Inside Sen. George Akume’s Political Empire

  • His remarkable political journey
  • Facts behind his staying power
  • Who’s who among his core loyalists
  • Major beneficiaries of his political benevolence

Politics: Like Tarka, like Akume

Senator George Akume, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) appears to be stepping into the large political shoes left behind by his kinsman, the late Senator Joseph Sarwuan Tarka.

Senator Tarka was one of Nigeria’s leading politicians from Benue State who dominated local, regional and national politics for over 30 years from pre-Independence to 1980. Before Independence, he was elected or appointed into various positions, including the Federal House of Representatives, Nigerian Constitutional Conference of 1957, the Willinks Commission and shadow minister of commerce.

He was a Federal Commissioner (now called Minister) for Transport and later Communications in the General Yakubu Gowon military government. He was a founding member of the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC), a political organization dedicated to protecting and advocating for the rights of the country’s Middle Belt. In the Second Republic, Tarka was elected Senator after unsuccessfully contesting for the nomination of his party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), to contest the 1979 presidential election.

By 1980 when he died as a sitting Senator, Tarka had acquired a larger-than-life status; he was like an emperor bestriding the Middle Belt political empire. He has since been immortalized in many ways: The establishment of the J.S Tarka Political Institute Gboko, J.S. Tarka Foundation, Makurdi; the naming of a Local Government Area housing his community (Tarka) after him, and the renaming of the Federal University of Agriculture as Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi (JOSTUM).

At the time of his death, many said Tarka had left a political vacuum too big to fill. But little did they know that a kinsman of his, George Akume, a civil servant, aged 27 at the time, was coming up to step into Tarka’s large shoes. About 26 years after retiring from the civil service into politics, Akume has virtually succeeded in taking over the political space vacated by the late Senator, not through inheritance but via political astuteness reminiscent of his illustrous late brother. The SGF has held virtually all the top political positions previously occupied by Senator Tarka – and more: Party Leader, State Governor, Senator, Minister, Political Leader of the North-Central geo-political zone (roughly the equivalent of the erstwhile Middle Belt), and a mentor to many.

Today, Senator Akume is, unarguably, the most influential political figure from Benue state and the North Central geopolitical zone of Nigeria. He has been a permanent fixture in the politics of Benue state in the last 25 years. During the period, he has grown to become, undoubtedly, the most influential politician in the state. There are very few of his contemporaries who have so consistently, and for such a long time, dominated their political environment like Senator Akume.

His influence on Benue and North Central politics is only comparable to that of Senator Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos and incumbent Nigerian President, to the extent that they are the only State Governors of the 1999 – 2007 set who have succeeded in using their influence to install all their successors to date. Also, like Tinubu in Lagos state and South West, Senator Akume has been instrumental to the election or appointment of many politicians into party and public offices in Benue state and the Federal Government since his days as Governor.

 He was the first Benue State Governor to have served two terms of four years each. He is credited with being the mastermind behind the election of the three Benue State Governors that have succeeded him under two rival political parties since he vacated the office in 2007. He is also said to be the only Nigerian politician to have been elected to the Senate on the platform of three different political parties bumper to bumper.

Senator George Akume who hails from Tarka Local Government Area of Benue state, was born on 27 December 1953. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Labour Relations from the University of Ibadan.

Akume had an unbroken career in the Benue State civil service before retiring as a Permanent Secretary. He emerged on Nigeria’s political scene after his retirement from the  civil service to become the third elected Governor of Benue state in 1999. Since then, he has remained on top of Benue and national politics. His influence began to manifest right from his time as the State Governor on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He used his position as both Governor and party leader in the state to pave the way for Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam, the then member of the House of Representatives, to become the PDP Governorship candidate. Suswam eventually got elected Governor in 2007. During that year’s general election, Akume was elected Senator for Benue North West.

However, barely midway into his first term, Governor Suswam and his mentor became politically estranged, forcing the latter to defect to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), formerly known as Action Congress (AC). The party which produced Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Governor of Lagos state was regarded as a natural successor to the progressive politics more closely associated with the Action Group and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the First and Second Republics, respectively.

The arrowhead of ACN was Senator Tinubu, who was the Lagos state Governor between 1999 and 2007, concurrently with Governor Akume of Benue State. Akume’s defection to ACN at that time marked the beginning of a robust partisan relationship between him and Tinubu, which in later years, proved to be an asset to Akume in building his own political base and influence.

For the 2011 general elections, Akume picked the Senatorial ticket of ACN and handed Prof. Steve Ugba, a diplomat, the gubernatorial ticket of the party. Determined to see ACN take control of Benue state, Tinubu joined forces with Akume to give Governor Suswam, leader of PDP in the state, the political fight of his life. Suswam only managed to secure his reelection as Governor against Ugba with a slim margin but Akume won his own re-election to the Senate to represent Benue Northwest. The Senate position provided him the platform to solidify his hold on the ACN leadership.

Three years later, in 2013, ACN transformed into All Progressives Congress (APC), through merger with other parties, with Akume still as the leader in the state. This set up an epic battle between PDP, the ruling party then at the centre and Benue state, and APC in the 2015 general election. Governor Suswam guided PDP in the state to a primary election in which frontline aspirants like his Deputy, Chief Steven Lawani, Samuel Ortom, who had resigned as Minister of Industry and Investment to vie for the governorship, amongst other heavyweights, were brushed aside in favour of the relatively unknown Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. TerhemenTaazor. Suswam, on his part, picked the Senatorial ticket for Benue North East.

Within 48 hours of losing the PDP Gubernatorial ticket, Ortom ran to Akume who facilitated his emergence as APC flagbearer and winner of the 2015 Governorship election. Suswam lost his Senatorial bid to APC’s Barnabas Gemadewhile Akume won his Senatorial reelection.  PDP lost not only the Governorship but also two Senate seats to Akume’s APC, leaving PDP with only Benue South Senatorial District.

Ahead of the proclamation of the 8th Senate of the National Assembly in 2015 and the election of its leadership, Senator Akume was a leading contender for the President of the Senate and was highly favoured to clinch the top post.

Among other considerations, he is from the North Central geopolitical zone to which the office was zoned. Secondly, he was a third termer and, therefore, a ranking Senator. Thirdly, having previously served for two terms as a state Governor, he had substantial grounding in governance, policy and statecraft. Senator Akume, unfortunately, didn’t make it to the senate presidency. Senator Bukola Saraki, Akume’s colleague who won the contest, assigned him the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on the Nigerian Army.

 Earlier in the 7th Senate, Akume was the Minority Leader from 2011 to 2015 when PDP dominated the executive and legislative arms of government. During that period, he chaired important committees in the upper legislature and served in a broad spectrum of other organs of the parliament. He became something of a repository of legislative experience.

