Nigeria: Ndume Warns Ninth Senate, Rules Out Visit to Aso Rock

The Nigerian Senate

Former Senate Leader and aspirant for the position of senate president Mohammed Ali Ndume yesterday reiterated the warning that the Ninth National Assembly could lose its independence.

He also ruled out any possibility of withdrawing from the contest and dismissed speculations that he had been invited to the Aso Rock Villa for that purpose.

He told journalists shortly after the senate valedictory session: "Nobody has invited me to the villa for any talk. And there's no cause for it at this moment in time. I will contest for the Ninth senate president position, Insha Allah, on Tuesday, next week."

His declaration came after another contender for the position and chairman of the senate committee on appropriation, Danjuma Goje, stepped down for Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan following a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa.

In his remark during the session, Ndume urged his colleagues to stand firm against forces that might work against the freedom of the upper chamber.

"My concern is the independence of this arm of government. That is not to say we must not work with the other side. I see a dangerous thing coming. The only thing that makes democracy different from the military is the parliament. We need to ensure the independence of the parliament. If we take away the parliament, what we have is not democracy."

Goje told reporters: "I have decided to, in deference to the loyalty I have for his Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari and in deference to the loyalty I have for my party, the APC, in the interest of our party and the development of this country, to assist Mr. President to deliver his promises.

"I have decided to respect his wish by not declaring to contest this senate presidency. Instead, I am supporting the party's position thereby endorsing the candidature of Senator Ahmed Lawan,"

Applauding the withdrawal, APC National Publicity Secretary Lanre Issa-Onilu in a statement said the lawmaker had shown himself as a reliable, committed party leader, a good role model and elder statesman.

"We believe that Goje's selfless actions typify APC's progressive ideals and should be emulated by all party members, to ensure unity, strength and supremacy of our great party," he said.

Lawan, on his part, thanked Goje, saying the move would unite the party. "Even though he had enormous respect and following, the position he has willingly taken, to respect the wishes of the party and president, is the best position any politician could take. And there is nothing better than to have a family that is very united, very solid and very focused," he said.

This came as a proclamation letter issued by Buhari, announcing the inauguration of the Ninth National Assembly, was officially confirmed yesterday.

Clerk Mohammed Ataba Sani Omolori declared: "I have received a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari, announcing the end of the Eight National Assembly. The letter has clearly stated that by 12:00 a.m. of June 8, the Eight National Assembly will stand dissolved."

Senate President Bukola Saraki, who hit his final gavel, declaring the Eighth Senate adjourned Sine Die, stressed that his successor would be either Ndume or Lawan.

According to him, "It is clear that one of you will be president of the senate. Whoever emerges, I wish you the very best of luck.

This I know: whatever the capacity, we should always do our best to serve the interest of the people. We should also have it at the back of our minds that power is transient."

Going down memory lane, Saraki recalled one of the dark chapters in the chambers history. He noted: "The invasion of the National Assembly by armed security operatives in August 2018 will live in infamy. I realise that the day of that invasion was the saddest."

He however added: "But in many ways, it was also a good day for asserting the independence of the legislature and the triumph of democracy. It also turned out to be a showcase of the special relationship between this chamber and the House, as honourable members stood in unison with their senate colleagues in defiance of the invaders."

He noted: "If the Executive believes the Legislature is a rubber stamp without the right to question its actions, then it will be a subversion of the principles of Separation of Powers."

Also, at the lower chamber, Speaker Yakubu Dogara declared that the Eight National Assembly holds the record as the most persecuted and harassed parliament in Nigeria's history.

He told members at the valedictory session: "We witnessed sieges and invasion by state operatives. Some members suffered witch-hunts, house arrests and false accusations. We are also witnesses to a barrage of uncharitable criticisms and assessments bandied on daily basis in the media by hired mercenaries who masquerade as analysts. Most of these analysts are ignorant of the fact that the parliament was not designed to be an alter of praise for the Executive but a co-equal branch to serve as a check on Executive power."

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