“Keep people off balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose of your actions… and by the time they realise your intentions, it will be too late.” -Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power
Without any pretensions, Senator Ali Ndume, for whatever justifications and reservations, has proven to be Akpabio’s most determined marksman in the 10th Senate. He tends to track every one of Akapbio’s steps and reads his lips with curious commitment, knowing exactly where and when to steal the thunder from every arguable slip.
On at least three different occasions in the past five months, the Chief Whip has dramatically shot the Senate President with innuendoes, cherry-picking for pettiness and fanfare. It may all have started when Akpabio, in his trademark mannerism, reechoed the expletive “Let the poor breathe,” pleading against a planned increase in electricity tariffs, in his lighthearted support of a motion by Sen. Akintunde Abiodun. Ndume caused a storm in a teacup over that plea.
Days later came Akpabio’s ecstatic “blurt” that monies had been paid into the individual accounts of senators for their recess. Again, Ndume felt beefed for the openness, which he saw as a mockery or betrayal of statutory entitlement. Most recently, Ndume again staged a walkout during plenary while Akpabio was still in office, simply because the Senate President “overruled” him. Nothing could have been more audaciously contemptuous.
Dressing his rationale in euphemism to technically query Akpabio’s competence, Ndume, during an interview on Channel TV’s flagship programme, Sunday Politics, described Akpabio as a neophyte in legislative matters. “I think the main problem is that I am more experienced than him. However, when I tried to correct him, sometimes, like in that incident, he overruled me. You can’t overrule your chief whip. No. I am supposed to be the one to call him to order, not him…He took advantage of the gavel, Ndume argued.
On the possibility of Akpabio’s impeachment, Ndume quipped, “I am hearing that, but it isn’t new. I don’t have any problem with Akpabio. Don’t forget, I campaigned for Akpabio. I can’t build a house and destroy it. Would anybody expect Ndume to have been recklessly open on such an esoteric subject of conspiracy amongst a faction of equals in the Senate?
Could he have forgotten in a hurry the recent game of Thrones in Rivers State that demonstrated that he who enthrones can dethrone or seek to dethrone? Indeed, if the above instances of affronts were exactly what it means for a Chief Whip to work shoulder-to-shoulder with a Senate President, then Akpabio must be very circumspect about such platitudes.
Let me not be the one to say it. Ndume’s worst betrayer or strongest weakness is his past. He holds the infamous record of always setting fire under the elevated seat of Senate Presidents, to have them stand on their toes for as long or short a period as it would have taken logic to chase away the “arsonist” into the forest of fantasies for hibernation. This is no allegation. It is part of Ndume’s proud credentials. A fine lawmaker with a vanity bag of tricks and stillborn ambition, Ndume never claimed to be a gentleman lawmaker.
In 2015, he hooked his agbada on thorns with former Senate President Bukola Saraki, and in 2019, with Sen. Ahmed Lawan, whereby a counter-reprisal by the majority against his fondness for grandstanding ostensibly cost him the Senate Presidency. There has been no senate president in the last decade that Ndume hasn’t had issues with, simply because of his arrogant surveillance role.
His cumulative misfortune, unfortunately, is that he never succeeded at all. If Ndume was in the army, he would have held the weird record of having had hands in all failed coups in the country. Yet, in every dispensation, he never misses being caught in the crossfires of boomerang, making many wonder what the gains really may be to have sustained his passionate indulgence.
But give it to Sen. Mohammed Ali Ndume. He is seasoned. Maybe over-seasoned to saltiness! His near case of a permanent seat in both chambers of the National Assembly since his debut in 1999 has made him such a catalytic, rounded system man. As such, he deservedly deserves Akpabio’s courtesy, gratitude, and tribute, essentially his yeoman role in Akpabio’s historic ascension; what he knows that Akpabio may not know; sustainable solidarity; and being, traditionally, a pan-Nigeria Emir of the National Assembly who, with equal patriotism or cunning, can stabilise or destabilise formulas and formations.
Here’s the paradox: disagreement is integral to human nature. Akpabio and the Senate need characters like Ndume for balance and nuisance that can checkmate the Senate President’s excesses. Ndume might suffer rust without Akpabio’s foibles. But it will be costly for either to underestimate each other’s strengths.
Introspectively, on the strength of Ndume’s antecedents in marksmanship, it would be risky to imagine that he was done with Akpabio. At the risk of playing the devil’s advocate, I foresee that Ndume’s antics may be more than meets the eye. As the tempo is bound to rise, bobby traps may become landmines, and banana peels may be hidden in the hallway should Akpabio choose to indulge his friend in the luxury of masochistic complacency, forgetting to remember that a chain is as strong as its weakest link.
With an alleged gang up against Akpabio by a faction in the Red Chambers, which Parliamentarians are inherently condemned to manifest, Ndume sometimes acts like a spy on espionage dispatched by political matadors to test the waters for the deepest spot to drop anchor, to stop Akpabio taking “advantage of the gavel”.
Or are all this just part of the unscripted traditional dramas legislators were wont to stage to entertain Nigerians in iron cobwebs of hardship? Will Akpabio successfully continue to play along, to be shocked ultimately or prove that he is a master of the game of semiotics for bare-face masquerades? Then he must pray with Voltaire; “Lord, protect me from my friends; I can take care of my enemies”.