In his home state, Akume’s candidate, Samuel Ortom who won the 2015 gubernatorial election, fell out with him a couple of years later, making Governor Ortom to defect back to PDP. He contested for reelection on the platform of his ‘new old’ party in 2019 and won. Suswam, too, won the Senate seat, with Akume losing his Senatorial reelection bid.  With only one APC Senator, most House of Representatives seats controlled by PDP and the State House of Assembly dominated by PDP, it seemed that Akume and APC had lost political control of Benue state. Right? Wrong. Those who thought so failed to reckon with Akume’s doggedness, his loyal mass followership in the state and his links with the great political fighter and National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, as well as President Buhari. President Buhari who was re-elected for a second term appointed Akume as Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs while Tinubu, with an eye on the 2023 Presidential election held tight to his Benue state political ally, Senator Akume. Together, the trio of Buhari, Tinubu and Akume plotted the fall of Governor Ortom and PDP in 2023. To make things easier for them, the relationship between Governor Ortom and President Buhari deteriorated over the issue of insecurity in the state, occasioned by deadly herdsmen attacks on communities in the state. The hostile relationship between the President and the state Governor apparently strengthened the partnership and resolve of the triumvirate to dislodge Ortom and the rival PDP from political control of Benue state in 2023.

Akume deftly deployed his position and influence as the state APC leader to ensure the emergence of Hyacinth Alia, a highly revered and popular Catholic priest, as the APC gubernatorial candidate. He was pitched against PDP’s Titus Uba, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly who was the candidate of the rival PDP.

Like an icing on the cake for Akume, Governor Ortom joined hands with four other aggrieved PDP Governors (G-5) to fight against the victory of his party’s Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. This action divided the party in the state into two, with one part following Governor Ortom to vote for the Presidential candidate of Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, and the other, led by Dr. Iorchia Ayu, PDP National Chairman, standing by Atiku.

Thus, PDP in Benue state went into the Presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25, 2023 in utter disarray and they were routed by APC forces led by Senator Akume. APC won two of the three senate seats and nine out of 10 House of Representatives positions. In the Governorship and State Assembly elections that followed on March 18, Akume and his men consolidated their victory with the election of Rev. Fr. Alia as Governor and 24 out of 30 members of the state House of Assembly on the platform of APC.

One significant testimony to the huge influence of Senator Akume was the election of his wife, Regina, as member of the House of Representatives for Gboko/Tarka Federal Constituency.

Those who thought that, after over three decades in control of political power in Benue state, the political influence of the astute politician may be nearing its end were proved wrong when, on Friday June 2, 2023, Senator Akume was appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Five days later, he was sworn-in as Nigeria’s 21st occupant of the office which is easily the very heart of federal governance.

A consummate public servant, charismatic politician and inimitable legislator, Senator Akume turned 70 on December 27, 2023, an event that was celebrated in his home town, Wannune, with pomp and panache and attended by the high and mighty in the Nigerian political and bureaucratic space. It was a celebration befitting of a great hero. Indeed, Senator Akume has become a great Nigerian political hero – like his legendary kinsman, late Senator J. S. Tarka.

Sen. Akume: The man, his politics, his leadership

…Facts behind his staying power

The story is told of how, way back in 2002 during his first term as Governor of Benue State, George Akume hosted a newly elected President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). He was the first Nigerian Governor to host the NANS President and his team. When the young student sought his advice, this is what the Governor offered: “You can disarm your greatest enemy with humility.”

Twenty-two years later, in 2023, the former NANS President, Dan Onjeh, recalled of Senator Akume, in a piece to mark his 70th birthday: “The occasion enabled me to truly appreciate his sterling leadership qualities and depth of knowledge. His advice to me then still remains the cardinal pillar of my social and political growth.”

Of course, when the young student leader came of age, he pitched his tent with the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party which Akume has headed as Leader in Benue state since its formation in 2013. With the support of Senator Akume, Onjeh contested and nearly defeated the all-powerful Senate President, David Mark, in the 2015 Senatorial election in Benue South. Onjeh, also with the support of Senator Akume, was appointed Board Chairman of Projects Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu. Unfortunately, Onjeh later abandoned Senator Akume to align with a rival tendency in Benue APC. He is now effectively on the other side of the divide in Benue state APC.

The story of Senator Akume and Onjehsummarises the story of the former’s political success, influence and longevity. It is a story of humility, compassion, generosity, fair-mindedness, mentorship, loyalty and betrayal – all of which are the hallmarks of Akume’s personal and political life; they illustrate the factors that have propelled him to and sustained him at the top of his game.

Senator Akume had a quiet career as a typical civil servant in Benue State, retiring at the topmost wrung of the civil service ladder – Permanent Secretary. He, however, stepped on to the political stage with a bang, winning the Governorship of Benue state in 1999, in his first attempt. The third elected Governor of the state, Akume became the first to serve two full terms of four years each. Since 1999, Akume has occupied, through election or appointment, very high offices at state and federal levels: a two-term state Governor, three-term senator, a Minister, and now the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) – perhaps, the most powerful office after the President. That makes Senator Akume, apart from the President himself, the only man among the Class of 1999 state Governors still standing in active top-level public service.

Some of the factors responsible for Senator Akume’s political success, survival and longevity are his humility and accommodating nature, generosity, humaneness, accessibility, forgiveness, selflessness, sense of equity and balance, as well as loyalty to party and government leaders. Others are the robust political structures he has built in the state, empowerment of his followers, effective leadership recruitment, and significantly, the support of his wife.

 Senator Akume was born and brought up in his native Tarka Local Government Area of Benue State before moving out to traverse the state, the nation and beyond in the course of his educational, career and political pursuits. Coming from a disciplined, hard-working and humble background, he grew up to become a humane, sociable, and a service- oriented person; extremely kind, amiable, fair-minded and one who relates seamlessly with everyone without discrimination on the basis of class, gender, race, religion or ethnicity.

His father was one of the early political leaders who worked with his kinsman, the late Senator Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, among others, to mobilize grassroots political support in the First Republic. It would seem that this must have influenced the young Akume to join politics later in life. While in the civil service, he observed that the people were still struggling with issues of poverty, unemployment, disease, ignorance, environmental and climate challenges as well as lack of basic amenities, industries and infrastructure. When he assumed the governorship of the state, he made it obvious that the plight of the people was the reason he aspired to the leadership of the state.

Armed with his life-long knowledge of the socio-economic and political challenges of the state, he came up with a policy document tagged “The Benue Advance Plan,” which espoused the holistic vision of his administration for a modern Benue, tailored towards addressing the peculiar problems of the state.

Through this policy direction, Akumeendeavoured to promote the spirit of peaceful coexistence among the ethnic nationalities within the state. Beginning with the constitution of the cabinet, he ensured a fair and equitable representation of all the state’s constituent parts and sections. The highpoint of this was the appointment of Prince (Dr.) Ogiri Ajene of the minority Igede ethnic group as the Deputy Governor, considering the fact that the Idoma, the bigger ethnic minority, had occupied the position previously under the state’s first two civilian administrations. He also did the same balancing in the distribution and allocation of other political and socio-economic values of the state.

