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By Fred Itua, Abuja
Immediate-past Majority Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume is not new to parliamentary politics. He was a critical voice in the House of Representatives, before his movement to the Red chamber. Ndume also showed his political dexterity in 2011, when he ran against the factional chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ali Modu Sheriff and defeated him.
But his political sagacity, was however deflated on Tuesday, January 10, 2017 by his own party members, who until the recent fall out, dined and wined with him. Like a thief in the night, Ndume’s removal came as a rude shock to some people.
For keen political observers familiar with the interplay in parliamentary politics, Ndume’s fall came rather belatedly. He has since incurred the wrath of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his core loyalists, spearheaded by Dino Melaye.
On December 14, 2016, Senators, at an executive session, declined to confirm Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). They based their action on a security report, sent to them by the Department of State Services (DSS).
Ndume, had told State House correspondents soon after the Senate rejected Magu that the Red Chamber did not reject him. He had also alleged that the embattled Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. David Babachir Lawal was not indicted by the Senate.
He had stated: “It’s not an order we are giving. The Senate resolution is a recommendation; it’s not a law. What the Senate considered is work in progress because it was an interim report.
“It is the same public that is interested and worried to know what we have done as a Senate about those allegations. The committee issued an interim report and the interim report seemed to indict the SGF, the consequences of that indictment is what they recommended but we are not there yet because the report itself is interim. Okay, we take the interim report, we give the public until the whole investigation is concluded.
“I hear, coming from the SGF that he has not been given a fair hearing, so the hearing has not finished. We can give him time to go before the committee and clear himself.”
His assertion, which sharply contradicted the position of the Senate, did not go down well. Twenty four hours after he made the assertions, the spokesman of the Senate, Abdullahi Sabi, told National Assembly correspondents that Ndume acted alone and that his statement did not reflect the position and views of the Senate.
Senator Sabi had retorted: “The call to national duty is crucial. So I am here based on series of calls and text messages from you about what you thought are conflicting messages. It has become critical for the Senate to clarify issues. The 8th Senate believes in its integrity; we uphold and promote the rule of law which is the basic thing about our democracy. We are committed to doing things differently to stabilize the polity in the collective interest of Nigerians.
“I would like to make the following clarifications. I am holding the votes and proceeding of Thursday. We had two votes and proceeding because we had to go into joint session to receive Buhari.
“Our votes and proceedings are the official records of what transpired in chamber. I briefed you on Thursday to the effect that the senate is announcing that in view of security reports, we were unable to confirm Magu. We then rejected and returned the nomination to Buhari for further action.”
Top political gladiators in the Senate, also hold the view that Ndume’s removal, was part of a final deal reached between members of the Unity Forum and Like Minds in the Senate.
Saraki, in mid last year, set up a committee to reconcile aggrieved lawmakers. The first tranche of the recommendations of the committee, was implemented in the last quarter of 2016, when Senators Oluremi Tinubu and Marafa were given juicy committees, Environment and Petroleum (Downstream) respectively.
But plans to remove Ndume, commenced in mid-December, few days after the Senate embarked on its Christmas recess. Multiple sources familiar with the development, told Daily Sun that Senator Melaye, championed his removal.
It was also gathered that contrary to claims that a meeting was held where APC lawmakers agreed to remove Ndume, nothing of such happened. Instead, signatures were collected between last Monday and Tuesday. As at when Tuesday’s sitting was going on, Melaye and others who spearheaded Ndume’s removal were still collecting signatures.
Sources in the Senate told Daily Sun that Ndume was given an option to announce his resignation soon after the required number of signatures were secured, but his departure from the floor close to the end of the plenary gave the Senators and the Senate President no other option than to announce his removal.
“The Chief Whip and the Deputy Senate President were mandated to persuade Senator Ndume to tender his resignation on the floor on Tuesday but Ndume’s disappearance from the floor gave them no other choice. The letter was submitted and it had to be read once it was signed by an overwhelming majority of the Senators involved,” a senator said in confidence, adding that more than 80 percent of Like Minds Senators signed the removal notice.
Ndume, who was however expected to put up a fight, following his earlier claims that he was unaware of his removal, made a U-turn yesterday and accepted his fate. Instead, he made a long speech which did not elicit any applause from his colleagues.
Ndume stated: “Mr. President, I discussed with you before the sitting that sequel to the event that happened yesterday (Tuesday) in my absence, I went to pray when there was a change in the leadership particularly the one that affected me.
“Just like the APC Senate caucus has the right to say we have lost confidence in you, I think that I should be given the chance to say something on record. I did not do anything wrong to the best of my knowledge, but as I said, since 38 of my colleagues signed it, I agree”. Ekweremadu who came in Ndume’s defence, hailed his statesmanship and urged him to always render his support to the leadership of the Senate.
Ekweremadu remarked: “Let me on behalf of the rest of our colleagues, thank you for your service to the Senate and indeed to the National Assembly. You were a member of the House of Representatives’ leadership at some point, you came to the Senate and also held very important committee assignments and then rose to become the Senate Leader.
Ndume’s removal may have also signaled an end to the crisis in the Senate. It may have also reconciled the feuding Unity Forum and Like Minds Senators in the Upper Legislative Chamber, against their opponents in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It is unclear whether or not the remnants in the Senate who are still rooting for Ndume will spring up any surprise and take their pound of flesh. Saraki, Lawan and their allies may have won the first round of the long battle, but it is far from over.