By Onche Odeh
On June 2, exactly four days after the inauguration of the new government, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu announced the appointment of immediate past Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume as Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), a position that was hitherto, held by Adamawa State born Boss Mustapha.
The appointment of Akume, a two-term governor of Benue State may have shocked many. But for close watchers of political events in Nigeria, his appointment was a confirmation of the speculations that dominated the space about who would occupy the position considered the fulcrum of governmental administration in Nigeria.
Having worked to deliver Benue State in the 2023 Presidential and governorship elections against all odds, in addition to the unwavering commitment he has shown to the All Progressives Congress (APC) since he crossed over from the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) under which he served as two-term governor, it was no surprise that his name came up strongly when considerations about who occupies the coveted position were being put together.
Akume’s pedigree and job description
President Tinubu acknowledging Akume’s virtues with a handshake after inaugurating him as 21st SGF
Akume is obviously a perfect fit for the position, as his pedigree speaks volume of a man that is well groomed for the job.
Akume, a seasoned civil servant, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the same institution. He has had a long and distinguished career in Nigerian politics, serving as the Governor of Benue State from May 29, 1999, to May 29, 2007.
After his tenure as governor, Akume transitioned to the federal level of politics and served as a senator representing Benue North-West Senatorial District from 2007 to 2019. During his time in the Senate, Akume also held the position of Senate Minority Leader, where he played a crucial role in coordinating the activities of the minority party and advocating for his constituents.
In 2019, Akume was appointed as the Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In this role, he was responsible for overseeing intergovernmental affairs and executing special duties assigned by the President.
As the SGF, Akume would be coordinating and supervising the activities of various ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) of the government, as well as provide advice and guidance to the President and the Cabinet on policy matters and ensure the implementation of government policies.
The SGF organizes and coordinates the meetings of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the highest decision-making body of the government.
Similarly, the SGF oversees the recruitment, training, and management of civil servants at the federal level. They maintain discipline, ensure compliance with rules and regulations, and promote professionalism within the civil service.
The SGF plays a crucial role in organizing official ceremonies, state functions, and managing protocol matters. They also work closely with security agencies and stakeholders to address security challenges and manage emergency situations.
Furthermore, the SGF serves as a point of contact between the federal government and state governments, facilitating communication, collaboration, and coordination between the different tiers of government.
As the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the effective functioning of the Nigerian government by coordinating administrative activities, providing policy advice, and overseeing intergovernmental affairs.
Akume’s predecessor, Boss Mustapha, is convinced that his successor will justify the confidence reposed in him by the President.
The former SGF, who spoke after Akume was sworn-in pointed out that the job of the SGF is a tough one and advised Akume to brace up for the challenges ahead.
“This is a tough job; I wouldn’t want to mince words about that. It is an extremely important office in terms of coordination of government’s activities and also stringing government policies, programmes and projects. It is his responsibility to guide the government so, there is enormity. Under his office he has six permanent secretaries, so, it is a combination of five to six ministries in one place that will be reporting to him on different agencies,” Mustapha said.
The former SGF noted that the most important part of the office of the SGF is the fact that he is the beam light of this government in terms of driving, coordination and policy formulation.
“It is not a small job, but I am confident that he has been ably prepared and groomed for this job and I believe he will take the office a notch higher than where I am leaving it,” he said.
Flurry of godwills
SGF, Akume received Governor of Nigeria’s Northcentral states led by Rev. Hyacinth Alia of Benue who visited his Abuja home to conmgratulate him
Meanwhile, it has been serial prayers of goodwill for Akume from all quarters since his appointment as SGF.
One of such is coming from the Governor of Benue State, Hyacinth Alia, who joined the long list of dignitaries to encourage Akume.
Expressing happiness over the choice of a Benue son as SGF, Gov Alia said, “I am full of enormous joy. It is a factor of exaltation. Out of the many states, Benue is chosen and it’s one of our sons whom we are all proud of. We know his requisites; we know what he has offered in the past decades for the state and for the nation. We are very confident that he is again going to deliver and the nation is going to be proud that our choicest man for Benue is selected and sworn in for this great job.”
Similarly, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has extended a hearty congratulation to Akume on his appointment as the new SGF.
In a statement signed by the Director General, Professor Doknan Sheni, the NEF said the appointment of Akume as the SGF will again give Nigerians from North and South the opportunity to benefit from his vast experience.
The forum used the occasion to hail the past contributions of Akume to the past activities.
“The NEF fondly remembers your contributions to its numerous previous activities and rates you as a true Pan Nigerian. Your appointment to the position of SGF will again give Nigerians from North and South the opportunity to benefit from your vast experience.
“As you assume this exalted National Position, we wish you God’s guidance and wisdom,” the group stated.
Akume, a native of Wannune in Tarka Council Area of Benue State was born on 27th December 1953.
Akume is one of the prominent Benue politicians that have served in the capacity of a governor, senator and minister. Akume served as Governor of Benue State at the same period when Tinubu served as governor of Lagos. This probably explained the camaraderie between the two.
Prior to now, Akume was also elected under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as the Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Benue North West senatorial district. He was also the Chairman Senate Committee on Army during his political period in the Red Chamber.
Former President Muhammadu Buhari appointed George as the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs since August 21, 2019.
His recent appointment as SGF has rekindled hope for proper representation of Benue State at the national level, just as Nigerians are excited that he would be bringing the dynamism that he is known for into administration of the government.