The Akume government sought to promote integrity, transparency and accountability in the conduct of public affairs by avowedly committing itself to the principles of true democracy, separation of powers, social justice, equity and the rule of law. He allowed opposition parties to thrive in the state. He never sought to rig out his rivals from opposing political parties once they were duly elected by their constituents. Instead, he sought their cooperation for the development and over all interest of the people. For instance, between 1999 and 2007 while he was Governor of the state on the platform of the PDP,Senator (Prof.) Daniel Saror was voted into the red chambers for two consecutive terms on the platform of the then minority ANPP. Ditto other representatives of the people from the opposition parties at the national, state and local levels. Hon. Bunde Tofi of blessed memory won his chairmanship of the Buruku Local Govt on the platform of the ANPP. Again, rather than antagonize, the Governor ensured that Buruku and other LGAs received their federal allocations and used same to execute people-oriented projects which he consistently went round to commission as Governor of the state.

 At the Federal level, Akume of PDP was the first among the sitting Governors of his time to vehemently oppose the clandestine moves by President Obasanjo, also of PDP, to secure a third term against constitutional provisions. It was not surprising, therefore, that he was able to easily join forces with other progressives to continue his people- oriented politics in later years.

His government cultivated a mutually beneficial and harmonious working relationship with the state legislature and the judiciary which accounted for the unprecedented massive growth and development across all sectors of the Benue political economy by the time he left office.  He initiated and executed projects and programmes that fostered all-inclusive, sustainable growth and development through the deliberate empowerment of the indigenous small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) so as to diversify, stimulate and boost the private sector of the local economy which was hitherto dependent upon subsistence farming and the state civil service.

To take the poor, unemployed, dependent masses out of poverty and reduce the incidents of crime and other social vices, the Governor made it a policy of his administration to patronize and empower local contractors, artisans, the youth and women through their engagement on the numerous construction and infrastructural projects and programmes in the state. This policy energized the private sector by improving the purchasing power of the citizenry, and for the first time in the history of the state, the ordinary people, including the unemployed, started setting up private small businesses, many of which were commissioned by the Governor himself. It is to his eternal credit, that many Benue citizens became car owners (The popular ‘Akume Thank You’) for the first time in their lives and many built their own houses. It was during this time that the construction of burnt brick houses became popular as they sprang up almost everywhere in the metropolis and across the state.

Some of the headline projects of the Akume administration included the building of the BIPC Owner-Occupier houses at Nyiman and along Abu King Shuluwa Road, the House of Assembly quarters, Judges Quarters, School of Health Sciences of the Benue State University, the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, the Greater Makurdi and other water works, the Benue Television Complex, among others. The government monetized and transferred the ownership of official quarters occupied by civil servants on owner-occupier basis to the occupants whose families were previously subjected to trauma on account of either retirement or death of their breadwinners. This policy brought a huge relief to innumerable civil servants and their families.

He also encouraged senior civil servants and entrepreneurs to build their private homes in a service layout which became known as “Judges Quarters.” The Governor who led by example started building his private home on the layout and before long, individuals whose incomes had improved joined in the construction of their private houses, a phenomenon that was hitherto unknown in the past dispensations when citizens were afraid of investing in modern structures for fear of being victimized by rival politicians. Today, the layout has become a mega estate and the modern houses that adorn same are comparable to those in any of the high brow areas of Abuja or any other Nigerian city.

In addition, Akume made the regular payment of salaries of civil servants, emoluments and their overall wellbeing a priority; he did not owe workers their entitlements throughout his two terms in office.

As Governor, Akume’s personal kindness and generosity touched the lives of countless citizens of Benue State. His residence was like a big food factory that fed virtually everybody that visited him. Hardly anybody visited him and left empty- handed. He was one of the pioneers of what came to be known later in Nigerian politics as ‘stomach infrastructure.’

Akume’s unalloyed commitment and loyalty to the party is another factor that has contributed to his political success and staying power. Less than three years after vacating the Benue State governorship, Akume who had been elected Senator on the PDP platform in 2007, left the party due to irreconcilable differences with his successor, Governor Gabriel Suswam. He joined the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), led by Tinubu and secured reelection to the Senate on its platform in 2011. In 2013 he was one of the ACN leaders who formed the All Progressives Congress (APC), through a merger with other opposition parties. As the ACN leader in Benue State then, Senator Akume naturally transited to APC as its leader in the state. Since then, he has given his all to APC, not minding their opposition status. Not even the loss of ACN to PDP in the Presidential, state governorship and legislative elections in 2011 discouraged him. He led his APC loyalists on a massive onslaught against the ruling PDP in the 2015 election which his party won at the presidential and governorship levels. He also secured for himself another reelection to the Senate for his third term.

Senator Akume suffered a major setback two years later when Governor Samuel Ortom whom he had brought from PDP to defeat PDP defected with the APC mandate back to PDP. Again, he was not deterred. He repositioned and restrategized, leading the party to a comprehensive victory in the 2023 elections. APC won the governorship election, two of the three senate seats, nine out of 10 House of Representatives positions (including one for his wife, Regina, for Gboko/Tarka Federal Constituency), and 24 out of 30 members of the state House of Assembly.

It is his steadfastness that has helped to sustain the structures of the APC for several years as an opposition party in Benue State. Akume has paid the last ounce of his dues in Nigerian politics, and mostly to the APC. He remains the undeniable rallying point for the opposition, not only in Benue State, but in the North Central zone.

The SGF has demonstrated similar fidelity towards the party leadership at the top. For the eight years that former Governor Ortom squared up against former President Muhammadu Buhari over insecurity in Benue state, Senator Akume stood solidly behind the latter at the risk of being accused of insensitivity to the plight of his people. He has been extending the same loyalty to Tinubu from his days as APC National Leader to this day, siding with him in the presidential bid, from pre- nomination to the 2023 elections.

Senator Akume is also reputed for his faithfulness to his loyalists. His current formidable political structures had their foundation from his time as Benue state Governor. He services the structures by carrying along the party hierarchy, loyalists and members alike through regular briefings at either state caucus or stakeholders’ meetings. The meetings afforded them the opportunity of interacting among themselves as well as with Akume. Most of the time the loyalty of these persons was not just a blind followership just to swallow the leader’s wishes hook, line and sinker.   For instance, a lot of these loyalists were said to have stood stoutly to influence his decision to approve the Jime/Ode APC gubernatorial ticket in 2019 against immense pressure to do otherwise. Likewise in the run off to the 2023 elections, this same group of core loyalists brought their influence once again to bear on the leader in his eventual choice of Governor HycinthIormem Alia as the gubernatorial candidate. This, to a very large extent, portrays the leader and the listener that the man Akume is.

There are no limits to Senator Akume’s acts of charity or generosity. He simply lives for others. It is not that he always has a war chest. He enjoys a socio-economic and political bank of goodwill that he draws from at different times. As Governor, he made sure that party chieftains were all patronized one way or the other by his administration. Moreover, he respected and sought their counsels on important national and local issues. Over the years, Senator Akume has used his good offices to pro-actively position and promote so many of these political leaders and loyalists to positions such as Governor, Senator, Minister, Commissioner, National and State party EXCO member, et cetera.

