Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

 

As controversy continues to rage over Nigeria’s 2024 Appropriation Act, which a ranking Senator from Bauchi State, Senator Abdul Ningi, said was padded to the tune of Three Trillion Naira, Nigerians must have begun to see the real issues and the motive behind the “revelation” by Ningi

With different groups, especially from a particular section of the country, now jettisoning the smokescreen to make assertions against the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, it is becoming clear that Senator Ningi’s statement, which he has denied, but refused to apologize to his colleagues and Nigerians, was actually a light wind heralding another anti-Akpabio blitzkrieg.

On Tuesday 12th March, when the Senate held its Plenary Session where Senator Ningi was taken up on what he said about the padding of the 2024 Budget, I watched as Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, presented a picture of how the whole controversy was a coordinated move against Akpabio because of his place of birth and zone. He went on to chronicle how peaceful the Senate had always been whenever we have my brothers on the saddle as the President of the Senate and how they always rundown any Senate President from the Southern part of Nigeria.

For decades, the we versus them, North versus South tendencies have rubbed the country of greatness.

When Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a Southern Muslim was elected as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Senator Godswill Akpabio, a Southern Christian was elected President of the Senate, I, as a Northerner, actually celebrated the development, because I was happy that the glass ceiling of religious bias and ethnic jingoism in our body-politic has been broken for good.

So, when Senator Bamidele tried to read ethnicism into what can now be regarded as Ningigate, and I saw how some other
Senators lapped that theory up, I felt uncomfortable, especially knowing that what Senator Ningi said was not really about the North per se, but for selfish reasons, safe for the fact that he was the chairman of the Northern Senators’ Forum.

A few days down the line, however, I have read and seen many write-ups purportedly from Northern groups, accusing Senator Akpabio of wrongdoing and I am forced to say ‘Ittaqullah’ to those behind such a narrative. Are these groups, who are now trying hard to bring Akpabio down for things Senator Ningi said, acting a prepared script? Could there have been a truth to the claim of a civilian coup plotted or is still being plotted against the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, turned President of the Senate, as exposed by the Leader of the Senate?

These are the questions that have begun to agitate the mind, but whatever answer the coming days and weeks may reveal, I must say that as a Northerner, I do not think there is any need to rock the boat in the Senate or to go for Akpabio’s jugular over the Ningi controversy or any alleged plot against the North.

Last week Tuesday, Nigerians were glued to their television sets , watching live telecast of what transpired on the floor of the Senate, which was all about protecting the integrity and sanctity of the Nigerian Senate. That day, I doffed my heart for the Senate leadership under Akpabio, for providing, first, a level playing field for all parties and for coming to equity with clean hands and second, for providing a soft landing for a Northern Senator, who goofed on a very sensitive matter that could have heated the polity.

That sitting was never about the South versus the North; it was about the Senate and Nigerians who deserve to know the truth regarding their Budget and in the end, Senator Akpabio walked tall as an open, detribalised and unbiased leader. So, where is the anti-Akpabio sentiment coming from and why?

While I cannot hold brief for Senator Akpabio, a well-experienced politician and ranking Senator, who must have been versed in the politics of the National Assembly to know that storms will never cease to rage over his coveted seat, it is important to point out that those behind moves to unsettle the Senate are stoking a needless fire and it behoves on all Nigerians to warn them to back off before it is too late.

For Senator Akpabio, one must also say that he must remain committed and undistracted by the noises, as he needs to imbibe the thoughts of Charles de Saint-Évremond that “skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempest.”

But whether or not Senator Ningi was used to kick-start a storm against Akpabio or some people are just trying to hide behind my brother’s ordeal to hatch their plans, all sides must take into heart the warning of former American President, Grover Cleveland that “the ship of democracy, which has weathered all storms, may sink through the mutiny of those on board.”

This is why I think it is imperative for the President, as the leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), to call Senators in the party together to put out any fire being stoked against Akpabio.
But whether or not the Presidency takes this well-advised step, it is important to point out that the Akpabio leadership of the Red Chamber, has brought nothing but good to the nation and Nigerians will not allow anyone to hide behind crass ambition to upturn the apple cart.

Since his emergence as President of the Senate on June 13, 2023, Senator Akpabio has sterred the ship of the National Assembly with focus and an uncommon sense of patriotism that have not only ensured great stability in the polity but also allowed the Executive Arm of Government to be able to focus on redirecting the nation from the edge of the precipice.

Under Akpabio, the Nigerian Senate had also become more alive to the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian people, standing in the gap between them and the government and bringing about the much-needed calm to the system.

I am sure that Nigerians have not forgotten the role played by the Senate in the early days of the Tinubu-led government, when the Federal Government removed fuel subsidy and was greeted by a threat of mass protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress.

The Senate leadership clearly took the side of the people, making a passionate commitment to ensuring that the interest of workers and the generality of Nigerians are respected by the Executive Arm. It was the Senate that eventually brokered the compromise between the Labour Union and the Government to avert what would have been the mother of all protests.

That tendency to take the side of the people also came to the fore recently, when the Senate President urged governors to do more for the people in their states to beat the hunger and hardship in the land.

Indeed, Akpabio’s effort would go down history lane as the boldest attempt by a Senate President to take to the side of the people at such a trying time and he did so against the behemoth, which Nigerian governors have become.

“So, the state governments have a lot to do. They are closer to the people. My belief is that if the state government does what is needed, then the local government will be involved in sharing to make sure that these things get to the people. But we must not overlook the fact that Nigerians are not going to be interested in stories. Nigerians want to see action. Nigerians want to eat and we will provide food for them, there is no excuse. Despite what we met on the ground,” Akpabio had said in February 2024, when he made the passionate appeal to the state governments regarding the hunger and deprivation being faced by the people across the country.

No, that appeal was not only for Southerners, it was for all Nigerians.
While one cannot say that Senator Akpabio- led Senate has not made one or two mistakes here and there, which his leadership has also learnt from and has taken the initiative to become better, the Akpabio leadership has obviously not done anything to deserve the animated attacks and horse trade against it in the wake of Ningigate.

It is imperative to note, therefore, that trying to give the anti-Akpabio agenda a Northern coloration will fail and has already failed, because it is, entirely, a selfish agenda by the very few Senators using the Northern Senators Forum to further their unpatriotic agenda.

I must also point out that if the collective desire is for Nigeria to work and for President Tinubu to get things right with the Nigerian Project, then the country cannot afford the usual ruckus that moves against a sitting Senate President always generate. So, those shouting nail him to the cross against the former Minister of the Niger Delta, should sheathe their swords and perish the evil agenda in the interest of the nation.

Similarly, leaders of thought and opinion molders in society, especially from the Northern part of the country, should also warn such people of the ill-advised path.

 

Maikiyari writes from Azare

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