By Charles Kumolu
THE shocking removal of Senator Ali Ndume as the Senate Majority Leader, yesterday, signposts uncertainty for the bipartisan relationship between the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the Senate. Whether Ndume’s ouster and replacement with Sen Ahmad Lawan were done in good faith or not matter less to the likely impact the development would have on the bipartisanship that had created a balance of power in the APC led Senate.
For someone whose emergence as one of the principal officers, created disharmony and stability among different camps in the Senate, his removal raises questions on the future of the APC-PDP marriage of convenience.
Marriage of convenience
The situation is so considering that Ndume, though an APC lawmaker representing Borno North Senatorial District, emerged from the pro-Saraki camp which entered into a marriage of convenience with the PDP.
While there is no doubt that Ndume’s removal had the blessing of his camp, the scenario is demonstrative of an emerging power reconfiguration in the Senate probably in consonance with the presidency. Also, some leading forces in the APC come to mind when appraising the development in the light of the intrigues that led to Ndume’s emergence and its aftershocks.
While thoughts that Ndume may have been sacrificed in an emerging realignment of centrifugal forces cannot be downplayed, it was learned that some of his recent legislative actions largely paved the way for his exit. In addition to the allegation of being heady for the Senate leadership, Ndume, who has been a commanding voice in the National Assembly, NASS, since 2003, was also suspected of not going along with his colleagues in the indictment of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and the rejection of Ibrahim Magu as EFCC chairman by the Senate.
Ndume had emerged as Senate Leader with the support of Senate President Bukola Saraki against the dictates of his party. Saraki’s action appeared to be in defiance of his party, which had in a written letter to him a week earlier, directed that he announce Senators Ahmad Lawan, representing Yobe North and George Akume, representing Benue North West, senatorial zones as Majority Leader and Deputy Majority Leader, respectively.
The party had equally directed the Senate president to announce Senator Olusola Adeyeye, APC, Osun Central, from the South-West and Senator Abu Ibrahim, APC, Katsina Central, as Majority Whip and Deputy Majority Whip, respectively. Ndume assumed office immediately after Senate president Saraki announced his name as the candidate for the North-East where the position of Senate leader was zoned to.
Saraki’s action was not left unchallenged, as Senator Kabiru Marafa, a frontline advocate for the pro-Ahmed Lawan group, otherwise known as Unity Forum, raised objection through a Point of Order, that the Senate cannot override the position of the party as regards the sharing of the Senate leadership positions.
Marafa, representing Zamfara Central on the platform of the APC, argued that it was inappropriate to read letters from any caucus when the Senate president could not read a letter from the party leadership. He insisted that the letter from the leadership of the party nominating principal officers should have been adhered to. He said: “If you cannot read the party’s letter, you cannot read any letter from any caucus as no caucus is bigger than the party.”
Marafa’s point of order was countered by Senator Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central, a pro-Saraki senator, who also cited Senate Order 53 upon which he stated that, “standing by the same order and ruling, the issue has been ruled and settled by the Senate and, therefore, should not be brought up again”.
Also speaking on the issue, Saraki referred Marafa to the Senate Order 53 (6), saying it would be out of order to attempt to reconsider a specific issue which the Senate had already ruled on. He also explained that in the Senate Order 26 (j), interpretation of any Senate Rule was at the discretion of the Senate president and on the strength of this, he ruled Marafa’s point out of order. Irrespective of other reasons that may emerge in the days ahead as to why Ndume was suddenly removed, he is considered as a victim of a political chess game.