Senate, Nigeria

Godswill Akpabio: Building Legacy of Peace, Stability in Senate, Nigeria

Ikenna Nicholas Ukwa

The event in the Senate in the past few days made the Red Chamber the cynosure of all eyes. It however, cemented the profile of the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, as a man that is focused on building a legacy of peace and stability in the Senate as well as the country in general.

Ahead of Tuesday’s plenary which saw the suspension of Senator Abdul Ningi for three months, over his allegation that the upper chamber padded the 2024 national budget, there was palpable tension, which the Senate President in his usual mien handled effectively. The decision to suspend the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator for Bauchi Central Senatorial District, followed a motion by Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Solomon Adeola.

Adeola, the All Progressives Congress (APC) senator for Ogun West Senatorial District, noted that Ningi breached his privilege when he accused the senate of padding the 2024 national budget with over N3 trillion. He also said the embattled senator claimed in the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that projects in the 2024 national budget were skewed in favour of the southern part of Nigeria. Adeola, therefore, gave the details to make-up the N3.32 trillion as: National Judicial Council – N341,625,739,236; National Assembly – N344,852,880,669; Public Complaints Commission – N14,460,000,000; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – N40,000,000,000; Government-Owned Enterprises (Recurrent) – N1,059,617,780,421; TETFUND (Recurrent) – N35,000,000,000 Government-Owned Enterprises (Capital) – N820,908,398,828, and TETFUND (Capital) – N665,000,000,000.

Thereafter, Adeola, prayed that further necessary steps should be taken to correct the wrong impression in public domain of 2024 budget created by the BBC interview and other national media houses and social media platforms by Ningi and amplified by Senator Suleiman Abdulrahman Kawu, through his Facebook account and other social media platforms.

Nonetheless, when Ningi was called upon to speak, he maintained his position that the N3 trillion was missing, which even infuriated some of his colleagues, even those in the opposition parties, the PDP inclusive.

However, Senator Jimoh Ibrahim sought the suspension of Ningi for one year, a prayer which was amended to three months and was passed by the senate.

From the entire scenario, Akpabio, once more showed the world that he is a stabilising force in the National Assembly with the way he handled affairs on that day. Clearly, If Akpabio was not a man of peace and someone who always look at the bigger picture in any situation, he would have gone with the prayer by Jimoh Ibrahim, that sought Ningi’s suspension for one year. But Akpabio, the leader of the Senate, was more concerned about the effects of such decision on Ningi’s constituents, his state and the country in general. That was why he went for the option of three months, with the condition of the Senator to be recalled once he tenders a letter of apology.

Indeed, Ningi’s statement on the BBC Hausa Service was clearly aimed at causing disaffection between the President and the Senate and destabilise the government. For his to politicise and ethicise the weighty allegation of budget padding showed that Ningi never meant well for the nation.

Even before plenary, three Senators from the north: Steve Sunday Karimi, Titus Tartenger Zam and Kaka Sheu, had said the allegation of budget padding against Akpabio was unfounded, baseless and a figment of the imagination of those that made the allegation.

The trio warned against what they described as the antics of blackmailers, bent on creating an atmosphere of crisis in the upper chamber of the National Assembly. Karimi, Zam and Sheu, also said no room should be allowed for division and acrimony between Senators from the North and South by those who may not want to accord priority to national unity and harmony.

Karimi, who is from Kogi State; Zam from Benue State, and Sheu from Borno State, said that they could not be used to blackmail the budget process, which was done in good faith.

Dismissing the allegation of padding as a ruse, they said while the executive brought a budget proposal of N27.5 trillion, the Senate passed a budget of N28.77 trillion.

No doubt, since his election as Senate President, Akpabio has been working tirelessly to make sure that the red chamber becomes a reference point in legislation for the Tenth Assembly. Akpabio has also underscored the weighty responsibility senators carry in shaping the nation’s course and the welfare of its people, urging his colleagues to exhibit courage, unity, integrity and strategic approach to navigate uncharted territory and create a united nation. In addition, the Senate President has also taken steps to ensure collaborative efforts to engender economic recovery, healthcare reform, national security, and social justice.

He has used every opportunity he has to emphasise the importance of transcending partisan divides as well as to encourage collaboration with the executive arm under President Bola Tinubu while upholding legislative independence.

Advocating for open dialogue and compromise, Akpabio has continued to champion the cause of the marginalised and the voiceless, promoting justice and equality.

He has remained focused on leading an arm of the National Assembly that supports the executive and legislature in stabilising the country.

From the quality of bills passed by the Red Chamber under his leadership, there is no doubt that the choice of the former Akwa Ibom State Governor as Senate President by his colleagues was not a mistake.

He has also brought to bear his vast experiences in public office in the country which has been instrumental in some of decisions taken by the Senate under his leadership.

For instance, the Senate under Akpabio had opposed the proposal for a 40 per cent increase in electricity tariffs in the country, which would have added additional burden on the suffering masses. Electricity providers that have over the years fallen short of reasonable expectations of Nigerians most of whom had been suffering untold hardship arising from the inefficiencies of power generation and distribution companies, had proposed electricity tariff hike in July.

Another important feat recorded by the Senate under Akpabio, was its rejection of a purported move by President Bola Tinubu, Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other leaders of the region to deploy troops to Niger Republic after the military coup in the country. Today, ECOWAS is working towards embracing peace and dialogue.

Beyond partisan politics, Akpabio has continued to show empathy to Nigerians that are going through economic hardship, urging them to believe in the ability of the Tinubu’s administration to turn the tide around, emphasising that, “Our today’s pain will surely produce joyful gains in a very short time.”

Advising Nigerians not to give up on their leaders, particularly the present government of President Bola Tinubu, Akpabio had said, “I am confident that with your prayers and support, the current administration will wipe away your tears in no distant time”.

Furthermore, as someone who is desirous of supporting the executive in addressing insecurity in the country, the former Akwa Ibom governor recently told the military that the unity and sustenance of Nigeria depends on them. He also added that the President Bola Tinubu-led government remains focused on ensuring that Nigeria remains an inseparable and indivisible entity. Akpabio, who held that the continued existence of the country was in its rich cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity, called on the people to embrace unity, stressing the resolve of the present administration to redouble its efforts in securing the country.

“The unity of Nigeria came at a great price. The sustenance and defence of this unity rest on the shoulders of the men and women of the Armed Forces, and the true weight of loss is carried by the families and dependents of these fallen heroes.

“If only we could share the pain they feel, then we would truly understand the imperative of eschewing insecurity and violence in all its forms. Our nation is still grappling with the effects of long-overdue multi-sectoral reforms needed to propel us forward and position Nigeria among the great nations of the world. I urge support to the government of His Excellency President Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, during this crucial time as we strive to achieve the Nigeria of our dreams.

“In this regard, I reiterate the President’s assurance that “our tough times will not last,” and we should renew our hope in a great Nigeria.”

He added, “Now is the time for all stakeholders to set aside our differences, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or political affiliations, and come together to strategise on the way forward for this great nation. I call upon the church to partner with the government in a much-needed rebranding of Nigeria. The church is urged to continue spreading the gospel of love for oneself, others, and our country. We must blur the lines that divide us across ethnic and religious boundaries through messages of tolerance, peace, unity, and progress.

“This administration is more determined than ever to strengthen and promote the oneness and indivisibility of Nigeria because the strength of our great nation lies in our diversity.”

No doubt, Akpabio has continued to provide quality leadership for the Senate and must be encouraged. He remains a stabilising force in the country and must be given all the support to do more.

Ukwa is Senior Legislative Aide to the Senate President

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