By Benjamin Atu
As the current 8th Assembly folds away, the expectations of Nigerians from the 9th Assembly will be determined by the leadership structure. Leadership is secondary to the primary responsibility ofgood governance yet without viable and responsive leadership the expectations of Nigerians from the 9th Assembly may not be fulfilled. Plato, in his famous book, The Republic, painted a graphic picture of the Kind of person to be trusted with political power because political power is like a sacred fire which only circumcised hands can handle. He also wrote on who has the capacity to move a polity forward to a glorious height of socio-economic development.
Such an individual must be like no other than Senator Francis Alimikhena with practical wisdom, visionary insight, equipped with knowledge acquired through learning. Such individual he described as the philosopher King. This analysis is therefore inline with the public expectations that the incumbent Deputy Chief whip of the Senate will emerge as the Deputy President of the 9th Senate going by the party zoning arrangements.
Those who are at war against the APC zoning formula which has favored South-South to produce the next Deputy Senate President must be reminded that, ” Nigerians didn’t give them mandate to go and pursue leadership position in the Senate but mandate to pursue good governance and burning national issues. The controversy against the South-South from producing the Deputy Senate President is needless because South-South seems to have been cut off from the leadership structure in the National Assembly. Nigerians want to see a proactive National Assembly that will devote itself to rigorous thinking rolling up sleeves to forge a new prosperous Nigeria.
The change that Nigerians vote for is a change from poverty, misery, and hopelessness to a life of prosperity. This should form the bedrock of our struggle and not the ongoing needless battles of leadership against the party directives. We have come a long way and INEC must come out with deliberate policy against indiscriminate defection which has made legislators to have little or no regard for their party under which they contested election. The supremacy of political party must be sacrosanct because that is the practice in developed nations. The 9th National Assembly should justify the privilege of representation vested on them by making laws that will renew our infrastructure, reform various sectors, create jobs and boost agriculture. A change from a pervasive culture of fear to a life of prosperity happiness and confidence, a change from impunity and elite arrogance to a life of accountability and respect for the common man. These are the change that the 9th National Assembly must strive to bring to bear and not the current wave of power tussle that has polarized our national democratic symbol. It is the expectations of Nigerians that the Cold War in the National Assembly will not escalate to physical combats as in the days of Obasanjo.
The quest for the Deputy Senate President position by Senator Francis Alimikhena is for him to pay the high price of his higher calling. As a circumcised hands that can handle the sacred fire of political power the Deputy Whip of the senate has proven to be the best man for the job from all levels of evaluation. This was why Voltaire Wrote that “All men are born equal; it is not birth but virtue that make them different ” While the ambition of others to the seat of Deputy Senate President may be a cross that Nigerians need to bear and endure for the next four years, the ambition of Senator Alimikhena is a crown that is long overdue for the South-South geo political zone as a square peg in a square hole to salvage the system from structural abnormalities. The South-South has been deprived of this privilege for several years yet this is the financial oil milk zone of the nation. How long shall we continue to muzzled the mouth of the cow that produced the milk?
The agitation of the South East cannot be justify because since the inception of democracy in Nigeria, the South East has occupied the position of Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively than any other Senatorial zone. The constant show of Strength in choosing our leaders has constantly made us to lose the best hands because Adulf Hitler himself believe that “Conflict is in the interest of the strong and not the wise” We have for too long mistake Might for Rights as nation.
We must avoid the leadership tussle of the first Assembly in 1999 when within few months after the inauguration the leadership of both chambers were removed. Again, by August 2000,another leadership crisis engulfed the senate as its president was impeached. Between 1999 and 2007, the leadership of the Senate was changed five times and all from South East follows: Senator Evan Enwerem President of the Senate between June – November 1999,Chuba Okadigbo President of the Senate November 1999- August 2000, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim president of the Senate between August 2000-June 2003, and Senator Adophus Wabara President of the Senate July 2003 – April 2005. The trend continues as Senator Ken Nnamani retained the seat as Senate President April 2005 –June 2007. The Eastern zone has retained the seat of Deputy Senate President since June 2007 till date. Senator Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President June 2007 – 2019.Nigerians are appealing to the South East not to allowed their personal interests to becloud their national outlooks. Not only has the South East dominated the number one and number two seat in the Senate, the Same South -Eastern zone has occupied the number two seat in the House of Representatives between 1999 – 2005 Hon Chibundom Nwuche and Hon Emeka Ihedioha 2011 – 2015. The South -South should not be deprived of this opportunity for the first time.
