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,

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Is­mail Mu­dashir

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.”

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