Ndume As Sacrificial Lamb, By Dele Agekameh
The relationship between the Presidency and the National Assembly (NASS) has, for some time now, been a sort of cat-and-mouse game. The sour relationship dates back to June 2015 when members of the lower and upper houses of the NASS went against the laid-down guidelines of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the filling of leadership positions in the two houses of the apex legislative body. It was apparent that the leaderships that respectively emerged in the two houses did not receive the overwhelming support of the entire leadership of the APC.
Almost two years on, things have never been what they ought to be. While the leadership of the House of Representatives may have devised a careful method of coasting along with the executive, their counterpart in the Senate has always had a running battle with the executive, even though the APC has a slim majority in the upper house. The frosty relationship between the executive and the Senate has been more demonstrated by the subsisting court case instituted against Bukola Saraki, the president of the Senate, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which has continued to go on since he came into office.
Another case that would have involved the Senate president and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, was dramatically stepped down at the last minute. This had to do with an alleged forgery of the Senate standing rules which paved the way for the emergence of Saraki and Ekweremadu as Senate president and deputy Senate president respectively. In the first instance, Saraki was not the person who was originally penciled down by the APC as Senate president, while in the case of Ekweremadu, he belongs to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which at that time, paraded no fewer than 48 members in the 108-member strong Senate. The election that threw up the duo of Saraki and Ekweremadu is one nightmare that the APC is still trying hard to contend with.
The party hierarchy was dazed. The Nigeria Police Force had to wade in to investigate the veracity of the allegation leveled against both Saraki and Ekweremadu. At a point, it appeared that the police was able to establish a prima facie case, but at the end of the day, nothing happened. This raised suspicion that official manipulation of the investigation might have occurred. Whatever the case is, it is on record that after all the noise making, the issue, perhaps, has been consigned to the dustbin of history, never to raise its head again. That is the way we are in Nigeria.
Ndume’s problem started when he spoke his mind to news hunters who besieged him when he visited Aso Rock Villa shortly after Magu was first rejected by the Senate last December.
While some of these cases have not been given enough attention probably due to political exigencies, one particular case which has to do with the confirmation of a substantive head for the anti-graft body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has continued to dominate national discourse. At the last count, the Senate had twice turned down Ibrahim Magu, the president’s nominee for the position and current acting head of the EFCC. What is obvious is that while the president believes Magu is the most suitable candidate for the job, some influential members of the Senate, including the Senate president, do not buy this line of argument because of certain vested interests in who becomes the anti-graft czar.
Today, one of the senators and former majority leader of the upper house, Ali Ndume, has become a scapegoat of the rivalry between the executive and the legislative arms of government. Ndume’s problem started when he spoke his mind to news hunters who besieged him when he visited Aso Rock Villa shortly after Magu was first rejected by the Senate last December. He had publicly declared that the issue of Magu was not yet been closed contrary to what the Senate had told the public through its spokesperson. That created some sort of misunderstanding among a number of the senators who publicly condemned Ndume for going against the thinking of the entire Senate. But an unperturbed Ndume merely brushed aside the opposition of the members and stuck to his own position on the matter. This created a lot of bad blood for him.
Soon after, a palace coup was hatched in the Senate. This saw Ndume removed as majority leader, paving the way for Senator Ahmad Lawan, who had originally been penciled down as Senate president, before Saraki and his band of coup plotters overturned the apple cart and changed the political configuration of the Senate to the consternation of the APC party hierarchy. In other words, that “original sin” by Saraki and his acolytes is still smouldering and hunting the leadership of the Senate.
Since Ndume was removed as majority leader, he has somehow almost become a pariah among his fellow senators who are still nursing some bitterness against him, particularly for his support for Magu. It was, therefore, a question of time before the bubble burst. The opportunity to hang Ndume finally came a few weeks ago when he (Ndume) brought the attention of the Senate to certain newspaper reports alleging some wrongdoing against Saraki and his Rottweiler, Dino Melaye. It would appear that Ndume was genuinely concerned about the image of the upper chambers in the eyes of the public and so he needed to bring the matter to the Senate’s attention so as to tackle the issue once and for all, as well as restore the integrity of the Senate which had suffered some bashing in recent times.
As it is, Ndume has no option than to tag along. In any case, going to court to challenge the legality or lack of it thereof, of his suspension does not arise. Nobody is sure if the case could be disposed off within the six months that the suspension is supposed to last.
If this was what Ndume thought, he was dead wrong. He merely played into the hands of his traducers who were ready to roast him at the slightest inkling. Soon after he laid his report at plenary, the house referred the matter to the ethics and privileges committee with a mandate to investigate the allegations. By the time the committee submitted its report last week, it did not only exonerate both Saraki and Melaye, it went ahead to recommend the suspension of Ndume. It was the mitigation by Mathew Uroghide, a senator representing Edo State under the platform of the PDP that saved Ndume by half of the prescribed 181 sitting-days suspension. It is an irony that it was an opposition senator that deemed it fit to plead for leniency on behalf of Ndume, while his co-travellers in the APC wanted him to serve the maximum punishment for trying to “protect the integrity of the senate”.
It is obvious that what is playing out in the Senate is the politics of 2019 and Ndume has only become a sacrificial lamb in the chessboard. Now, he has been bruised, battered and his ego deflated. Kashim Shettima, the governor of Borno, Ndume’s home state, has since led a high-powered delegation to the leadership of the Senate to appeal to them to temper justice with mercy and reinstate him because, according to Shettima, Ndume’s absence from the Senate will seriously hamper the post-Boko Haram reconstruction work going on in the state.
As it is, Ndume has no option than to tag along. In any case, going to court to challenge the legality or lack of it thereof, of his suspension does not arise. Nobody is sure if the case could be disposed off within the six months that the suspension is supposed to last. Even it is disposed off within that time, the Senate might decide to appeal the judgment and that will mean that he cannot get back to the chambers until the final determination of the case. And that could take a long time. So, since he has been humbled, the only option left for him is to lick his wounds and move on. As they say, in politics, nothing is permanent.
For comments SMS (only) to: 08058354382