When the former majority leader Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume was ousted from his perch as Majority Leader in the hallowed legislative upper chamberon Tuesday, he had pretty little prior inkling. He had gone to observe his mid-day prayers. But little did he know that he would not return the same. Ndume was quickly told on his return from the mosque that he has been removed as majority leader.
Interestingly, he was reportedly removed by the same APC senators who he had earlier in the day exchanged pleasantries with. No wonder, many see the senate and indeed the National Assembly as the theatre of political intrigues.
The APC senators in a move described by many as a “political coup,” named Senator Ahmed Lawan as new majority of the senate. Ndume had barely returned to his seat when the Senate President Bukola Saraki read a one-page letter by the party caucus naming Senator Lawan as new majority leader.
The stunned former majority leader had initially dismissed his impeachment as another joke. Senator Ndume in his immediate reaction told journalists that he was not present at the said Monday meeting where his controversial reign was nailed and that he was still the majority leader.
One of his political associates in the senate who would not want his name in print , said that the impeached majority leader would not bow out without a fight. The threat heightened the fear that Ndume and his depleted camp in the senate will stage a come-back when Senate resume plenaryon Wednesday. Ndume and his men in their wisdom stayed out of trouble as Senator Lawan moved to his seat unhindered signaling an end to the controversial reign of Borno State- born senator.
Ndume’s impeachment may not have come as surprise to many. A source alleged that his outer has been on the card, but “we did not know it will come this fast in the New Year”. According to him, the removal of Ndume was in belated compliance to an earlier directive by the leadership of the ruling party.
The party was earlier reported to have asked the senate president to prevail on Ndume to vacate his seat for Lawan as a second option and recipee for peace.
Impeachment has been on the card since mid last year. Sources alleged that Ndume rained curses on Saraki at a closed session.
Ndume saw it as a betrayal. The said plot created bad blood and mutual suspicion in the two camps. A source alleged that the relationship between the two leaders has never been the same, “but Saraki needed to sacrifice the majority leader to consolidate or at least curry the favour of the party and presidency. Interestingly, the APC had since hailed the decision of the senate. The party in a statement on Tuesday night however urged Lawan to use his long legislative experience to propagate the party interest. A vocal member of the Unity Forum, (pro-Lawan group) – Senator Kabiru Marafa, was one of the first to hail the removal of Ndume
Though the party, the Unity Forum in the senate and others had welcomed the change of guard but there are rumours that removal of Ndume was one of the many other pending actions by the ruling party to enjoy firm control of the senate. There are fears in the senate that the “coup plotters” may go after Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, as earlier planned.
The party would need two-third of the 109 which is about 74 senators to impeach the Deputy Senate President. A source said it might be difficult for the 62 APC senators to secure the two-third majority to remove Ekweremadu. The removal of Ndume was said to be a prelude to a fresh plot to remove Ekweremadu. Already the PDP senators are said to be worried over the turn of event in the senate. Though there are no move for now that suggests immediate danger for the Deputy Senate President, but there are rumours that the APC senators may be working to replace Ekwerenadu with Senator Ben Uwajimogu, the only APC senator from the South-East. The former Imo State Speaker had since denied such ambition, but the renewed pressure on him followed the removal of Ndume.
But Ndume was reported to have fingered Senator Dino Maleye as the arrow head in the renewed offensive that claimed his job on Tuesday. Ndume was reported to have engaged Maleye in shouting match in a closed session shortly before the Christmas break. The impeached majority leader said he was removed for insisting that the Senate did not follow the proper procedure in the rejection of the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Mr. Ndume said he insisted that in view of the Senate’s standard procedures and practice, Mr. Magu had not been rejected by the Senate because there was no confirmation hearing for the nominee to defend claims made against him. “What I said was that for us (Senate) to claim to have a rejected a nominee sent to us by the president, we have to follow the right procedure and observe our rules,” the senator said.
“The nominee should have been called into the chamber and presented before senators who will then openly vote on whether to accept or reject his or her nomination.
“In the case of Magu, that was not done. We only had a closed-door session and when we emerged the Senate spokesperson claimed that he had been rejected. I had to set the record straight by saying we never rejected the nominee. This is because you don’t accept or reject a nominee at a closed session.
Öur votes and proceedings are there as evidence of my claims.”
Mr. Ndume said the clarification he made unsettled some of his colleagues, who immediately began to plot against him.
“Ï was surprised that such a simple and harmless clarification could rattle and anger some of my colleagues,” he said. I thought it wasn’t a big deal to disagree over issues. I didn’t realise that that simple matter would snowball into a plot to remove me.
“The other day, somebody mentioned to me that the Senate President had commissioned Dino Melaye to collect signatures to remove me. I didn’t pay much attention to the information because I actually thought it was a joke or a rumour.
“I didn’t feel that disagreeing with colleagues, and sharing my understanding of what transpired at our closed session was an offence, grievous enough to cause my removal.”
Messrs. Magu and Ndume hail from the same North-Eastern state of Borno.
Mr. Magu’s rejection followed a report sent to the Senate by the State Security Service which accused the acting EFCC chairman of corruption.
But there was also another report by the SSS which advised that Mr Magu be confirmed in view of his sterling performance since he started working in acting capacity.
Meanwhile, Kabiru Marafa, an ally of Mr. Lawan, the new majority leader, hailed the leadership change as “victory for APC”, saying the party had long wanted Mr. Lawan to serve as Senate Leader.