On Wednesday, August 21, 2019, Senator George Akume was assigned the Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs following his nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari in July.
The ministry, just as the name implies, is distinct and serves as “strategic tool for grassroots development, effective implementation and monitoring of government policies and programmes for National Development”, as the mission reveals.
Due to the distinctiveness of the ministry, the choice of Senator Akume as the man for the job didn’t come as a surprise to those who understand the antecedents of both President Buhari and the Minister.
Senator Akume, as has been severally described, is one of the very few detribalised Nigerian leaders, who is distinguished, not just as a former Senator but in terms of his commitment to religious tolerance, peaceful coexistence, unity and development of Nigeria.
This may have underscored his appointment as a leader that oversees a ministry meant to serve as a platform for the effective and efficient delivery of the gains of national transformation through the implementation of constituency projects, performance of special duties as assigned by the President and conducting inter-governmental dealings. He is expected to boost and sustain the momentum of the Next Level Agenda of the present administration.
Rightly, at one of his first official functions on assumption of office, while participating in the Nigerian Local Government Summit,2019 organized by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Honourable Minister in his speech gave an indication that he was in the business of refining the duties of the ministry when he called for a radical shift from the current practice of the local government administration and management in Nigeria where their creation and dissolution is at the mercy and whims of state governors and state assemblies.
As a tier of government that is closest to the grassroots populations in national politics, he stressed on the need to see the status of local governments beyond the binoculars of state appendages as they are critical in directly affecting the lives of the people.
To this extent, the Honourable Minister decried the current electoral practice where the responsibility to conduct elections into local government elective offices in Nigeria is left entirely in the hands of state governments/governors who hardly take into cognizance the rational bearing and wishes of the rural population in electing local officials.
According to him, the use of State Independent Electoral Commissions as state creations to arbitrarily impose leadership on local communities in the name local government elections has further worsened the prospects for a true autonomy of local governments.
On financial autonomy of local governments in the country, the Honourable Minister averred that the only way to ensure a proper and viable financial autonomy of local governments in Nigeria rests with the ability of the Federal Government to strengthen punitive measures and audit alarm mechanisms on local government intervention funds and statutory allocations through the activities of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit in collaboration with security agencies of government.
Speaking from experience as the first Governor of Benue State to have completed two terms in office, he spoke with understanding of the core mandate of his Office, which also include monitoring the implementation of federal Executive Council decisions.
The mandate clearly relates with his track records and antecedents of value addition in whatever office he has occupied in his political career and the civil service.
As one who rose to become a permanent secretary before retiring to venture into politics and became a governor, senator and now a minister without a single corruption case, Senator Akume is a round peg in a round hole, especially as a bachelor’s degree graduate of Sociology and holder of a master’s degree in Labour Relations from the University of Ibadan.