What my suspension taught me – Sen. Ndume
Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC,Borno) was until January this year the Senate Leader. Ndume was suspended for six months in March over a point of order he raised on the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Senator Dino Melaye(APC,Kogi). In this interview,
What led to my suspension was what my people wanted me to say, and then that caused my suspension or even removal as Senate Leader
Daily Trust: You’ve been away from the National Assembly, how has it been? Senator Mohammed Ali
Ndume: To be frank with you, the six months came to pass as if it was six weeks. I used the time, as you know, immediately after the suspension, my people reacted, and I had to go to all the local governments on a tour to interact with the people. In the course of interaction, I have been able to really get close to my people and understand what they do and keep in touch with them. I had so many things that were pending, especially in the poverty alleviation area, and in my input towards addressing the agricultural and security challenges. So, I’ve been able to relate very closely with my people. I took my time to relate and interact more with my people. I have been going home to sensitize our people to come out and register.
Daily Trust: From your interactions with your people, what are the key things you think they need? Ndume: Honestly, in Southern Borno particularly, one of the serious thorns in our flesh is the Biu-Gombe road. It is in a very terrible condition, and it’s the nerve link between Southern Borno and the other parts of Nigeria, especially going to Jos, coming to Abuja, going to Yola. The link is the Biu-Gombe road. So, I’m pushing for the rehabilitation of that road. The second major problem is the humanitarian crisis we’re facing in the North east, especially in resettlement, reconstruction and relocation of our people that have been displaced by insurgency. I have been able to do a lot, especially interacting with NGOs that are on ground, and organizations like the UNCHR. We’ve been working very closely. In fact, they’ve been so cooperative with me that several times I used their helicopter services from Maiduguri to various parts to see for myself what is going on and talk to our people.
Also, I’ve been able to go round most of the camps, not necessarily in my senatorial district. I was able to go to Bama, Ngala and Baga to see for myself what is going on. So, I’ve been quite busy during this, do I call it suspension or long recess? I don’t know which better term to use. For me, there’s some inconvenience, I miss my colleagues, but other than that, I take it as if it’s a period that allows me to reflect and feel how it is to be outside. I’ve said it, I don’t pray that I end my life in the senate. I plan to retire from politics one day. The suspension was like an industrial attachment, to see what it means to stay six months without going into the National Assembly, without physically interacting with friends and people like you that cover the National Assembly and without salary and allowances. What does it take? How do you feel? But I thank God, Alhamdulillah. I don’t think the inconvenience or disadvantages outweigh the advantages, especially when you know that you’re comfortable with your conscience. I’m comfortable with my conscience and I’m comfortable with my people. You can see how I live even here. So, Alhamdulillah.
Daily Trust: How do your constituents feel about the suspension?
Ndume: Oh, they feel very bad! You can see it in the social media that they feel very bad about it, because I spoke their minds. What led to my suspension was what they wanted me to say, and then that caused my suspension or even removal as Senate Leader. So, I can assure you that not all people, you can’t say all people in my zone are with me, but majority of my people are with me. They sympathize, identify with me and in fact that keeps me going strong. To be honest, let me even confess to you, when I went for Umrah (in Saudi Arabia), I could not hold my emotion. Every time I went to the mosque, I would meet somebody, not even from my state but outside my zone, and I don’t know them, they’ll say ‘you’re Mohammed Ali Ndume?’ I’ll say yes. They’ll then say ‘muna tare da kai, muna maka addu’a’ (we’re with you, we’re praying for you). Even today when I went to the mosque, somebody came and
said ‘we’re praying for you, and don’t despair.’ Just this evening, somebody called and introduced himself as Oliver, he’s an Igbo man. He said he had been calling my number that somebody gave it to him. He said he wanted to identify with me and tell me not to shake, not to stop speaking the truth or not standing for what is right. So, that encourages me, to say that standing for what is right or speaking the truth, whatever consequence that comes after it, is more of a blessing than punishment. I look at it that way. I’m not taking it against anybody. I know majority of my colleagues are with me. They don’t even know what happened. They couldn’t even understand why I was suspended. My suspension was carried out when there were fewer than 30 members on the floor of the senate. It was deliberately designed. I strongly believe that had it been like two-thirds of the senators were there, the suspension couldn’t have been possible. So, I don’t have any problem, it’s just that these things happen. Besides, it comes from God. Wallahi I see it as a blessing.
Daily Trust: What have you learnt from the whole scenario?