Nigeria is fast becoming a country without citizen because everyone regards their ethnic interest than the national interest. The ongoing leadership battle ahead of the 9th assembly can best be resolved through the core values of true federalism. The use of force and violence in choosing our leaders has made our constitution a mere status book for reference and not for obedience. Based on the actions of our political actors it is obvious that Nigeria is not a nation state. Because a nation state is a people who share same believe who could lay down their lives to defend their nation because their nation also defend them.
For the 9th National Assembly to accomplish the legislative agenda set for them by Nigerians, we need a radical change in leadership structure in order to achieve our national objectives and projections. The 9th assembly cannot fulfilled its mandate and be alive to their responsibilities when fractured leadership are in position. Hopes are high that the 9th Assembly will be actively alive to their core responsibility and constitutional mandate of making laws for good governance by narrowing policies to specifics in order to address prevailing realities. Nigeria is confrontedby endemic corruption, widespread debilitating poverty; mass unemployment; crass insecurity and insurgence. The 9th Assembly must come out decisively and adopt definite measures in revamping our economy, job creation and stabilize our democracy through the establishment of basic infrastructure that will move our nation from the Third World Countries to a developed and self-reliance nation. For this noble and all important tasks to be accomplished we need a vibrant and vocal individual like Senator Francis Alimikhena who has remained focused to the ideals of our founding fathers.
In a clime where personal interest determine the societal scale of values, Senator Francis Alimikhena has remained true to his philosophy of life as a genuine gentle man. If others possessed theextent of passion of Senator Alimikhena in public service the nation would have realized the ideals of our founding fathers. This was why Von Goethe admonished that “Let everyone sweep the front of his own door and the whole world will be clean” A genuine personality who stepped out into politics with his best foot forward with the passion for service. According to a German Philosopher, Fredrick Nietzsche while describing a genuine man he said ” A genuine man is a proper simple man. A man of one meaning and of all honesty.A repository of wisdom.A Saint of knowledge and a great man.” Today like never before, Francis Alimikhena has become a movement in Edo State that everyone wants to identify with due to his sterling quality and radical departure from the usual dirty political way to a refine system of politicking. Traditional institutions, Opinion molders, Labour unions, stakeholders and political leaders across party lines have come to embraced his performance and his unique style of politicking. It was this sacred political hands that Americans found in Theodore Roosevelt that made them yelled “We would rather have Roosevelt in a Wheelchair as our President than Reagan on a horse ”
Awake into politics of under development by previous elected Senators in Edo North, Senator Francis Alimikhena cave a nitch for himself as a forest of one tree. Senator Francis Alimikhena is an allpurpose figure. Multi-dimensional in his approach to societal issues. Not controversial by nature but predictable in all his ways. This is because Senator Francis Alimikhena has constituted himself as a one man squad an all purpose forest meeting diversity of need and interest simultaneously in his desire to fast track development in his constituents. His emergency as Edo North Senator marked a paradigm shift in Edo North Politics. Refined in character with uncommon intellectual capacity, he has accomplished in four years what no other Senator was able to achieve in eight years since the inception of democracy in our land. For the first time the people of Edo North was made to realize that the duty of legislature was beyond law making but entails constituency relations and infrastructural development which was evenly distributed among every communities, towns and villages in Edo North. The continuous echo of the Oracle of development as Senator Alimikhena is popularly known was as a result of his strides of honour in terms of infrastructure.
A veteran in development, who has delivered on his campaign promises to the electorate, live above board in his political sojourn as one of the most decent and incorruptible Nigerian in public service who has never been linked to any allegations of corruption or self enrichment. A quintessential and cerebral politician.Urbane and gentle with the carriage of statesmanship. His public spiritedness is the first of its kind. A careful monitor of his utterances shows a display of statesmanship whose focus is how to collaborate in positioning our nation on the path of development. An unassuming and modest personality, Senator Alimikhena never seeks self praise rather the happiness of others gives him reason to thrive. His compassion for the have nots in the society knows no bound. In the sphere of infrastructural development Edo North witness drastic rural electrification that spanned across all nooks and crannies of the senatorial district. Rural roads project, Health Centres, Solar street lights, water projects, huge support for indigent students and the ongoing conversion of the Auchi Polytechnic into a City University of Technology are all the collective desire and aspirations of the Edo North people as an input which has been converted into output through public policy and enactments.
