Senator Ali Ndume is the former leader of the 8th Senate. A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the senator who was representing Borno South, was recently suspended by the Senate. In this interview, with SOLOMON AYADO , the embattled legislator speaks on his suspension and the effect it is having on his constituents, who are displaced by the attacks of insurgents. . .
Distinguished, are you in anyway bothered about your suspension from the Senate?
Ever since I went on suspension, a lot of people have shown me lots of concern. And I have taken my present situation in good fate. This is what politics entails. I am happy to be in the Senate and to have represented my people very well in the 8th Senate. Several senates have passed and this one too will surely pass, so I am not bothered about the current situation. To me, my political challenge and suspension is temporary and I can consider it an industrial training because it has made me to understand politics better. Also I now know the character of people very well.
Recently, the leadership of the Senate reportedly asked you to apologise for your action, have you done so?
I didn’t do anything wrong. I insist that I have done nothing wrong that would warrant apologizing for. For instance, as I am with you here, if you say I didn’t welcome you properly; that I didn’t give you food, I can easily apologize for not welcoming you properly. I would not have any problem apologizing to you. The truth is that one can always apologize for a wrong doing but I didn’t do anything wrong. What I did was that, under order 14 and 15, I drew the attention of the Senate to an issue and it was investigated and settled. In fact, the issues I raised, that is, the importation of cars by Sen Bukola Saraki and Sen. Dino Melaye’s certificate saga were put to rest by a committee. These issues were put to rest because I raised the matter on point of order. So I don’t understand why I should be punished for that because I didn’t say Dino didn’t have a certificate. It was in the public domain and I read it in the newspapers and only called the attention of the Senate to it. Also the decision to investigate those issues was that of Senate and not my own. If the presiding officer did not ask me to state whether I investigated the issue before raising it, and I was, without any explanation, ruled out of order, that would have still been the decision of the Senate. So right now, if you say I should apologize to the Senate, what should I apologize for? I didn’t do anything wrong. And till now, the Senate is yet to tell me what I have done wrong. If I had done anything wrong, I can even apologize to individuals and not the institution alone. But as a man, you have to stand for something. Like I said, I didn’t do anything wrong but if anybody can tell me what I did that is wrong, then, I am ready to apologize.
You are not in the Senate as it stands, which means you are not enjoying its privileges, yet you are offering humanitarian services to your people. This smacks of political undertone, don’t you agree?
Let me say that I started this humanitarian service before I came into politics. I started it when I was a lecturer and at the same time a businessman. I remember I used to buy things like rice, sugar and other things for N20,000 and donate them to my people. That time, a bag of sugar was sold for N450 and I used to buy like 5 bags and put them in small poly bags and distribute to the people especially the elderly women and widows. I am doing these things because I am now a senator or because I want to score cheap political points. I thank God that at this stage in my life, I have become somebody contributes to my community, in and out of the Senate. I have a special relationship with my people because we share the same background. I am from a poor background and so the people would be disappointed if I don’t do it. They are not expecting me to bring something but when I come home, I always share things with them. My current challenge in the Senate is very temporary and it shouldn’t stop me from doing what I used to do which is helping the needy.
A lot of your people are displaced by the dastardly attacks of insurgents. They are currently taking refuge in various IDPs camps in Abuja, and back home in Gwoza. What are you doing to alleviate their sufferings?
I do interact with my people regularly and I do special interaction after Ramadan. After my suspension, I went home to assess the living conditions of my people and that is why I came back to Abuja to brief the IDPs. In my local government, we are divided into two, Gwoza East and Gwoza West. Gwoza West is relatively habitable and people can go and farm and do other activities. But for Gwoza East, Furka is the only safe place for them but there are water and accommodation challenges there. For those from Gwoza West, it is better they return home because the federal government and some international bodies have rendered intervention to the affected areas. They lack food and the federal government has just launched the food programme there, but the IDPs in Abuja are not to benefit from it. Feeling concerned, I had to brief them and also provide for them. I brought them wrappers and children clothes as well as knapsack sprayers for those who are engaged in farming. I also donated cash. The situation we have found ourselves is vulnerable. I have spoken to the office of the Acting President and have also communicated to the NPower programme to ensure recruitment of our graduates for the purpose of teaching the students that are in the IDPs camp.
We have 12 IDPs camps scattered within and around Abuja and what I have done was to invite leaders of all these camps. There is issue of eviction in Area 1 where the IDPs are doing small businesses. But they are now placed on notice to vacate the place. And I said I will talk to the authorities because you don’t evict displaced persons, according to international standards, especially the ones that are not nuisance but struggling to put food on their table. Also, there is this allegation that they are harbouring criminals especially drug dealers but that is not enough to evict them. Instead, the relevant authorities should put their intelligence there to fish out those involved in criminal activities. But what if you evict them and indirectly cause them to become criminals? However, I will make sure something is urgently done because they are successful people. We have identified some locations in Gwoza to establish IDPs camps and one is already functional in Ngose. But it is overloaded. The federal government has already deployed Army battalion to Gwoza East and once the other camp is ready, the people will go back to their various villages.