The Senate on Tuesday removed Senator Ali Ndume as leader replacing him with Senator Ahmad Lawan, in a civilian equivalent of a coup d’ Etat.
Senate President Bukola Saraki announced the removal of Ndume shortly after the former leader, who had led the day’s proceedings, left the Senate chamber for his afternoon prayer at the National Assembly mosque.
On his way out of the mosque, he was confronted with the news of his removal while plenary had also been adjourned to Wednesday, January 11. A visibly shocked Ndume said it could not be true since he was not aware of any move to oust him.
His removal was the last item handled by the Senate Tuesday, an offshoot of a letter addressed by APC Caucus to the Senate president, informing him of a meeting it held on Monday, January 9 where it agreed to replace Ndume with Lawan as its new leader.
In the letter, entitled: “Notice of Change in Leadership,” APC senators said: “This is to inform Your Excellency and the Senate that after several meetings held on Monday, 9th of January, 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. Kindly accept our esteem regards and best assurances.”
However, THISDAY checks revealed Tuesday that Ndume was removed for two main reasons. First, he was accused of bringing the Senate into disrepute through series of behaviour and utterances, which senators considered as embarrassing to the institution.
Prominent of such perceived embarrassing acts, which eventually consumed him was the interview he granted State House correspondents in the Presidential Villa on December 19, 2016 where he debunked Senate’s earlier official position, which had rejected the confirmation of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC) on December 15 last year.
Whereas the Senate had announced on December 15 that, in view of the damning security report against Magu, it had resolved in its closed-door session not to confirm Magu as the EFCC’s boss.
According to Senate’s spokesman, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, the Senate had consequently rejected Magu and advised President Muhammadu Buhari to send another candidate as his replacement.
However, while the news of Magu’s rejection was yet generating controversy in the polity, Ndume announced at the Presidential Villa that Magu had not been rejected. He emphasised that Magu could not be rejected in a closed-door session of the Senate where the decision was made.
Ndume also dismissed Senate’s call for the resignation and prosecution of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir David Lawal, over alleged mismanagement of internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) funds in the North-east.
The Senate, therefore, considered a situation where its leader whom it felt was duty bound to protect the sanctity of its resolutions became the one allegedly twisting it as embarrassing. This prompted Abdullahi to brief the press the following day where he affirmed that Magu’s rejection was the Senate’s official position and there was no going back on it.
Second, THISDAY also gathered yesterday that the Senate found Ndume’s removal this time to be appropriate in view of the recent rapprochement between the Senate leadership, the APC and the Presidency.
Ndume had emerged against the wish of the party, which had in June last year, recommended the nomination of Lawan as Senate Leader following his loss to Saraki in the race to the Senate Presidency on June 9, 2016.
But instead of abiding by the party’s decision, Saraki announced Ndume as the Senate Leader following his recommendation by the North-east caucus of APC to which the office had been zoned. Saraki said he could not alter the decision of his colleagues who had chosen Ndume for the office and rejected Lawan by 13 to 3 votes.
The situation was seen by the party as an affront on it by Saraki whom it had accused of first emerging as Senate president against its wish and later failed to accede to its request to concede the Senate Leader’s office to Lawan. This generated bad blood among him, the Presidency and party leadership.
Reacting to his removal yesterday, Ndume expressed shock over the development, saying there was no previous problem that could have warranted his ouster.
He also said he was not aware of any meeting where the decision to remove him was taken, pointing out that there is usually a laid down procedure for the removal of a Senate leader, which he observed had not been complied with in this situation.
“I went out of the chamber to pray at about quarter to 1pm. On my way coming, one of you accosted me that there was an announcement on change of leadership. I didn’t know what actually happened. I went to pray. When l came back, the Senate had adjourned and somebody told me that Ahmad Lawan had been announced as the leader of APC caucus. I don’t know what happened and what that meant. This morning, l still conducted the business of the Senate. I’m not aware of any meeting called. There is a process to follow. I will find out what that meant. Let me hear from the horse’s mouth,” Ndume said.
But THISDAY further learnt Tuesday that following the decision to remove Ndume, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and the Chief Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, were assigned to advise Ndume to resign ahead of the announcement but at the time they wanted to tell him, he was nowhere to be found.
A source told THISDAY that he seemed to have had a hint of the decision to remove him and consequently left the chamber to forestall it. The source added that when he was nowhere to be found, there was the insistence by senators that the letter of his removal must be read yesterday whether he was there or not.
The source further told THISDAY that the fact that there was no dissenting voice to his removal was a clear expression that every senator was done with Ndume.