Unfortunately, some beneficiaries of Senator Akume’s political largesse have, on several occasions, been sources of his frustrations. For instance, among others, all the three Governors of Benue state – Suswam, Ortom and Alia – whose elections he facilitated, have fallen out with him or turned against him at one point or another. But rather than bring out the animal in him, such occasions elicit the spirit of forgiveness in him. Senator Akume always takes political setbacks with stoic calmness, leaving his loyalists who choose to, to take up the fight, sometimes against his wish. Akume does not reach out for the harshest adjectives or the most lethal political weapons to be used against his real or perceived betrayers or political opponents. He does not keep malice. Not for him the shouting match, physically or in the media, against his political foes typical of many other Nigerian politicians. Rather, he embraces the first available opportunity for reconciliation, at least at personal or communal level. By his acts, the SGF is a big subscriber to the school of thought which holds that, in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, but permanent interests.

Another factor that has kept the SGF going in politics is the pool of his loyalists spread across Benue state and beyond. His friendly disposition, simplicity and natural inclination towards relating with all and sundry without airs draw people closer to him. Ever accessible to the people, the former minister is firmly and constantly in touch with the grassroots. He listens intently, and as much as possible, attends to the problems of his people. That explains why he has been able to maintain a productive and result-achieving political structure in Benue State since leaving office as Governor.

From his vintage position as Senator Akume’s contemporary as state Governor, political ally of over a decade, and now his boss, no one can be better placed to affirm the true essence of Akume the person, Akume the politician and Akume the administrator, than President Tinubu. In his tribute to the SGF to mark his 70th birthday last December, Tinubu extolled the temperance, affability, harmony, and stability which Akume personifies. “He makes himself accessible, focused, and dependable in bridging the divide between policy and implementation,” the President said through his media aide, MrAjuriNgelale.

 “George Akume is one of the most reliable citizens this country can boast of. The people of Benue have attested to his sterling leadership principles and leveraged his remarkable talent for so many years because of what he has always stood for.

“He will be with you in the best of days, and even most reliably, in the worst of days. The country has been blessed with the dedication and sure-handedness of Sen. Akume.’’

With new chapters of public service just opened for Senator Akume and his supportive wife, Chief Hon. Regina Akume, the people can still look forward to many more years of meritorious leadership from their political idol.

Who’s who among Akume’s core loyalists

For the past 26 years or so, Senator George Akume, the current Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), has built his political structures in his home state of Benue State around his loyalists – technocrats, professionals, public officers, party men and women, etc. However, due to the dynamic nature of politics, the freedoms associated with democracy, as well as divergent, changing and conflicting interests, people change their loyalties over time. But, as some loyalists move on, others move in.

The SGF has had some of his loyalists desert him, some have stood with him through thick and thin, while many others have come in to keep Akume and his political machine running. We present to you below, some of the current core loyalists of Senator George Akume, in no particular order. Please note that this list may not be exhaustive or captured everybody but it has captured many of the loyalists with consistent and unweaving loyalty to Akume in the face of betrayals and loyalty crisis faced by the Akume political empire over the years.

Senator (Dr.) Jacob Tilley-Gyado

Senator Jacob Tilley-Gyado, 80, is, perhaps one of the oldest active Benue politicians and one of the pillars of the Senator Akume’s political structures.

A very abrasive politician, gifted with oratorical skills, use of language as well as benefit of knowledge and experience, Senator Tilley-Gyado is a soapbox delight sought after by any politician that knows his onions. These are the qualities the elder statesman brings to the leadership of Akume’s political family. He is one of the few core loyalists of Senator Akume whose input are considered very critical in important decision-making in the SGF’s political camp.

 Senator ‘Jack’ Tilley-Gyado, as he is popularly called, is the son of the renowned highly successful pioneer Benue businessman, the Late Dr. Jerome Tilley-Gyado, from Ihugh in Vandeikya Local Government Area. Born in 1944, Senator Tilley-Gyado was educated at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and other universities in Europe. Like his father, he grew up to also become, after a stint working with some agro-allied companies, a very successful businessman in his own right and board member of many companies across the country. His companies have served as major contractors to successive administrations in Benue state, especially in road construction.

He joined partisan politics in the Second Republic as a member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), and subsequently plied the trade in different political parties during the various transition programmes of the 1980s and 1990s. He was elected Senator for Benue North-East during the period. In the current dispensation, he pitched his tent with the PDP and has been a very close ally of successive state Governors, beginning with Akume in 1999. He re-connected with Akume after the latter parted ways with PDP and Governor Ortom. 

Since then, he has teamed up with others to keep the Akume political machine running.

Chief Simon Shango

Chief Simon Shango, a journalist, writer, technocrat, politician and mentor, is one of the closest to and most respected by Senator Akume among the SGF’s core loyalists. This is understandable. Apart from his age, knowledge, and experience, the 78-year-old elder statesman is an uncle to the former Governor and Minister. Chief Shango is part of the triumvirate that provides the ultimate link between Senator Akume and his loyalists.

Chief Shango made his name as a leading journalist in Nigeria in the 1960s and 70s when he plied his trade with the Daily Times and New Nigerian newspapers. He was a member of the management teams that set up the Nigeria Standard and The Voice newspapers for Benue-Plateau and Benue state governments, respectively.

He was the secretary of the group which championed the movement for the creation of Benue state. In the Second Republic, he joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and became its Publicity Secretary in Benue State and Deputy National Secretary.

The elder statesman has aligned himself with Senator Akume since the latter joined politics about 26 years ago.

Chief (Mrs.) Regina Akume

Senator Akume’s Loyalist-in-Chief, to capture it most appropriately, is his dear wife, Her Excellency, Hon. Mrs. Regina Akume, JP.

In addition to being a wife she has played a very consistent and pivotal role amongst her husband’s core followers. She is a woman of many parts, simultaneously taking up the roles of a wife, a mother, a diplomat, a mentor, a spiritual head and a critic all at the same time within the fold. An Akume loyalist said: “She could in all honesty be rated as a core follower too because she exhibited time and again a good understanding of issues and rendered advisory role all along, way beyond just her wifely duties. To some onlookers, she is a top-rated fan and loyalist of the Akume political movement.”

As the First Lady of the state when Akume was the Governor, she stood behind her husband like the Rock of Gibraltar. She stood visibly on and off the campaign stumps, mobilizing the support of Benue people, women in particular, for Akume and his party’s candidates in all elections. During her reign as First Lady, Chief Mrs Regina Akume used her pet project – the Hope Alive Foundation (HAF) to provide succour to the sick, the poor, widows, orphans and the most vulnerable in society.

Her election in 2023, over a sitting member, to represent Tarka/Gboko Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, was not just a reward for her husband’s outstanding leadership; it was also a statement on her political astuteness.

Chief Akange Audu

Chief Akange Audu, an Architect, was a contemporary of Senator George Akume in the civil service. Both of them retired as Permanent Secretary, at different times though, and have been together in politics since then.

