A major contender for the position of the President of the ninth Senate, Danjuma Goje, withdrew from the race on Thursday.
In doing so, Goje, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, declared support for another key contestant and anointed candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Ahmed Lawan.
The party had zoned the position to the North-East where Goje (Gombe State) and Lawan (Yobe State) hail from.
Goje and Lawan, in company with the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, broke the news after they met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
It was El-Rufai, who announced the outcome of the meeting to State House correspondents.
Giving reasons for endorsing Lawan, the former Gombe State governor said he deferred to the intervention of Buhari and the position of the APC.
Goje said, “I want to thank my 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.
“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 supports I have among my colleagues in the Senate, I have decided, in deference to the loyalty I have for 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 on 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.”
State House correspondents pointed out to him that his decision to withdraw from the race might be interpreted as imposition of National Assembly leadership by the ruling party.
But Goje replied, “I don’t think it is an imposition. I was not compelled to step down. I have the capacity to think well and respect my elders and respect my party.
“I am independent. I have been winning my elections from local government to House of Assembly, to National Assembly to governorship and I was also a minister.”
An elated Lawan thanked Goje for the decision to endorse him, saying that it would unite the legislature.
He said, “The endorsement by Senator Goje is going to bring unity in the APC and indeed in the entire Senate in a bi-partisan fashion.
“I believe that is the way to go. We want to go to the ninth Senate focused and united right from outset, to start our activities which are 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.”
Speaking earlier on the meeting held with Buhari, El-Rufai described Goje as a man of integrity, who could give up his own ambition for the good of all.
He said, “We are very grateful to Senator Goje for his sacrifice and patience. This discussion has been going on for a long time and I am honoured to be part of it. I am grateful to him for recognising the many years we have worked together when he was a minister and 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.”
Meanwhile, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume Senate Presidency Campaign Office says it welcomes the news of stepping down of Goje, saying the race is now a straight fight between the two main contenders.
In a statement he personally signed, Ndume in Abuja, Thursday affirmed that he was still in the race, adding that the final decision on who would become the President of the 9th Senate would be taken by senators-elect.
He said, “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.
“A school anthem says, once to every man and nation, comes a moment to decide… on Tuesday my colleagues will decide. And we believe Allah is on our side.”