Ndume: Wow! Honestly, one thing that I felt bad about is the extent to which I’ve gone, the relationship that I’ve severed in order to stand with our group, only for me to be paid this way. I feel bad about it. As I said earlier, I leave everything to God. I was the co-founder of ‘The Like Minds,’ and the reason was that we would form the 8th Senate to belong to all of us or majority of the senators. Unfortunately, by the time we took over, we had to struggle, we had to even disagree with the party, only for very few people to take over the senate and make it their own, that’s unfortunate. It is not because I’ve been pushed out, no. It is because the image of the 8th Senate, because the 8th Senate worked more than any other senate, 6th, 7th, 5th, 4th. But because of the activities of a few people, members of the public do not see the work we’re doing. That’s the painful part of it. The image of the 8th Senate has not been uplifted by my suspension. This is my 16th year in the National Assembly, so this is where I spent most part of my life. When I see the reputation of the institution going down, despite the fact that some people are working, I feel bad about it. As I said, this is the first time in my life after graduation from the university, that I’ve stayed six months without salary or allowances. So, it gives me an experience. It also gives me time to reflect, look at myself and say what did I do wrong? That’s within
Every day, some people make me emotional. Just like today, somebody called and said ‘yaya, stay on the path of the truth, nothing will happen, God is with you.’ I became emotional. Nobody has ever called to blame me for the position that I took, from my constituency
me, even, it also gives me an opportunity to be closer to my family and some of my friends and to live the world of reality, what will happen if you’re outside the senate. But the biggest advantage that I’ve got from this suspension is my relationship with my constituents, the people that elected me. I’ve been able to get back to them, we’ve been able to interact more, and I’ve been able to do more for my people. So, it gave me the time that I wouldn’t have had to interact with them to do those things that I did. I did a lot of going around. I even had time to go to constituencies outside my own. And my governor has been very supportive. Every day, some people make me emotional. Just like today, somebody called and said ‘yaya, stay on the path of the truth, nothing will happen, God is with you.’ I became emotional. Nobody has ever called to blame me for the position that I took, from my constituency. In fact, I did a sample when they said I should apologize. I threw it on the social media and said ‘Do I apologize?’ They said why should I apologize when I had not done anything wrong? So, In Sha Allah, it will come to pass. Even the 8th Senate will come to pass. The lifespan of the 8th Senate will come to pass. After my suspension, somebody died right behind me, Senator Adeleke. He’ll never come back again. I can go back to the senate, but Adeleke will not be able to go back. Abubakar Danladi, the Taraba man, went for Umrah and before he came back, the Supreme Court took his seat and gave someone. He won’t come back to the 8th Senate again. There are some of them that face a lot of challenges. George Sekibo is gone, he won’t be back. Ahmed
Zannah, we went into elections with him and won. Before our inauguration, he died.
Daily Trust: You keep on talking about the welfare and the humanitarian crisis in the Northeast, the NEDC bill has been hanging in the air, how do you feel?
Ndume: Maybe if I were there, I would have been able to ginger my colleagues to push and make sure that NEDC bill... in fact, what I feel pained about is the budget. For example, N45bn was allocated specifically to PCNI for its activities. The national budget has been increased, but nothing was increased for the North east. But in four hours in Oslo, Norway, the international community contributed over N200bn. As at now, I think the contribution for international organizations is getting to $500m. The World Food Programme alone as a segment spent over N31bn on food alone, not to talk of other sectors. Here you are with the country that’s directly affected not doing much. There’s the need for the Nigerian government to do more, for the National Assembly to allocate more funds. You could see the recent outbreak of cholera. The NGOs and UNICEF were very active, but because of unavailability of funds, you can’t see the Federal Ministry of Health being very active on the ground there. So, this humanitarian crisis is my single agenda. I’ll continue to cry on behalf of my people. Borno State in particular and the North east in general have been destroyed to ground zero, especially Borno. So many local governments now are internally displaced. Most of the people in those local governments are now within the headquarters of those local governments. They’re IDPs in those places and they need to be supported in terms of short-term and long-term resettlement, relocation and all that. So, the humanitarian crisis in the Northeast is humongous. This is the short one. The long run one is those children that are orphans and did not go to school for seven years. By the time they sit down and don’t do something, when they grow up to be adolescents without education, it would be dangerous. It’s a big issue. The international community is crying out, the UN is crying out, but nothing is practically being done to say we’re addressing this situation head on. The security people are doing their job, but even they are handicapped, they’re not well funded. I don’t think the amount appropriated for them is enough. There’s a challenge there. The humanitarian crisis in Borno and the Northeast is very serious.
Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume
Senator Ndume: “The humanitarian crisis in Borno and the Northeast is very serious.”