 In the race for the APC gubernatorial nomination in 2015, Audu was said to be Akume’s preferred contesrant. Akume reportedly rejected Chief Barnabas Gemade’s aspiration and prevailed on another aspirant, Mike Iordye, a former Head of Service, to step down for Audu. But when it became politically expedient to bring Ortom as the APC candidate, Senator Akume sacrificed Audu’s ambition. As a true friend and loyalist, Audu lined up behind Senator Akume in the legal challenge mounted by Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Jime, the front-line contender who was sidelined in favour of Ortom in the controversial party primaries.

Audu was also reportedly the one who first mustered courage to intervene, unsuccessfully though, in the feud between Governor Ortom and Akume before the two finally fell apart.

Mathias Byuan

Dr. Mathias Byuan, the Chief Executive Officer of Abuja-based company, Byuan Resources Ltd, is an entrepreneur turned politician

He, like Senator Akume and his other supporters, started out in PDP before moving over to APC. Today, Byuan is a chieftain of APC in Konshisha Local Government Area. He aspired unsuccessfully to the Senatorial seat to represent Benue Northeast in 2011. Again, he joined the gubernatorial race for 2023 but was swept aside by the Rev. Fr. Alia ‘tsunami’ which was orchestrated by Senator Akume.

In the wake of the intra-party crisis that surfaced in the state since June last year, there have been speculations that Byuan was being positioned to replace Alia as APC gubernatorial candidate in 2027. His recent appointment as Director of Finance, Federal Housing Authority, and the wild celebration it attracted from Senator Akume’s loyalists only helped to stoke the speculations.

Comrade Abba Yaro

Until 2022, Comrade Abba Yaro, from Ogbadibo Local Government, was the one holding forte for Senator Akume on the party front. He was the Benue State Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) before transmutting to APC, also as State Chairman for nine years. He is currently the Chairman of the Benue South APC Stakeholders Forum.

His loyalty to Senator Akume remains as strong as ever as he continues to marshal other loyalists to ward off challenges to the position of his successor, Hon. Austin Agada, as the state APC Chairman.

Arch. Dr. AsemaAchado

Dr. Austin Alfred AsemaAchado, an Architecture graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, worked for eight years as a civil servant before veering into flouring private practice and business.

Arch. Achado who hails from Gwer Local Government Area of Benue State, is the founder of Angus College and Benysta College, both located in Makurdi. His other business ventures are Benysta Hotel Gwarinpa-Abuja, Benysta Microfinance Bank, Makurdi; and City Bay Park, Makurdi.

 The former Governorship aspirant on the platform of APC is the incumbent member of House of Representatives for Gwer East/Gwer West Federal Constituency. As a core loyalist of Senator Akume, Arch Achado has individually, and, through the Benue APC National Assembly Caucus, stood firmly behind the SGF in the course of the intra-party feud in Benue state.

Dr. Stephen Tsav

Dr. Stephen Tsav, former speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly and present member of the North East Development Commission, is an ardent loyalist of Sen. Akume. Since he decamped from PDP to APC some time in 2018, he has remained consistently loyal to Sen. Akume and was equally rewarded with very sensitive assignments on the recommendation of Akume, including being made the Benue State APC Deputy Chairman. He was appointed as a member of the North East Development Commission by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in July 2023, probably on the recommendation of Akume as a reward for his loyalty. As proof of his loyalty to his political mentor, he has severally stood up to speak in defence of Akume on different occasions, especially on the division within Benue APC.

Hon. Nicholas Wende

Hon. Nicholas Wende is the representative of the North Central Zone on the Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). His appointment to that position is seen as one of his rewards for his loyalty to Senator George, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and an undisputed political leader of the North Central zone.

 Wende who hails from Kwande Local Government Area of Benue state was born in Jos, Plateau State, on May 11, 1970. He obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Building from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria.

As a politician, Wende has served in various capacities, notably as the Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Benue State. He chaired the Benue State Committee on Flood and Erosion Control from 2015 to 2017. As a testament to his leadership and expertise, Wende was appointed Chairman of the Governing Board for the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute, Ilorin, from 2018 to 2022 and also served as a Member of the Governing Board for the Nigerian Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, Abuja, during the same period. He played pivotal roles in addressing the Kwande/Cameroon Border Crises. He was one of the APC Governorship aspirants in Benue State in 2022.

Hon. (Mrs.) Beckie Orpin

An ace broadcast journalist, Public Affairs Commentator and Public Relations expert, Mrs. Beckie Torkwase Orpin was brought into public limelight as the Chief Press Secretary to Senator George Akume during his eight-year reign as the Governor of Benue State ending in 2007.

Since then, Orpin has become a permanent fixture in Akume’s political circle, serving in various media-related and political offices through appointments and elections facilitated by her political benefactor. The former broadcaster with the state-owned Radio Benue served as Chief Press Secretary to Mrs. Margaret Icheen, the first female Speaker of a Legislative Assembly in Africa. Mrs. Orpin was both an elected and Caretaker Chairman of Gboko Local Government Area. She was appointed Media Assistant to Senator Akume when he was the Senate Minority Leader in the 7th National Assembly. In 2023, Orpin was elected as member of the current Benue State House of Assembly, representing Gboko East State Constituency.

During the inauguration of the Assembly and election of its Principal Officers, Orpin was heavily backed by Senator Akume and favoured to clinch the position of Speaker. If she had succeeded, the arch-loyalist of the SGF would have stepped into the shoes of her former principal, Mrs. Ichen, and the immediate past Speaker and the 2023 PDP gubernatorial candidate, Engr. Titus Uba. But she lost to her rival, Hyacinth AondonaDajoh, who was backed by Governor Hyacinth Alia, in the second ballot after the first round of voting ended in a tie.

She was later made Chairman of at least two key standing committees of the House and member of several others.

Barr. Akutah Pius Ukeyima,

Barrister Akutah Pius Ukeyima, the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), is one of Senator Akume’s core loyalists. His appointment to the headship of NSC has the unmistakable imprimatur of the SGF.

 Before this appointment by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the expert in International Criminal Law had had an illustrous career as a state counsel in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. aqa.

Ukeyima who hails from Ushongo Local Government Area of Benue State was educated at the University of Jos, where he studied for a Diploma in Law from 1993 to 1995. He continued his educational pursuit at the University of Abuja, where he earned his Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree. After that, he proceeded to the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he studied for an LLM programme from 2010 to 2012.

Early in his legal career, Ukeyima served as a State Counsel in the Department of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, International Criminal Law Division, Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition unit. He held the position of Senior State Counsel from January 2009 to January 2012. His most recent position at the Federal Ministry of Justice was that of Principal State Counsel in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice for almost 12 years.

Throughout his career, Ukeyima showed expertise in international law and justice, legal writing, and consultation, offering guidance whilst engaging in the prosecution of counter-terrorism cases, as well as actively participating in arbitration and dispute resolution processes. He is also well-versed in United Nations conventions, regional and sub-regional charters, as well as agreements, with a deep understanding of the operations of public international institutions and multinational corporations within the realm of international politics.

He is an Alumnus of the United States Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and a chartered Mobile and Computer Forensics Examiner.

