Senate President: Goje stops ambition to back Lawan

FORMER Gombe State Governor Danjuma Goje explained yesterday why he dropped his bid for Senate president to back Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan.

Goje said his respect for President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) informed his decision.

“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 and the development of this country, in order to assist Mr. President to deliver his promises, I have decided to respect his wish by not declaring to contest this Senate presidency,” he told reporters yesterday after meeting with the President at the State House in Abuja yesterday.

The Gombe senator announced his support for Lawan’s ambition that enjoys the ruling party and the President’s backing.

But Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume said he had not backed out of the race.

“Let me assure you that l remain in the race and l’m very optimistic. l have said my prayers. I have implicit faith in God. He is the giver of power. So, there is no cause for alarm,” the Yobe senator said in a statement in Abuja yesterday.

The trio of Lawan, Goje and Ndume had indicated interest to lead the Ninth Senate, which is billed for proclamation by President Buhari next Tuesday.

The curtain dropped yesterday on plenary session in the Eighth Assembly with valedictory sessions held simultaneously at the Red and Green chambers.

The Senate Leader yesterday briefed reporters at the State House in the company of Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate) Ita Enang.

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Goje said that he took the decision as a sign of respect for the President and to obey the decision of the APC.

El-Rufai said: “Gentlemen of the press, I am very pleased to report to you that we just came out from a meeting with our leader and mentor, the President, with distinguished Senator Danjuma Goje from Gombe State and distinguished Senator Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State and the senator-elect, Uba Sani, from my state.

“We discussed steps to unify our leadership in the National Assembly, starting with the Senate. I am very pleased to announce that distinguished Senator Goje has agreed to fully endorse and support the choice of the party and that of Mr. President within the Senate – that is Senator Ahmed Lawan.

“We are very grateful to Senator Goje for his sacrifice, patience. This discussion has been going on for a long time and I’m honoured to be part of it and I am grateful to him for recognising the many years we have worked together when he was minister, as governor.

“I know him to be a man of impeccable integrity and a man of his word and I am very honoured that he has come to see Mr. President and to conclude this matter once and for all.”

Goje said: “First, I want to use this opportunity to thank Allah for giving us this opportunity today. I want to thank my teeming supporters, associates across the country, who have been calling me to declare for the senate presidency. I have listened to them and I thank them very well.

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“I want to say that as an elder statesman in the Senate for a long time, at my age, I should be able to appreciate leadership coming from our elders. So, in spite of all these calls, in spite of all the support I have among my colleagues in the Senate, 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.”

Asked if Lawan was being imposed on him, Goje said: “I don’t think it is an imposition. I am not compelled to step down. I just told you that at my age, I have the capacity to think well and respect my elders and respect my party.

“And in party politics…I am independent. I have been winning my elections many times from local government to House of Assembly to National Assembly to governorship and I was also a minister. To say that I have been threatened to support somebody, no!

“I am supporting him based on my own conviction that I am doing the right thing for our country, for our president.

“Let me thank Mr. President, our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, for giving us the leadership that we need at this point and always.

“We have just come out of a closed door meeting just like His Excellency, Governor Nasir El-Rufai said.

According to Lawan, they want to go to the Ninth Senate focused and united right from outset.

He said: “The country needs a Senate that is focused and united for optimum performance and I believe that the senators-elect will be happy to hear that this has been achieved.

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“I want to thank Senator Goje, he is very experienced politician like he has said. He has been in this business much longer than most of us really. And I respect him even when there was so much clamour for him to run for the position of the president of the senate, he never came out to publicly declare.

“Even though he had enormous respect and following, but 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 also thanked those who have been working behind the scene to broker the understanding.

“By the end of today, I’m sure that the complexion for this race would have been changed for the better,” Lawan said.

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