Details of what transpired at the meeting where Senator Danjuma Goje voluntarily stepped down for Senator Ahmed Lawan in the race for the Senate Presidency have emerged.
Speaking with State House Correspondents, Goje said he was not compelled to step down but did so in the interest of the country and as a mark of respect for President Muhammadu Buhari.
Both Kaduna State Governor El-Rufai, who led both Lawan and Goje to Aso Rock Presidential Villa to meet with President Buhari, and Lawan thanked Goje for the gesture.
Below is the full transcription of what the three of them told journalists.
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 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.
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.
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 all the support I have among my colleagues in the Senate, 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.
The National Assembly is seen as an independent arm of government but Nigerians see the position of the party now as an imposition? I think its an imposition. I am not compelled to step down, I just said 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 many times from local government to State 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. 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. 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 Ninth 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 and 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 to declare. Even though he has enormous respect and following, but the position he has willingly taken to respect the wishes of the party and the 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.
I also want to thank those who have been working behind the scene to try and broker this understanding. By the end of today, I’m sure that the complexion for this race would have been changed for the better.