Senator Emmanuel Udende

Emmanuel MemgaUdende, a lawyer and businessmen, is an indigene of Zaki Biam in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State. He is the serving Senator for Benue North East Senatorial District (Zone A) on the ticket of APC.

 He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Law (L.L.B) from the University of Maiduguri in 1985 and was called to the Nigerian bar in 1986.

Senator Udende served as a Deputy Chairman of his Local Government Area from 1991 to 1997 and later as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs during Governor Akume’s regime.  After that, he was elected twice, in 2011 and 2015, to the House of Representatives representing Ukum/Katsina-Ala/Logo Federal Constituency on the ticket of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). However, he left PDP in 2016, citing leadership crises in the party, to team up with Senator Akume in APC to fight his former party in the 2015 elections. He failed to return to the House in 2019. In 2022, with the strong backing of Senator Akume, he clinched the nomination of his party to run for Benue North East senatorial seat, defeating his major opponent, Chief TerlumunAkputu, with 211,887 votes to 84,304 in a direct primary election.

In the main election on 25 February 2023, Udende, supported by Senator Akume, polled 141,405 votes to beat the incumbent Senator and former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam of the PDP who scored 107,303 votes. Udende also won the legal challenge filed by Senator Suswam who had rejected the results of the polls.

Hon. Philip Agbese

Philip Agbese, an accomplished conflict manager, security strategist, human rights activist, and public affairs analyst, currently serves as the member representating Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo federal constituency of Benue State in the House of Representatives. He is one of Senator Akume’s young core loyalists from Benue South Senatorial District.

Born into Agilaland’s royal family on February 25, 1987, in Ado Local Government Area, Agbese earned a degree in Biochemistry between 2005 and 2009. Agbese later moved to the United Kingdom in 2015 where he obtained a law degree from Middlesex University London, an MBA from the University of Chichester in 2020, and a master’s degree in human rights law from Middlesex in 2021. He also holds a Diploma in Freelance Journalism from the British College of Journalism, London.

 He served at the Centre for Social Justice, Equity, and Transparency from 2012 to 2015. As a Principal Partner at Preventive Diplomacy in Geneva, Switzerland, Agbese has contributed to conflict resolution efforts. He established Global Amnesty Watch in London in 2015 and subsequently founded The Nigerian News Group, a media organization, in 2016. His influence extends to the realm of literature, with his contributions as an author of numerous books and articles, both locally and internationally.

Agbese’s political journey began with active participation in student politics while studying in Nigeria. He held positions in the Senate and the National Association of Idoma Students (NAIS) during his time at the University of Ilorin. He entered mainstream politics in 2019 as a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC). After securing the party’s nomination in 2022, he clinched victory for the Ado/Ogbadibo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency seat in the 2023 general elections.

As the Chairman of the Benue State House of Representatives Caucus, the legislator has used his position to fiercely defend and project the interests of his political mentor, Senator George Akume.

Hon. Austin Agada

Austin Agada, the Benue State Chairman of APC, is one of Akume’s best known loyalists from Benue South Senatorial District. He is widely referred to as ‘Akume’s Boy’ for his longstanding political romance with the SGF.

He read Business Management at the Benue State University, Makurdi in 2002 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management in 2006.

Hon. Agada was actively involved in student unionism at different levels. He joined politics in 1998, and in 2003, while at the Benue state university, Makurdi, was appointed Personal Assistant to the Benue State Commissioner of Finance, Dr. Christopher Obute. In the build-up to the 2011 elections, Agada and other progressives joined forces with Barr. Targema Takema who was the arrowhead of the Think Tank of Sen. Akume. The group later metamorphosed into a powerful movement that brought in Professor Steve Ugba and Young Alhaji, who campaigned vigorously to wrestle power from the PDP in 2011. Hon. Agada served as Deputy Youth Director, ACN Gubernatorial Campaign Organization, Benue State, in that year’s general elections.

In 2014, Agada served as Administrative Secretary of the APC Benue State Interim Committee headed by Barr. Targema Takema, constituted to manage the affairs of the party. It was this Committee that, perhaps, prepared young Agada for bigger party responsibilities.

While working with Benue South APC Campaign Council as Director of New Media, he eventually vied unsuccessfully for the Benue State House of Assembly, Ogbadibo State Constituency in 2015.  As it turned out APC won the governorship election that year and Governor Samuel Ortom appointed Agada as Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Administration, Cabinet Office (SSG). Again, Agada was an aspirant of the party for the same position in the 2019 election, won the party primaries but lost the main election

Following his unsuccessful attempts to represent his people at the Benue State House of Assembly, Senator Akume, who was the Hon. Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, appointed Agada as his Special Assistant on Political Matters.

Ahead of the 2023 general elections, Agada won the APC State Chairmanship election with a landslide and promised to reposition the party and promote internal democracy and recapture power from PDP in 2023. He succeeded as the party won the state governorship election and most seats the state and national legislature.

He is, however, fighting the political battle of his emerging political life, heavily backed by his mentor, to ward off a fierce intra-party challenge to his position as the state Chairman.

Barr. Obande Jacob Ajene

Barrister Obande Jacob Ajene, the junior brother to the former Deputy Governor, the Late Prince (Dr.) Ogiri Ajene, hails from Obi Local Government Area of the state.

A lawyer by profession, Barrister Ajene has combined business with politics for years, following in the footsteps of his late elder brother who was the Deputy Governor to Akume on the platform of the PDP. Barrister Ajene’s close relationship with Senator Akume apparently began during that period. But while his elder brother remained with the PDP at the end his Deputy Governorship until his death, Barrister Ajene followed Senator Akume to ACN and APC where he unsuccessfully contested for the House of Representatives in 2011 to represent Oju/Obi Federal Constituency. In spite of this setback, he remained loyal to APC and its leader in the state, Senator Akume as well as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the party’s National Leader.

He bidded his time until 2023 when he aspired this time around to represent Benue South Senatorial District in the Senate. Although he was one of the aspirants favoured to clinch the APC senatorial tickethe, again, lost, no thanks to the confusion that engulfed the conduct of the primary election. His rival, Comrade Daniel Onjeh, another Akumeloyalist at the time, who had previously contested for the seat on the platform of the party, was declared winner amidst the confusion. Unlike what other aggrieved lawyers would have done under the circumstances, Barrister Ajene restrained himself from initiating legal challenge to the conduct and outcome of the party primaries, largely in deference to Senator Akume. In spite of the setback, he willingly accepted to serve as the Deputy Director General of the Benue State APC Campaign Council for the 2023 general elections (a position he also held in the 2019 general elections) which the party won.

Prof. Joseph Utsev

Joseph TerlumunUtsev, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, is a renowned Academia, politician, philanthropist, entrepreneur and administrator of great repute. A core loyalist of Senator Akume, he is also a major beneficiary of his mentor’s benevolence.

Prof. Utsev who hails from Buruku Local Government Area of Benue State, graduated as the top student in 2004 with a 2nd Class Honours (Upper Division) from the Federal University of Agriculture (now Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi, JOSTUM), where he earned his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Civil Engineering.

