Ali Ndume will always be Ali Ndume the rebel that wouldn’t play by the rules.
For him, it is almost his calling to dance a different style even if in a choreographed medley. He is the lone runner that requires the support of others to breast the tape first. And so, rather than get needlessly agitated over his decision to kick against his party’s preference for Senator Ahmed Lawan for the position of the Senate President in the soon-to-be-inaugurated 9th National Assembly, those who have followed his political bacchanalia over the years would understand that this Senator, who initially represented Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza Federal Constituency of Borno State in House of Representatives, was merely playing to type.
In fact, he gets some sort of kicks from this game of deceit and self-conceit. Why did I say this? Ndume’s trajectory, as espoused in a piece this writer penned with a colleague, Onyedi Ojiabor, on June 27, 2015 painted, in crying words, an image of a man who would grasp at every straws to remain high and above his peers. It would have been surprising if Ndume, the sole beneficiary of the Senator Bukola Saraki leadership coup of 2015 had not seen anything wrong in the All Progressive Congress’ attempt at forestalling a repeat of that legislative heist in the 9th Senate. It is not just how this controversial senator rolls. No, not at all.
In the piece titled Ndume: A leader’s garland for rebellion, I surmised: “The name, Mohammed Ali Ndume, means different things to different people, especially those who have followed the developments at the nation’s highest legislative body—the Senate—in the last eight years (make that 12 years if you will). While quite a number of senators have come and gone without making any impression worth writing about, Senator Ndume’s case is different. His entrance into the nation’s national consciousness was without its fascinating, even if disturbing, drama.
Today, Ndume is a focus of media attention for another reason. In a brazen rebellion against the wishes of the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the Senator from Borno State, the hotspot of the killings, bombings and violent attacks by the members of the Boko Haram sect, Ndume was picked as Senate Majority Leader by the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki.
His emergence, just like Saraki’s some few weeks past, has torn the political calculus of the APC into shreds and raised serious fundamental questions about party’s supremacy on the issues relating to key appointments. But who is Ndume and what does his emergence portend for the 8th National Assembly and the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari?
As an All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) politician then, Ndume was elected to represent Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza Federal Constituency in April 2003 and was re-elected in April 2007 on the same platform. He was appointed Minority Leader in the House of Representatives where he was a vocal critic of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as he was always heaping the blame for the country’s woes on the party’s bumbling leadership.
For example, he said in an August 2010 interview: “The PDP in the last 11 years has vandalized Nigeria; they have only introduced kidnapping, assassination, militancy, armed robbery, power degeneration and widespread religious crisis.”
It was, however, a twist of irony that Ndume defected to the PDP, the same party he was criticising in December 2010. He cited alleged injustices as his reason for leaving the ANPP.
“To further justify his defection to PDP, he claimed the people from the grassroots of Southern Borno were solidly behind him and his action. Ndume claimed that he was not being given a level-playing field in the competition with other ANPP aspirants for the candidature in the Senate election.
Sources close to the intricate political game playing out in Borno then explained that Ndume’s defection to PDP was mainly due to the sour relationship with the then leader of the ANPP in the state, Governor Ali Modu Sheriff. His defection to the PDP was seen by observers as a major blow to the ANPP. Ndume was considered the major financial backbone of the ANPP in Borno-South senatorial zone, and was considered one of the most dynamic of the lawmakers from the Northeast zone. Following his defection, the PDP re-opened the sale of nomination forms. Alhaji Sanda Garba, who had been the only aspirant for the South Borno Senate seat, stepped down to pave the way for Ndume as the PDP candidate.
“In the election, Ndume was declared winner with 146,403 votes, ahead of Dr. Asaba Vilita Bashir of the ANPP with 133,734 votes and Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) with 20,414 votes. That marked the beginning of Ndume’s romance with a party he once vilified with a rare vigour and passion. Moving with the political tide during the merger of forces that gave the PDP a run for the presidential slot in 2015, Ndume, again in company with other Senators from Borno State, defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to actualize his desire to return to the Senate.
He won his election in the March 29, 2015 National Assembly polls. He quickly began to show more than a passing interest in the Senate Presidency. Ndume quickly aligned himself with a group of Senators who tagged themselves “Senators of Like Minds”, principally formed by Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, to actualize his (Saraki’s) Senate Presidency.
“Ndume was among the Northeast Senators who disowned Senator Ahmed Lawan’s endorsement by the zone. He criticised what he called “the overzealousness of Ahmed Lawan,” and insisted that Lawan was unlikely to emerge Senate President. On June 9th, 2015, at the inauguration of the 8th Senate, Ndume stood as the Rock of Gibraltar in the Senate chamber to give support to the emergence of Senator Saraki in disobedience to the APC leadership directive.
He was, later the same day, nominated to run for the position of Deputy President of the Senate, but he was defeated by Senator Ike Ekweremadu, a PDP Senator from Enugu West. That week, Saraki announced Ndume as the Senate Majority Leader, again, in total disregard to APC leadership’s instruction that Lawan should be made the Senate Majority Leader. Ndume was said to have been nominated and endorsed for the position by the North East APC Senate caucus.
“Political observers see his emergence as the prize for the brazen way the Senators of “Like Minds” stood against the wishes of the leadership of the APC to nominate its preferred candidates for the top positions in the National Assembly. This set of politicians not only worked against the realization of the wishes of the party but also went into an unholy alliance with senators in the opposition PDP, which culminated in the election of Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President. Ndume’s nomination and subsequent confirmation by Saraki as Majority Leader is, therefore, being read as his epaulette for the treachery and damning rebellion that signpost ominous consequence not only for the party but also for the nation.”
Well, is there anything to add to this? We need not rehash how, when the cookies crumbled, Ndume was left in the sun to dry by the triumvirates of Saraki, Dino Melaye and Ike Ekweremadu when he was suspended and eventually removed as Senate Leader.
In a sudden twist of fate, Ndume’s wreath of treachery which he wore with extravagant aplomb while it lasted was gifted to Lawan as a garland of honour for loyalty to party supremacy. It was the stepping stone to Lawan’s eventual endorsement as the heir apparent to the Senate President seat by President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC.
And so, it runs against commonsense to expect Ndume, of all persons, to accept the fact that fate is playing a fast one on him. And knowing that treachery still has a pivotal role to play in the scheme of things with the Peoples Democratic Party senators-elect threatening to vie for principal positions in the Senate, Ndume knows that the cards are not entirely stacked against him should the ruling party sleep on his hands again. That is why no one should shove off his capacity for mischief and ability to be the extra cook that spoils the broth.
Will he make himself available to be used as the one that scuttles his party’s plans to take full charge of the affairs in the National Assembly? Is he another Saraki in waiting having released a nine-point agenda earlier this week despite his party’s position? The days ahead are pregnant with all sorts of political revelries. And the answers to these riddles lie in the belly of time. So, let’s wait on time.