By Ukpono Ukpong
President Bola Tinubu yesterday inaugurated Senator George Akume as the 21st Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
The former Governor of Benue State and immediate-past Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs took the oaths of allegiance and office in a ceremony held at the Council Chambers, State House in the presence of the President, Vice President Kashim Shettima, and senior government officials.
Akume, 70, was Governor of Benue State from May 1999 to May 2007.
Following his tenure as governor, he was elected into the National Assembly as the Senator, representing Benue North West Senatorial zone in 2007.
Senator Akume was re-elected in 2011 and 2015, demonstrating the trust reposed in him by his constituents.
During his term in the Senate, Akume served as Minority Leader from June 2011 to June 2015.
Prior to his political career, Akume started work as a civil servant in the Benue State Civil Service in 1979 as a Land Officer.
Over the years, he held various positions in both the State and Federal governments, retiring voluntarily as a Federal Permanent Secretary, Establishments and Management Services, in 1998.
Speaking to reporters after his inauguration, Akume said: ”It is an honour to be chosen to serve in this exalted position out of over 200 million Nigerians. It is a challenge to serve in line with the oaths I have taken today. I assure Nigerians I will do my best, and I will not disappoint the President.
”I will not disappoint this country; I will not disappoint my party. I believe Nigerians will find fulfilment in my responsibility as I discharge my duties.”
Also present at the ceremony were the Governor of Benue State, Fr Hyacinth Alia, Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, the wife of the SGF, Hon. Regina Akume, some former governors, the leadership of the All Progressive Congress, family members, and well-wishers.
Addressing State House Correspondents after the swearing-in, Akume expressed delight to have been appointed by President Tinubu to serve as the SGF from amongst the over 200 million Nigerians.
“I am elated to serve in this exalted position out of over 200 million Nigerians. It’s a challenge, a challenge to solve in line with the oath I took today a few minutes ago.
“I assure Nigerians I will do my best, I will not disappoint the president, I will not disappoint this country, I will not disappoint my party. I believe Nigerians will find fulfilment in my responsibilities as I discharge them.”
Also speaking, the Benue State Governor, Rev Fr. Hyacinth Aliah said “It is an honour for one to serve his country, it’s a sign of joy and I’m strongly persuaded that by the grace of almighty God I will do my best; and Nigerians will really have to reap the dividends of democracy.
“I am someone who has been on the scene for quite some time. And you know the man we are serving as president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We just have to follow his footsteps. He has never been in the gallery, you know. The galleries, according to resonate, are full of critics. He has always been in the arena, down in the arena, are the doers. He’s always the doer. And so we have to tag along. We must never afford to fail.”
Similarly, the former SGF, Boss Mustapha, expressed optimism that with the wealth of experience garnered over the years but Sen. Akume, there’s no doubt that he was well equipped for the job.
When he was director of protocol in the Government House of Benue state under the leadership of Reverend Father Moses Adasu.
“So, he has come a long way, he has garnered a lot of experience, both as an administrator as a legislator, as a minister, in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari, so I have no doubt that he’s prepared for the job, and he’s definitely going to succeed.”
On what advice he will give Akume as his predecessor, Mustapha said, “Yeah, well, this is a tough job. I wouldn’t want to mince words about it. It is an extremely important office in terms of coordination of government activities and stringent government policies, programs, and projects.
“It is his responsibility to guide the government. So there’s organisation. Under his office, we used to have seven Permanent Secretaries, but it’s now reduced to six. So it’s a combination of almost six ministries in one office that will be reported to him with different agencies.
“But the most important part of this office is the fact that he is the beam light of the government in terms of driving, coordination, and policy formulation. So it’s enormous. It’s not a small job, but I’m confident that he has been ably prepared and groomed for this job, and I believe that he will take the office a notch higher while leaving it,” said the immediate past SGF.