He was subsequently hired as a Graduate Assistant by his Alma Mater in 2006 after completing his NYSC. The young lecturer returned to the classroom later to obtain his masters and doctoral degrees in Environmental Engineering and water resources in 2007 and 2011, respectively, from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Before his appointment in 2023 as a minister, Prof. Utsev had about 17 years of teaching and professional experience. He was appointed as Deputy Director and later confirmed as Full Director in the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development, JOSTUM, from 2013 to 2017 where he championed the setting up of seven (7) workshops that are currently used for the training of students in entrepreneurship and also form a source of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to the Institution.

He served as Commissioner, Ministry of Water Resources and Environment Benue State in the Samuel Ortom administration was appointed as the Executive Director Engineering, Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority Makurdi, in 2020. This was followed by his appointment as the Federal Polytechnic Wannune in Benue State, the position he was holding until his appointment as the minister of Water Resources and Sanitation.

It is widely believed that Prof. Utsev’s last two appointments, at least, were facilitated by his political mentor, Senator Akume.

Sen Titus Zam

Born in 1970 in Gwer West Local Government Area of Benue State, Titus Tartenget Zam is serving his first term as the Senator representing the Benue North-West Senatorial District in the 10th National Assembly on the APC platform.

An alumnus of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Zam began his journey into politics as a student unionist. However, upon graduation, he went into business. Since joining mainstream politicshe has aligned himself with Senator Akume and since then, there has been no looking back. He has occupied a number of government positions courtesy of his mentor, Senator Akume. He once served as Chairman of his Local Government Council, Gwer West. In 2015, Senator Zam was appointed by the then Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, as his Special Adviser on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.

When Governor Ortom and Senator Akume parted ways politically about 2017, Zam whose appointment was facilitated by Akume, lost his position as Special Adviser, but he knew exactly where to go – follow his mentor. The reward for his loyalty, again, was Senator Akume’s strong support which ensured his victory in the Senatorial election in 2023.

Benue APC National Assembly Caucus

After the Benue State APC organs, perhaps, the next most powerful body that has stood solidly behind Senator Akume, at least in the last one year, is the Benue APC National Assembly Caucus. It is made up of the two APC Senators (Titus Zam and Emmanuel Udende) and eight of the 11 House of Representatives members from Benue State -TerseerUgbor, Philip Agbese, AsemaAchado, SesooIkpacher, Regina Akume, DzuaIyortyom, Blessing Onuh and Dickson Tarkigir.

The group has always come out powerfully in the media to defend any attacks, allegations or threats directed at Senator Akume or his interests.


Although the list is inexhaustible, special mention must be made of the following core loyalists who never parted ways at any time with the SGF

Hon. Simon Abua
Chris Tarka
Simon AbuaYaji
Hon. Benji Penda
Hon. Benard Ochepa
Elder(Bar) Simon Aondona
Chief Sunday Ikpa
Amb. Matthew Adoli
High Chief TerlumunAkputu
Dr. John Tor Tsua
Dr KaaluAkerkpev
Amb (Dr) Philip Simon Eche
Hon. Dr Christopher Obute
Rt. Hon. TerhemenTarzoor
Mike Msuaan

Major beneficiaries of Sen. Akume’s political benevolence

Loyalists and political associates of Senator Akume enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with him. While they oil Akume’s political machine to secure victory for him and his sponsored or appointed candidates during elections, Akume, on his part, fixes them in strategic positions in government and party via elections or appointments. From the time he was the state Governor, Senator, Minister up to his present position as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Akume has been helping his loyalists, associates and party men to occupy such positions as Governor, minister, ambassador, commissioner, head of government agencies, board member, etc. While some of the appointments or electoral victories may not have been the sole handwork of Akume, it is generally believed that he played a major role in them.

The SGF is, perhaps, next to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu – incidentally his contemporary as State Governor and now his principal – among top Nigerian political leaders with reputation for building robust support base and uplifting or fixing their loyalists in strategic offices. The difference, however, is that while most of the beneficiaries of Tinubu’s benevolence maintain abiding loyalty to him, Akume has experienced serial betrayals and crises of loyalty from some of his associates who sometimes team up with his political rivals to undermine his political interest. For instance, of the three Governors of the state – Gabriel Suswam, Samuel Ortom and the current Governor, Rev. Father Hyacinth Alia – who are the biggest beneficiaries of Sen. Akume’s political benevolence, the first two have gone their separate ways while there is little love lost with the third.

It is difficult to capture all the beneficiaries of Akume’s political benevolence in this type of report because many people from Benue since 1999 owe their upliftment to position of power and authority either at the state or the federal levels to him. However, we are able to capture major beneficiaries whose information are available to us as at the time of going to press. The list may not be exhaustive but it represents a sizeable percentage of those who benefited one way or the other from him.

The list of his major beneficiaries below is by no means exhaustive.

Senator Gabriel Suswam – Senator Akume facilitated his nomination and election as the state Governor in 2007. Based on a gentleman’s understanding, the governorship position was supposed to go to Benue South Senatorial District and aspirants from there fought hard to secure the ticket of PDP, the then ruling party at the Federal and state levels. Suswam, then a second term House of Representatives member from Benue North East Senatorial District, was swimming against the tide.  But Akume’s last minute support tilted the scale in his favour until he won the party’s ticket after a run-off primary election. Suswam went ahead to win the main election.

However, Suswam and Akume parted ways before the former’s re-election in 2011. Suswam had to face a very stiff challenge from Prof. Stephen Ugba, the Akume-annointed candidate of ACN. In 2015, Suswam failed in his first Senatorial election while Akume won his own in Benue North West to serve a third term as Senator. In 2019 the table turned, with Suswam going to the Senate and Akume losing his fourth term Senatorial bid; but was compensated with a ministerial appointment. Akume did not contest election in 2023 but supported Emmanuel Udende, candidate of his party to defeat Senator Suswam. Senators Akume and Suswam remain separated politically.

Samuel Ortom – In the APC primaries for the 2015 governorship election, Senator Akume deployed his influence and political machine to hand Samuel Ortom the party’s gubernatorial ticket after the latter had lost the rival PDP’s nomination. Ortom went ahead to win the main election, becoming the first non-PDP Governor of Benue State since 1999. But the two fell apart about two years later due to irreconcilable differences, with Ortom returning to PDP with APC’s mandate.

Ortom won reelection against Senator Akume and APC’s candidate, Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Jime, in 2019 while Akume lost his bid to return to the Senate for a fourth term. Ortom claimed after that election that he had retired his erstwhile mentor from politics but discovered he had shouted Alleluia too early. Last year, Senator Akume led his party to secure a comprehensive victory over PDP which Ortom led. The two remain politically estranged to this day.

Gov. Hyacinth Alia – Reports have it that when Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia first decided to contest the 2023 governorship election, he was headed for PDP.  Although he had no previous partisan political experience, the Catholic priest was immensely popular within the predominantly Benue Christian community because of his radical inclinations and healing ministry. Realizing his potential electoral value, Akume persuaded him to join APC instead, facilitated his nomination and election, again, using his influence in the party.

