Home OPINION COMMENTARY Senate, Under Akpabio, Retools For Strength, By Ken Harris

Senate, Under Akpabio, Retools For Strength, By Ken Harris

Godswill Akpabio
The screening of President Bola Tinubu’s ministerial nominees came to a conclusion last Wednesday amid high drama when one of the last three nominees collapsed during his screening before the Committee of the Whole of the Senate.
The three nominees screened on that day were Dr Jamila Bio Ibrahim (Kwara) Balarabe Lawal (Kaduna) and Ayodele Olawande (Ondo).
Incidentally, expectations on that day were fixed on the two youthful nominees earmarked to handle the Youth ministry.
Miss Bio Ibrahim, 37 and Olawande, 34 are about the youngest to have been nominated as ministers and join the league of the minister of humanitarian development, Dr Betta Edu to marking out the Tinubu administration as about the most youthful administration in the country’s history.
However, the third nominee, Lawal was, however, a contrast and came as a chip from the old bloc who at 65 years is about twice the age of each of the other two ministerial nominees screened on that day.
As the screening proceeded last Wednesday with Dr Bio many who were watching the event on television were gripped with the confidence, carriage and capacity of the lady.
She had actually come prepared. Her father about 12 years ago also passed through the Senate to be confirmed as a minister during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Senator Goodswill Akpabio who was presiding also showed his ability despite being of the older generation to guide the Senate to connect with the verve and vibrancy that came from Dr Bio.
Following her, Lawal who showed more maturity came to the dais. Lawal was nominated to replace Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the immediate past governor of Kaduna State. Lawal had served as Secretary to the State Government and he is reputed to have held that office the longest in recent history.
Following his introduction of himself as Senator Sunday Katung from Kaduna South stood up to speak on the nominee who was born in his constituency, the nominee collapsed setting everyone in confusion.
Senator Akpabio, however, took charge giving instructions first for the revival of the nominee. Within minutes the nominee was revived and was back on his feet as he blamed the collapse on exhaustion.
The fact that nothing untoward happened to the nominee goes a long way to show that the National Assembly is itself well kitted for such emergencies. Indeed, Dr Jamilia Bio remarkably had during her screening disclosed that she served in the National Assembly Clinic passing her service there as satisfactory.
Another remarkable takeaway from the unfortunate incident was the instruction by Akpabio to the media to turn off their cameras, giving the human side of Doctor Akpabio as he took charge with calmness during the rowdy minutes while the nominee was on the floor.
Meanwhile, a school of thought is of the opinion that the unfortunate incident put a lie to the claim by some that Senate ministerial screening is a walk in the park.
As the nominee himself said his slump had to do with exhaustion.
“I’m alright now. I’ve been treated and I’m alright now. It was basically exhaustion,” underlining the fact that appearing before the Senate on anything is surely not a walk in the park.
The Senate in the last week also strengthened its rules with the amendment of its standing rules to allow only senators with cognate experience in the legislative body to be elected as presiding officers; to wit, as Senate President or Deputy President of Senate.
The amendment according to a Senate source is to give the legislative body the best leadership at every opportunity.
“In the media you don’t appoint a reporter as editor-in-chief, do you? So in the Senate the body is being equipped that henceforth that only senators who have served at least once in the Senate aspire to be Senate President or Deputy Senate President.”
Though the Constitution through Section 50 allows the Senate to regulate itself, the legislative body through Rule 3 sub section 2 had created a lacuna that allowed first timers to aspire for the office of Senate President.
While some may link this to the bid by Senator Abdulazziz Yari against Akpabio during the leadership election, few, however, believe that it was essentially targeted at Yari given the fact that the former Zamfara State governor had already pledged loyalty to Akpabio and may well have buried his dream at least for now.
Ken Harris is a public affairs commentator in Abuja.

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