Senator Alimikhena is one Nigerian that is driven by his convictions and pursued his goals in life with caution by consciously refraining from argument or controversy. As a strong advocate for better society and believer in the equitable distribution of political power, Senator Alimikhena will help in promoting policies that will enhanced the lives of Nigerians when he emerged as the Deputy Senate President. Due to the non controversial nature of SenatorAlimikhena, it is easy to know his stand on every issue and humble enough to give you convincing reason for taking whatever position he took. I think the 9th Senate should appreciate one of their own who has dedicatedly served the nation in the military and stood out as a brave, courageous and fearless leader in his service to the nation.
At this critical point of our democratic journey as a nation, we need leaders who are selfless and not self seeking. We need to build our nation on the core values of participatory democracy. We need to change our definition of Politics as “War without bloodshed” This was why Franklin Roosevelt a former American President raised the edifice of the American century by restoring a nation’s promise and intervening to save a World envelope in darkness, to the one who wants to serve. He says ” It is not he who point how the strong stumbles, but those who have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is in the arena -whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood. ” It was the indwelling sacrifice for the better life for us all that took Jesus to the Cross for Christians, Mumhammad for Muslims, Mahatma Ghandi for Indians, Nelson Mandela for South Africans, Albert Einstein to science and today Nigeria is still in search for such selfless leadership who will put the nation back on track on the ideals of our founding fathers.
Not alien to breaking new ground, it is expected that Senator Francis Alimikhena will break more new grounds in the 9th Assembly through the collective will of parliament. As the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Francis Alimikhena demonstrated an uncommon capacity and one among many was the chairing of the new minimum wage committee that recommended the 30,000 new minimum wage. His love and passion for humanity and community development hasremained his mainstay. His thirst and hunger for Godliness coupled with his enthusiasm to help others and put smiles on the faces of the less fortunate has given him the best of fulfillment.
Senator Francis Alimikhena break the electoral record in the 2015 general election to emerged as the only elected APC Senator in the entire South-South and South East Geo- Political zones. ;acombination of about twelve States he was the only APC Senator. His uncommon history set the pace for the stability and hope of the All Progressive Congress APC in the South-South zone. This magnetic personality has produced many other APC Senators from theSouth-South and South East zone. The honour done by the people of Edo North by voting emmass for Senator Francis Alimikhena does not come cheap. Such honour comes with hard work and fulfilled promises. That historic victory made him to emerge as a principle officer in the fading away 8th Assembly.
He has identified with his community in all his service life. He has shown by action that the best that a person can give to humanity must start from his community. This task, he has successfully accomplished more than two decades ago by bringing all forms of development to the people of Afemai land in his early days in the public service before venturing into politics. Having served humanity and develop communities, providence granted him Grace and Favour as an elected Senator in the period and time when the nation was in search of like minds who can rescue the nation from politics of underdevelopment. A position which he has deliberately channel to the service of humanity through good deeds and developmental strides. He has traded the path of honour as a Senator of the federal republic of Nigeria. As one of the incorruptible Nigerian, it is an honour to have a refine, modest and cautious personality as the in-coming Deputy Senate President with the collective support of his distinguished colleagues as one of their own with long standing years of experience in public and parliamentary service. Our ethnic interest must not super becloud our national unity.
In case we have forgotten, the National Assembly is not an Assembly of people with hostile personal interest. In the Words of Edmund Burke the Anglo -Irish Statesman said” Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interest each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberate assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, he is a member of parliament” The consequences of the above view by Burke is the fact that ethnic or regional interests is subjective to the national interest. Every interest that is inconsistent with the national interests like every law that is inconsistent with our constitution is to the extent of theinconsistency, be void’ This ongoing agitation for power ahead of the 9th Assembly is not in the best interest of our nation.
Though it is not possible to have a 100% cordial relationship between the executive and the legislature in any democracy all over the World but the perennial leadership crisis in the National Assembly is not healthy for us as a nation. We are gradually returning back to the dark age of Medieval Europe that was characterized by series of ethnic, political and ideological war. We must stop to believe that there is no life outside government house or Presidential Villa or National Assembly. We must not rule to be known as Nigerians. The legacy of the best Government in 1999 has been eroded and forgotten by his own people. We immortalized ourselves by our conduct and not by the position occupied. Political office holders must realize that they are the most common set of persons to be forgotten because the new man on the stage usually steal the show therefore the steering of leadership war is needless. The APC has zoned the party positions and it behooves on every elected representatives to abide by their party rules and whip themselves inline as a disciplined members of society.