But shortly after his inauguration, differences over who should be the principal officers of the State House of Assembly pitched them against each other. The differences have lingered since then, permeating the entire fabric of the party. The misunderstanding has turned into what is now called the APC intra-party feud in the state.

Though they still accommodate each other in APC, it is an open secret that there is no love lost between them.

Daniel Onjeh – His audacious challenge of the all-powerful Senate President in the 2015 Senatorial election in Benue South Senatorial District was said to be strongly backed by Senator Akume. His appointment as Chairman of Projects Development Institute (PRODA) was also reportedly facilitated by his political mentor. Onjeh was also handed the Senatorial ticket of APC in the 2023 election by Senator Akume. But following the intra-party division in the state APC, Onjeh has pitched his tent with Governor Alia.

Late Prince (Dr.) Ogiri Ajene- In spite of the fierce competition from his Idoma brothers of Zone C, Akume nominated Ajene, son of the Late Och’Idima, Abraham Ajene Okpabi, as his running mate in the 1999 governorship election, to become the first and only Igede-born State Deputy Governor to date. They won reelection together in 2003.

However, Ajene’s ambition to succeed his boss, Akume, crumbled when the latter threw his weight behind Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam at the last minute. But in deference to the Governor, Ajene donated his votes from the first round of voting which, together with those of Ralph Igbago, the then Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, enabled Suswam to clinch the PDP ticket in the second ballot.

There was no known open political discord between Ajene and Akume until the former Deputy Governor died in 2013. However, the late Prince remained in PDP when the former Governor left for ACN following disagreements with his successor, Suswam.

Engr. Benson Abounu – As Governor, Akume appointed Engr. Benson Abounu as his Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment. They moved together to ACN and later to APC when Akume facilitated the nomination of Abounu as running mate to Ortom, the gubernatorial candidate of APC in 2015.  But when Senator Akume showed Governor Ortom ‘red card’ in APC and the latter returned to PDP, his Deputy, Abounu, went with him. Senator Akume and Engr Abounu remain apart politically till today.

Abba Yaro – The reward for his loyalty to Senator Akume is the opportunity he was given to serve as state party chairman for about a decade, from ACN to APC. Akume also facilitated Yaro’s recent appointment as a member of the Governing Board of Federal College of Education, Yola, Adamawa State, Yaro remains Akume’s core loyalist.

Chief Steven Lawani – Senator Akume facilitated the emergence of Chief Steven Lawani as Deputy Governor to Governor Suswam in 2007. Chief Lawani remained with Suswam until the end of their second term in 2015. However, after his failed bid to succeed his boss in 2015, Lawani reconnected with Akume in APC. In the build-up to the APC primaries for the 2023 election, Lawani was the pundits’ favourite to pick the party’s gubernatorial ticket if the leadership decided to give the governorship to Zone C. It did not. This has reportedly become a source of disappointment to the former Deputy Governor. Currently, his relationship with Senator Akume is “fairly cordial, but not as robust as it used to be since Lawani’s governorship fiasco,” another core loyalist of Akume told this magazine.

Alhaji Usman Abubakar (Young Alhaji) – Though reputed to be wealthy in his own right, Senator Akume still reportedly supported Young Alhaji’s senatorial aspiration several times and was responsible for bringing him to limelight politically. Their political relationship has since gone cold.

Dr. Sam Ode – The incumbent Deputy Governor of Benue State has a maternal relationship with Senator Akume. His nomination and subsequent election as Deputy Governor were facilitated by Senator Akume against stiff opposition from elders of the party from his Benue South Senatorial District. The raging feud between the SGF and the Governor is said to have put Deputy Governor in an awkward position, hence his near-total silence on matters of public interest. He has restricted himself to only performing his duty loyally as the deputy governor of the state by remaining totally submissive to his principal, Gov. Alia without getting involved in throwing tantrum at Akume.

Senator Titus Zam – Senator Akume made Zam Gwer West LGA Chairman, Special Adviser on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to Ortom and backed him for the Senate in the 2023 election where he recorded a historical election victory, defeating his former boss and the incumbent governor of the state, Samuel Ortom. Since going to the senate, Sen. Zam has emerged one of the new leading lights where he has demonstrated capacity as one of the most outstanding senators of the 10th Assembly. The relationship between the two remains robust.

Hon. Becky Orpin – Senator Akume facilitated her appointment as Chief Press Secretary to the former Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, made her Chairman of Gboko Local Government Area and member, Benue State House of Assembly. The SGF’s bid to get her elected as Speaker of the House last year failed but the political relationship between them remains as strong as ever.

Senator Orker Jerv – Senator Akume backed his election to the House of Representatives, but he later challenged and defeated Senator Akume in the 2019 Senatorial election. The current status of their relationship is unknown to the public.

Mrs. Mimi Orubibi-Adzape – Senator Akume made her Chairman of Benue State Inland Revenue Service (BIRS) in the administration of Gov. Samuel Ortom and sponsored her for Senate election on APC platform against Suswam. She lost and later defected to PDP. Current standing vis-a-vis Senator Akume: unknown to the public.

Sen. Emmanuel Udende –Sen. Akume appointed him Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and also supported him to defeat Senator Suswam in the Senatorial election in 2023. He stands solidly with the SGF.

Prof. Steve Ugba – Sen. Akume sponsored his high-profile governorship challenge against Governor Suswam in 2011 and later secured an ambassadorial appointment for him. His current relationship with Akume is not too cordial because he has aligned with Gov. Alia against Sen. Akume in the current APC crisis in the state.

Mathias Byuan – The SGF facilitated his appointment as Finance Director of the Federal Housing Authority. Speculations have it that he is being positioned for a higher political position in 2027. His current relationship with Senator Akume is solid.

Rt. Hon. TerhemenTarzoor – The former House of Assembly Speaker and PDP governorship candidate in Benue State in 2015 also benefitted from Sen. Akume. His appointment as Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic by former President Muhammadu Buhari after his unsuccessful governorship attempt was said to be facilitated by Sen. Akume after his defection from PDP.

Hon. Nick Wende – The SGF facilitated his current appointment as the representative of the North Central Zone on the Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Current relationship status: solid.

Dr. Stephen Tsav – The former Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly has been rewarded with very sensitive assignments on the recommendation of Akume, including the Benue State APC Deputy Chairman and, recently, member of the North East Development Commission. His current relationship with Senator Akume is solid.

Prof. Joseph TerlumumUtserv – Directly or indirectly, Senator Akume had a hand in several of his appointments over time: Commissioner of Water Resources and Environment; Director, Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority, Rector, Federal Polytechnic, Wannune, and currently Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation. He stands solidly with Senator Akume.

Barrister Akutah Pius Ukeyima – His recent appointment as the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) was facilitated by the SGF. Current relationship status: solid.

Hon. Austin Agada – Senator Akume facilitated his emergence as Benue State APC Chairman and is propping him up against the intra-party challenge to his leadership. They enjoy a very solid relationship.