The year 2017 is a year of mixed experience for the people’s Senator. Former Opposition leader in the House of Representatives in the 6th Assembly, and immediate past Senate Leader. Early in the year he was removed as the Senate Leader, two months later he was suspended for six months, three months into his suspension the Court cleared him of terrorism charges (a trial he stood for six years), and as the suspension lasts, he became more popular and arguably undisputable as an electable material.
On resumption from New Year break on the 10th of January 2017, the APC caucus of the Nigerian Senate removed Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume as the Leader of the Senate in a rather dishonest but binding circumstance. The Senate can remove its presiding and principal officer at any given time it so wished but the events surrounding the removal of Senator Ndume raised a lot of questions.
In what can be termed as an ‘outrageous paradox’, the Senate handed down a six-month suspension on Senator Ndume on the 29th of March 2017 presumably for bringing the Senate to ‘unbearable disrepute’, while in the actual sense he was trying to protect the reputation of the institution. The suspension was the outcome of a report by the Ethics and Privileges Committee of the Senate to investigate an allegation involving the Senate President’s illegal importation of an SUV jeep and Senator Melaye’s ABU degree certificate scandal.
In drawing the attention of the Senate, Senator Ndume made reference to a daily newspaper (Punch to be specific) and some online outfits that published the allegations. The selected invitation by the concerned committee did not extend to the media houses that are the sources of the information. They instead choose to invite the clearing agent about the SUV Jeep, ABU Zaria on Melaye’s certificate and Senator Ndume for drawing the attention of the Senate and calling for remedy of the perceived public damage to the Senate as a result of the news. In what followed, Senator Ndume was made the victim while the duo of the Senate President and Senator Melaye were exonerated and cleared of the charges and ultimately became the beneficiaries of the point raised.
Several attempts were made by well-meaning individuals for a quick resolution to the crises and to have the suspension reversed both within and outside the Senate including efforts by the Borno State Governor but to no avail. Senator Ndume maintained his position that he was the one being wronged and therefore deserved the apology he was asked to tender, and the Senate Leadership failed to be magnanimous.
The result of the above was six months off legislative duties also equaling ninety, (90) days off from legislative functions. Even though the term was served, Senator Ndume is in Court challenging the legality of his suspension and a verdict is to be given anytime soon. This he said is in an effort to forestall future occurrence where a lawmaker with a legitimate mandate will be suspended for no good reason.
Senator Ndume may have been suspended and could access neither his office nor the Red Chamber in the six months, but it was obviously a political plus for the Borno South Senator. At a time when some (and they are many in this case) lawmakers were jittery and can’t make it to their hometowns and constituencies for fear of harassment or even being lynched, he spent a substantial part of the suspension period in the full embrace and warm reception of his people. At a time when “recall” and “threats to reelection” are being echoed, he was given a green card.
In the end, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume’s suspension is served, and as we await the Court judgment, which will hopefully, nullify the suspension in its entirety, we will on Tuesday 3rd October 2017 witness the ‘The Return of Sabata’ and unlike Lee Van Cleef in another movie, he is good, he is just returning.
Here is wishing the Leader and his colleagues in the Senate a fruitful deliberation.
Bilal Tijjani Kumalia can be reached via facebook