Senator Francis Alimikhena is in a righteous cause because the position has been zone to the South-South where he ranked high among others. It behooves on our distinguished senators to come to a compromise with him on this righteous cause. To compromise does not mean to sell out. It does not mean to sacrifice your principles. It does not mean you bend to every special interest. It means listening to the opinion of others and respecting these opinions by searchingfor consensus solution in times of division because it is within this great divide that our unity as a nation rest upon. We need leaders to rail against the status quo and put the best interest and Unity of Nigeria above their own interest. Politics has been mistaken for a blood sport as described by John Kasich it is now all about winning and only little about governing.
Infact the too many stakes in the leadership of the 9th Assembly has gotten us where the middle ground has collapsed around us and we ‘ve been left on either edge of precipice- afraid to take a side in any direction. We are all driven by our own impulses. Nigerians has unconsciously adopted the colonial policy of double allegiance which made people to be more loyal to their tribe than to the nation. Nigeria is back to the era of promoting false marriage which has made our national integration to be difficult. National Legislators now fight for the interest of their states or ethnicity and not National assignment that they were elected to conduct.
The business of government should be value business like any other. The best hands must be given the Opportunity to lead the rest. I hope the actors of the 9th assembly are reading? Because leadership is not about talking but action. The team spirit of legislative house must be revived. We cannot continuously be divided on purpose or separated in interest. The person who can give us a sense of hope is the one who knows the human condition and can encourage us to face the reality of life. This is the whole essence of drumming support for the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate as the next Deputy Senate President as an advocate of the masses with passion for the less fortunate such a man understood the human condition and will better the lots of Nigerians when supported in this all important national assignment. It is beyond regional struggle but about public interest.
Whatever becomes the end result of this political chess game in the Senate no doubt Senator Alimikhena has the good will of his colleagues to emerge as the next Deputy Senate President. Because as at today it seems Unity and equity in the Senate are on the run. As a nation we need the wisdom and uncommon wit of Senator Alimikhena in wieldering our polarized political system that is divided along party and ethnic lines. Our political choice should be based on competence and not sentiment. The sanctity of party supremacy must not be traded away. Political class must set the basics foundation of respecting the platform that produced them and gives them a voice. That is he first step in restoring our national integrity. We cannot uphold in our nation what we cannot promote in our individual life as leaders through unchecked discipline.
In his book standing for something John Kasich criticized our wrong perception about politics. People have defined politics from how they have been able to win election and retaining office. Politicians should ask themselves how they would want to be remembered. Most politicians will have their foot prints washed away by the next wave of politicians. We must all therefore build our struggle around the service of humanity. It is not the position you occupy that determines your impact in life, it is a life style. Once you do not have it you cannot fake it irrespective of your political office. This is the plus factor that has made Senator Francis Alimikhena a distinct personality. The writer of this article was one of those who benefited from the educational empowerment initiatives of the Edo North Senator without having any close familiarity with him from the street.
His stint in office has proved him to be development minded and infrastructure led individual. His pursuit for regular empowerment program has resulted to massive wealth creation for Edo North farmers and artisans. His employment boost have remain palpable and unassailable. The demonstration of statesmanship and one man liberation army of Edo North, Senator Alimikhena has elevated governance by ensuring all parts of Edo North benefits from his developmental strides. This was why Jesse Jackson said ” Our democracy must be a monarchy where everyone is a crown King” A man of buoyant spirit and heart of benevolence, a refuge to the oppressed who has shown that true change must be purposeful and no stone be left behind in the effort to restore Edo North to prosperity.
Born on the 20th of September 1947 the young Francis Alimikhena attended his basic education in Edo State and study law at the University of Buekingham, attended Nigeria law school and called to the Nigeria Bar and devoted his life to practically defending the course and rights of the less fortunate. He is a member of various learned societies.
Senator Francis Alimikhena has proved himself worthy of every sphere of human endeavor. People who have had the opportunity to work with him have testified of his amiable and friendly disposition. This has endeared him to many and has made working with him very easy. Therefore as the in -coming Deputy Senate president, working with Senator Francis Alimikhena will be the best experience the Nigeria senate will ever experience since the past twenty years of our democratic journey.
Benjamin Atu is a Journalist an public affairs analyst. wrote from ABUJA [email protected]