Ndume: When a leader stands alone
How Senator Ali Ndume missed the telltale signs of his imminent removal is a mystery to many. Given his position of influence as the Senate leader, he should have deciphered danger when the rate of phone calls from senators dropped sharply.
He had apparently become so detached from his flock that when Senator Dino Melaye held a meeting last Monday that not one of the attendees passed over the message to him. When last December Senate spokesman, Senator Abdullahi Sabi quickly disowned Senator Ndume’s stance that the Senate did not reject Ibrahim Magu’s appointment as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, he should have seen the handwriting on the wall.
Indeed, when Ndume opened the business of the day last Tuesday it was apparent that he was leading nobody given that as he stood in front, some senators were going around collecting signatures for his removal. He had perhaps taken things so much for granted that as the conspiracy thickened, that he stepped out for prayers handing over to his deputy, Senator Bala Ibn Nallah.
As he left to pray, the coup that had been long in contemplation was quickly executed and in his place Senator Ahmad Lawan, was brought in to replace him as Senate Leader. Senator Lawan comes to the leadership with the advantage of being the longest serving legislator in the leadership. His legislative experience is only equalled by that of Senator David Mark in the chamber.
How Ndume lost it may be a wonder to many, given his solid grassroots political experience. He is perhaps one politician from his local Borno State to have in the last 12 years successfully fought off the Ali Modu Sheriff political hegemony in the state.
As a stalwart of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and member of the House, he stood against the third term project allegedly fanned by Sheriff. He surprisingly got his return ticket to the House in the 2007 election despite his disloyalty.
As Sheriff prepared to step down in 2011, he did not forget to punish Ndume for the 2007 act of disloyalty. The penalty was to take the ANPP Borno South Senate ticket from him. Sheriff reportedly responded to Ndume’s grunts with a claim that, “even if he sponsored the shoe on his left foot that” it would defeat Ndume. Ndume was enthusiastically embraced by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which offered him its ticket. He won the election.
In 2015 he returned to familiar grounds in the APC and won his election with a bounce again defeating Sheriff’s PDP lackey after the former governor crossed over to the PDP. Perhaps he allowed his political sagacity in Borno South to slip into his dealings with his colleagues in the Senate many of whom are also political giants in their constituencies. Even worse was his failure to read the mood of the Senate and its president, Senator Bukola Saraki who carried the cross for Ndume.
After Senator Saraki emerged as Senate President, President Buhari was quick to embrace him despite the body language that he actually preferred Lawan. However, when Buhari joined the APC leadership to demand that Lawan be made Senate leader, Saraki’s decision to stick with Ndume became the sore point that many believe led to his judicial trials. So when the Senate took its pound of flesh against the EFCC’s Magu and BD Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, the expectation was that Ndume would fall in line. But he did not. That in reality was the end of Saraki-Ndume romance, and it was a good thing for Saraki that it happened with the ongoing peace moves between him and the president and the party.
A similar plot played itself out in 2004 when Senator Kassim Oyofo was similarly removed as Senate Chief Whip by the South-South caucus. On August 19, 2004, Oyofo despite coming from the Niger Delta sided with the oil industry to kill a bill to safeguard the Niger Delta environment earning the ire of the South-South senators.
That night they met and collected signatures for the removal of Oyofo as their leader and thus as Senate Chief Whip. Senate President Adolphus Wabara who was known not to be in cordial terms with Oyofo quickly read the letter the following day without pleading for or informing Oyofo. A dazed Oyofo as he walked out of the Senate chamber that day, cursed that Wabara would soon suffer a similar fate. Within months, Wabara became history as Senate President. However, in this case, Ndume has graciously bowed out and even wished the leadership well!