When the then-candidate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was asked what he would do if he secured victory as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the presidential campaign, he said he would “hit the ground running” immediately after his swearing-in. The phrase was not made in a vacuum, neither was it surprising to those who knew the now president’s antecedents when he ruled the roost in Lagos state as a two-term governor that he meant what he said.
And “hit the ground running” President Tinubu has, from the very first day of his presidency, as exemplified by his policy decisions that have fundamentally shifted the country’s economic tectonic plate which has since left the mouths of his detractors almost permanently agape and drooling—-six weeks into his presidency.
By the same token, when those of us who knew the antecedents of now Senate President Godswill Obot Akpabio tried to draw the attention of Nigerians to the fact that he wasn’t called an “Uncommon Governor” for nothing, having brought Akwa-Ibom state out of relative obscurity into modernity as we know it, as the state’s two-term governor when he declared his intention for the Senate President, the unbelievers dismissed us with a wave of their hands and said—-in a manner of Nigerian speak—-to us to “go and sit down” even when we were already sitting down making arguments for his bid.
But since June 14th when he was elected by his colleagues as the President of the 10th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sen. Akpabio has indeed demonstrated that he’s an uncommon public servant with his leadership credentials. And this has been exemplified by how he has not only brought stability to the Upper Chamber in particular, and the National Assembly in general in the selection process of his principal officers and the constitution of other legislative building blocks as a set of initial conditions for robust legislations but also his knack for identifying the right legislative frameworks that align with the executive branch for the nation’s economic rejuvenation—-just a month into his senate presidency.
It should be noted that on the second day after he was elected the Senate President, perhaps realizing that if President Bola Tinubu could actually “hit the ground running” on his first day on the job, he must also of necessity hit the ground sprinting on his second day on his seat, Godswill Akpabio announced the composition of an Ad Hoc Committee that would assign permanent sitting positions and offices to the senators.
Acutely aware that Nigerians have huge and justifiable expectations from both the Executive and Legislative branches of government, Senate President Akpabio quipped when composing the Ad Hoc Committee that “When you come here (from your recess) you will speak from your seat. You will have your permanent sitting positions and you are expected to move into your offices.”
On this same day, an official correspondence was sent by the Upper legislative chamber to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that it is ready to entertain any communication from the executive arm of government. The National Assembly adjourned for a 2-week recess.
On resumption from their recess on July 4th, Senate President Godswill Akpabio announced the names of eight lawmakers as majority and minority leaders for the 10th Senate with Sen. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central) as the Senate Majority Leader while Sen. Mwadkwon Davou (PDP Plateau North) emerged as the Senate Minority Leader, among other principal officers.
What’s worthy of note here is not the emergence of these principal officers per se but the seamlessness that characterized their emergence and the deftness with which Senate President Akpabio secured the bipartisan cooperation of members of the opposition parties in the Upper Chamber without acrimony.
Also on the same day, the Senate resolved to investigate a multi-million dollar deal between the federal government and Accugas, a company that supplies gas to a Generation Company (GenCo) owned by Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) following a motion raised by Aniekan Bassey, a senator representing Akwa-Ibom Northeast.
This investigation can be said to be long overdue because Accugas had issued a “notice of non-payment” to the federal government over its outstanding invoices to the tune of $15.8 million as far back as 2020 to no avail, which threatened the agreement signed by the federal government under the Gas Supply Agreement (GSA) and the World Bank Partial Risk Guarantee (PRG).
While commenting on his motion, Sen. Bassey said the agreement the federal government entered into with Accugas was also “not transparent.”
On July 6th, the Senate commenced the investigation of all the federal airports that were concessioned at the tail end of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration because of what the Upper Chamber sees as a flawed process that led to the concession which jeopardized, if not negated public interest.
The Senate decided after robust deliberations on a motion that was sponsored by Senator Suleiman Kawu Sumaila (NNPP Kano South) under the “Urgent Need to Reverse the Concessioning of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.”
The senators were unanimous in their condemnation of the entire exercise. They pilloried the Buhari administration for not doing adequate due diligence on the concession deal as “Some of the government agencies and officials that did the concession took advantage of Buhari’s passiveness at that time,” intoned Sen. Ali Ndume (APC Borno South).
On this same day, the Senate asked the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to close down all illegal motor parks in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) possibly to strengthen the city’s security architecture as well as restore the aesthetics of the capital.
The following week after the resumption of their 2-week recess came torrents of motions that culminated into more actionable resolutions in the Godswill Akpabio Senate.
Having constituted the constitutionally mandated 8 Senate Special Committees on July 11th with Senator Solomon Olamilekan Yayi (APC Ogun West) as Chairman of Appropriation and Yemi Adaramodu (APC Ekiti South) as Chairman, Media and Publicity among other committee chairmen, Akpabio’s senate went on overdrive.
Before the plenary was over on this day, the Senate said it would probe the expenses incurred by the federal government in the fuel subsidy regime as it frowned at the outrageous N9.3 trillion spent on this apparent scam in 30 months.
The motion for this probe, which was moved by Senator Chiwuba Ndubueze (APC Imo North) although commended the withdrawal of the fuel subsidy by President Tinubu, said there was still a need for the regime to be investigated.
On July 12th, the 10th Senate said it will also order a fresh probe into what’s known as the “Uneven Disbursement of N483bn MSME Loan” and Senator Dave Umahi (APC Ebonyi South) and the immediate past governor of Ebonyi State, as well as the Deputy Majority Leader, will lead a 7-member probe panel. It was also on this day that Akpabio’s Senate ordered a probe of IPPIS Officials Over Alleged Bribery and Corruption.
On July 13th, the Senate pressed the Service Chiefs to service by confirming their appointments swiftly with the already established legislative procedures.
Perhaps the Motherlode of the Senate’s marathon of activities and policy initiatives within a month was the approval of President Bola Tinubu’s request for the sum of $800 million World Bank loan as additional funds for the financing of the National Social Safety Net Programme set up by the National Assembly. The 2022 Supplementary Budget was also amended.
It is important to note that the deliberations of the 10th Senate that culminated in investigations and other policy decisions revolved around putting the nation’s economy on firmer ground along the line of President Tinubu’s pledge to create a strong, robust, leak-proof, and sustainable economy that Nigerians would be proud of. This synergy is what Senate President Godswill Akpabio meant when he said that the Senate will assist the president to create a better Nigeria for all Nigerians.
Both President Tinubu and Senate President Akpabio are acutely aware that it’s when a nation first seeks the economic kingdom that all other kingdoms can be added to her. It is when a strategic thinker with unprecedented accomplishments at the Executive helm meets an Uncommon Transformer in the Legislative redoubt that it can be truly said that Nigeria has arrived.
And the men on top of the heaps of both the First and Second Estates are just getting started.
Femi Odere is the Convener, The Godswill Project (TGP)