Senator Ali Ndume representing Borno South constituency and APC Majority Leader in the upper chamber stepped out to observe his afternoon prayer when the Senate made the decision to remove him as leader of the majority group.
The letter dated January 10, 2017 and titled “Notice of change of leadership” was read to the House by Senate President Bukola Saraki. It read: “This is to inform Your Excellency and the Senate that after several meetings held on Monday, January 9, 2017, and upon due deliberation and consultation, the APC Caucus of the Senate, hereby wishes to notify you of the change in the leadership of the Senate that the new Senate leader is now Senator Ahmad Lawan, representing Yobe North Senatorial District.”
Upon his return to the chamber, plenary had suddenly closed and he was met by reporters who questioned him about the removal, a situation he was oblivious to.
Ndume’s reaction later
As the Senator was still dazed about how events swiftly changed while he was out to pray, he was unable to provide an immediate reaction to newsmen, but hours later, Senator Ndume has declared that his removal was a pre-planned action that sprung from his disapproval of the Senate’s action on acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu. In December 2016, when the Senate threw out Magu’s nomination by President Buhari for the position of Chairman of EFCC, Senator Ndume was the only house member who publicly dissented from the Senate’s stance.
“We did not reject Ibrahim Magu as EFCC Chairman”, he said at the time. This was contrary to the conclusion reached and announced by the House. Senator Ndume maintains that it was against the rule of law to accept or reject a nominee during a closed door session and without open voting, which was the case with Magu’s rejection.
Reports had it then that Senator Ndume’s opposing remarks led to an altercation that almost got physical between him and Senator Dino Melaye. Now, he is sure that the events that surround his reaction to Magu’s rejection are the reason for his removal as Senate leader. He told Premium Times, “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“. According to him, he made light the rumour that made rounds at the time that there was an ongoing plot against him in the House.
From all indications, Senator Dino Melaye was a major actor in kicking Senator Ndume out of the leadership position of the APC caucus. In his interview, Senator Ndume said: “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“.
The senators who were present at the House on Monday confirmed that Senator Dino Melaye took it upon himself to take the letter to each senator to append his/her signature.
But Senator Melaye’s actions although may have been informed by some personal sentiments against Senator Ndume, he acted in service to the Senate President, for whom he had iterated many times that he could die. Senate President Bukola Saraki made an attempt to clear the air on Wednesday that he had no hand in Ndume’s removal but the affected Senator insists Saraki is the mastermind of his removal.
But maybe it was time for Ndume to go
When the decision to appoint Senator Ndume as majority leader of the House APC was made known in July 2015, the national leadership of the party kicked. Senator Ahmed Lawan who now holds the position was the choice of the national APC but party members in the House insisted on Ndume and Senator Saraki obliged them over the national leadership, explaining at the time that “his hands were tied”.
This decision to keep Senator Ndume as party leader caused a division between the national leadership of the APC, the Senate leadership and members of the party in the House. The news of his removal was welcome by the party as their wish and choice of a majority leader in Senator Ahmed Lawan was finally granted.