By Timothy Choji, Abuja
As the race for the leadership of the 9th National Assembly intensifies as one of the candidates for the position of the President of the Senate, Senator Danjuma Goje from Gombe state has stepped down, to support the position of his party, the All Progressives Congress APC and the candidacy of Senator Ahmed Lawan.
Kaduna State Governor, Nasiru El-Rufai disclosed this to State House Correspondents after a closed door meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the two Senators on Thursday morning, at the State House Abuja.
He 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 am honoured to be part of it and I am grateful to him for recognizing 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.”
Affirming El-Rufai’s announcement, Senator Goje said he voluntarily took the decision as a sign of respect for President Buhari and loyalty to the APC.
“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 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, in other 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.”
On whether he was compelled to step down, Senator Goje said : “I think is not 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 patty. 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.”
On his part, the beneficiary of Goje’s gesture, Senator Ahmed Lawan was full of appreciation to President Buhari and all those who intervened.
He said the coast was now clear for the Senate to have the kind of leadership it desires.
“We have just come out of a closed door meeting just like his Excellency Governor Nasir El-Rufai said. Mine is to thank Senator Goje and El-Rufai for making it possible for us to achieve what we have achieved today.
“For me, this is a great day and a very important moment for the contest for the office of the Senate President. The endorsement by Senator Goje, is going to bring so much unity in the APC and indeed in the entire Senate in a very bi-partisan fashion. I believe that is the way to go, we want to go to the 9th Senate focused and united, right from onset, kick-start our activities which is very important at this time.
“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.
“I want to thank Senator Goje, he is a 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 were so many clamours 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 followership, but the position he has willingly taken to respect the wishes of the party and President Buhari, is the best position any politician could take.
He said there was nothing better than to have a united solid and focused family.