By Austin Isikhuemen
The 10th Senate was inaugurated in June 2023. Made up of a lot of first timers and many returning ‘ranking’ distinguished senators, we also expected them to ‘hit the ground running’. That is a term that has been so bandied about of recent that young men wedding now even say they too would hit the ground running after reception. Have they hit the ground running? Oh yes. In what direction in particular? That is million-dollar question!
The Honourables are gradually settling down and the new comers are learning the ropes of legislative practices and etiquette. Quite a few, who held sway as governors and had managed rubber-stamp assemblies whose breathing rate they determined at will, must be feeling that the freedom here is enormous. Many have not yet spoken a word except when it is time to ‘aye’ or ‘nay’ to the Senate President’s gavel. They are watching and the ranking guys probably remind them that they are their seniors, and they must learn the ropes.
We have seen a former governor put his foot in his mouth, in a manner of speaking, and the senate made him beat a quick retreat and apologise profusely to his fellow distinguished senators. He must have rued the day he had to do that and wondered if these had been house of assembly members when he was the State’s talk-na-do whether they would have dared talk to him not to talk of making him to recant in plenary. Times have changed. He will bid his time and filibuster in due course.
We also saw some new senators take tentative steps and make the motions of law making like drivers using a learner’s permit but without the red letter “L” hanging on their necks. We also watch the adepts marshal their points, move motions and second moved motions, use the rules book to puncture holes on the premise on which their colleagues want to hang their argument or gently nudge the new presiding President, a ranking senator, to take the right route. It has been interesting indeed. We have seen some move a motion they know would be of no effect but would make him visible on national TV and social media. His aide in the gallery would use his powerful android smartphone phone to record his performance and share it among his constituents and social media as evidence of his effective representation in Abuja.
According to Kizz Daniel, our music icon on his award-winning Buga track, “so far so good”. They have, with amazing alacrity, approved the 500 billion naira ‘virement’ that the Presidency asked for. This is understandable since the funds were required for the yet to be worked out palliatives needed to allow the poor to breathe and stay alive after the abrupt removal of the accursed fuel subsidy. That approval reminded us of distinguished Ahmed Lawan era where loan application approvals appeared to be the primary purpose of the Senate. Oh, I almost forgot, Senator Lawan sits pretty in this 10th Senate and his imprimatur cannot be wiped out so soon in his presence. Otherwise, he too can ‘kill some bills to death’ with his influence using his language in the plenary of the 9th Assembly. He probably led the platoon that made the ex-governor who had excoriated his era to recant. That is called legacy protection! The main difference between Lawan’s genuflecting era and this is unfolding Akpabiosis is that when the two Presidents meet, the Aso Rock President merely winks and the gavel holder winks back in return and matter is settled.
However, the 10th Senate’s Akpabiosis has just begun and only those not watching closely would miss its sights, sounds and aroma. But, first, what is Akpabiosis? I can assure you that no dictionary in print has that word as at today. It is my own coinage in a fit of insightful clairvoyance and interpretative demagogy inspired by the current Senate President’s entertaining, surprising, sometimes annoying and revealing manoeuvres. The senate has transited from a Lawan-style presiding, where a Senator revealing that his judge spouse has been a judicial helping hand to fellow senators, and he is told it is ‘not a good idea’ to say that. It has now moved to a new senate where revelations of additional senatorial pecks will come freely to the hungry populace via national televisions. It also includes an ability to display a dexterity in language switch that converts unearned allowance alerts to prayers for traveling mercies! This transition is what I have named Akpabiosis.
What are the symptoms of this new phenomenon seen so far? The first was when a Senator added a prayer to a moved motion arguing that, in the words of the President, to allow the poor to breathe. The Senate President duly put it to vote. The ayes won, whereby the presiding officer pronounced that the “ayes had it”. Then he went on, jocularly, in his very humorous avuncular style to say “the poor must be allowed to breathe” laughing as he said so. He was joined in the laughter by a number of his colleagues. Nigerians did not find this funny, and they stated so on social media and TV talk shows. Senator (Mrs) Ireti Kingibe, an Ellu P member representing FCT has since defended the Senate President on Channels TV. During the discussion with Seun Okinbaloye, she looked dazzling like someone who has been breathing very well, just like Seun himself! But Akpabiosis was in the air.
Now, prayer has just been redefined in the 10th Senate. It is that thing that gives alert when sent to enable on your phone. It is token that is sent by the Clerk to the accounts of members of parliament to enable them to enjoy their holidays but quickly transforms to a prayer sent into mailboxes. Remember that it could be money that was previously called a token in case you were thinking it is the hardware piece that you got from your bank for electronic transaction authentication. Akpabiotic definitions are being compiled and should be in print within four years or so. You can book your copy by sending some prayers into a mail box to be provided at your Senator’s constituency office in your senatorial district.
Some people will recall that someone was also present at the hearing where “switch off the mic” first gained national political traction. I am not sure that mic was ever switched on after that first incarnation. Creative gurus like Yemi Shodimu have put the incidence into a song and the video remains on social media for anyone so inclined to enjoy during their own unfunded holidays. With the benefit of hindsight, that may have been a test-run of Akpabiosis. The phenomenon will lead to inadvertent releases of hidden but useful information to the public at intervals. With Akpabiosis, who needs the Freedom of Information Act?
Any busy body who wants to tell the Distinguished Senator that this writer does not mean well should perish the thought. He should know that the Senate Presidency was zoned to the people of the South South and, as a proud South Southerner, Akpabio is my representative and has a good sense of humour. I will not be surprised if I get his invitation to come over for a prayer session for the hard work involved in this my coinage of a beautiful name for another phenomenon after the Uyo Stadium was named after him. Afterall, as an uncommon Governor and now, an Uncommon Senator and Senate President with friends across divides as wide as APC, PDP, LP, EFCC, NNPP, NNPC etc, no one is more qualified than him to hold that gavel and allow us all to breathe. Corporate entities need to quickly implement their HR leave plan in line with the senate practice of going on recess after every two months of hard work with generous prayers sent to their employees’ mailboxes.
The 10th Senate has done the very hard work of stopping Nigeria from going to a surrogate war in Niger, as well as the very tasking job of checking who is good enough to be Minister even though they not what ministry. But we hear some executive corridor men saying nothing is off the table on the Niamey coup issue. In spite of the nays of the Senate? They cannot be joking. The Senate President’s visit to Aso Rock on behalf of a SAN did induce sanity into ministerial screening the other day. Rubber stamp genuflecting? No. Not this time. Akpabiosis is good enough for us. Should you decide to join the select few that might want to study this phenomenon as it unfolds after the senate’s recess, you would be delving into a new area of research called Akpabiology.
Mr Austin Isikhuemen writes from Lagos, Nigeria.