By Haruna Salami

The Senate Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, did not rush to speak during the debate on Senator Solomon Olamilekan’s motion that earned Ningi 3 months suspension for allegedly saying that 2024 budget was padded to the tune of N3 trillion.

After most senators had spoken their minds, with the debate leaning towards a soft landing for Ningi, Bamidele, in his contribution changed the direction of debate that led to Ningi’s suspension.

He said for the very first time, he was standing up to speak not as the Leader of the 10th Senate, but as Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, CON representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District.

He said he had four quick issues to raise. “Number one, I stand with due respect that what my big brother, Distinguished Senator Abdul Ningi, who I respect so well, planned to do was tantamount to civilian coup , which has failed. In doing this he wanted to use the platform of the Northern Senators’ Forum. God bless those who dissociated themselves from the NSF.

“Secondly, I pay glowing tribute to His Excellency, Senator Aminu Tambuwal and to His Excellency Senator Ahmed Lawan. They had very peaceful tenures and I was one of those instrumental to it. I’m also speaking for the first time as a Southern senator. The attempt to take the election of the leadership of the Senate beyond June 13, 2023 must stop. Sixty six senators voted for Godswill Akpabio and forty six voted against Godswill Akpabio, the will of the majority.

He alleged that, every day, there have been “a few, just a few” who have not put the election behind them, adding that was why he paid tribute to Tambuwal because he didn’t hide where he stood, but said election was over and called for unity for the progress of Nigeria.

“A few have refused to do this and that is why it is all about Akpabio, never about the National Assembly, never about the House of Representatives, never about the office of DG budget. All of passed this budget. Never about the president who signed this budget, but Akpabio.

He said it was a defining moment, “if we must have a stable Senate, let us have one” adding that people who said they will not give Akpabio up to one year as Senate President were doing everything possible to remove him before the 13th of June.

“I’m telling you, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues, I’m telling you sir, and I want Nigerians to know that the last time someone from South South was Senate President was 40 years ago and the last time the whole of the south had opportunity to be Senate President was during Obasanjo when 5 people from the South East were Senate President in quick succession, but as soon as it left the south we have peace and stability because we always cooperate.

He said “David Mark spent 8 years, Ahmed Lawan spent 4 peaceful years and Saraki, even with all he did, he spent 4 years, he was not impeached. It is about Akpabio, it is about the south, you cannot understand. Why will Senator Ningi use NSF even when many of them did not agree with this?

“Mr. President, I plead with you, this an opportunity to follow our rules. If tomorrow, the wisdom of the elders of this Senate prevails and they feel we should do otherwise, let’s lock up ourselves in a closed session and take another decision and rescind whatever decision we take today. I beg all of you, we must do the right thing today”.

He said they did not start the issue, but Ningi who took it to the public domain and standing on the floor of the Senate to apologize will not suffice. He insisted the Senate must go to the prayers of Olamilekan’s motion.

That was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. The other two prayers were quickly passed, having earlier taken the first to discuss the matter in a Committee of the Whole.

Therefore, it was just a debate of how many months he should go on suspension, which Senator Jimoh Ibrahim went for 12 months, but later amended to 6 and finally reduced to 3 months.

It is left to see if Ningi will show remorse and to apologize in writing to meet possibility of being recalled before the expiration of the 3 months.